I started jumping rope again. I had to do something. I haven’t exercised since moving back to California more than a year ago. I walk a lot, take the stairs, and park as far away as possible from the entrance of wherever I’m going. But I’ve also been spoiled by home cooking, freshly-baked bread, and vats of vino. Add a martini or two, and I started noticing my sports coat tightening. Then I came across a video in which the muscled, crew-cut nutritionist declared that “clothes don’t lie.” That was enough for me. The next day I took my jump rope out of storage. It took me a while to find it.
Ten minutes. That’s all I could muster. This, after jumping rope at least three or four times a week back in New York. Then, I would do it for half an hour, including frontwards, backwards, and running around a track. I would pretend I was in the circus and would do all sorts of acrobatic tricks. Not anymore. Now, I just try not to bruise myself when the handles fly out of my hands. It’s a contact sport, this jumping rope. It gives new meaning to “by His stripes you are healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
This isn’t a New Year’s resolution. I’ve never taken those seriously, so I don’t make them. Neither is it vanity. Sure, weight has a lot to do with it as in getting my clothes to tell an acceptable truth, to paraphrase Al Gore, but I’m more concerned about health. I want to be in good shape when things start breaking down, which reminds me of the newspaper item years ago about the jogger who claimed that if she hadn’t been in such good shape from jogging, she might not have been able to pull herself out of the ravine she fell into while jogging.
I say this isn’t all vanity, because I keep it simple. I jump rope ten minutes a day and don’t care who overhears me breathing hard as if I am engaged in something else. I also don’t do strength training, which is supposed to balance the cardio experience of jumping rope. But lifting weights seems like too much work. Besides, once you start down that road, you have to maintain it or in about two weeks the abs turn to flab again, which is like Cinderella’s carriage morphing back into a pumpkin. That’s much too complicated.
The on-again, off-again of jumping rope involves High Intensity Interval Training, which means you go at it as if your hair is on fire and then rest. You repeat this until your body has no idea what’s going on or why you’re putting it through such torture. This is supposed to be good for you and enable you to live to be 120. Essentially, this is the controlled fight-or-flight reflex. Get worked up, calm down, get worked up, calm down. I like to have a slug of whiskey afterward. You know, for that extra tingle.
There’s a problem, though. If getting worked up and calming down is the secret of life, then I’m up a creek, because I live by the opposite philosophy. I try to keep calm, unemotional, and measured even in stressful situations. That’s something I learned, in part, from studying boxing and Chinese martial arts. Every Friday night during full contact sparring, I would get clobbered. The advice my teacher would yell from the sidelines was to drop my shoulders and keep breathing, which is like keep calm and carry on, although this was long before those Netflix movies about Queen Elizabeth.
So, you ask, which is it? I’ve come to the conclusion that there truly is a mind-body divide. I say this (in addition to the obvious), because interval training would be kryptonite to the mind. Think about it. If your mind did spurts of hair-on-fire and then rested, they’d put you on Ritalin. It’s just not natural for thinking or rational thought. But, according to the guys in crew cuts, being measured at the gym is the last thing you want.
It just so happens it’s the first thing we need everywhere else.