Exercising Your Demons

Neil Offen

HELP! I CAN’T REMEMBER MY PASSWORDS

By Neil Offen

It can be difficult to get started on an exercise regimen, particularly if you prefer sitting on the couch and reading obituaries and noticing with alarm how many obituary subjects are younger than you are. Here, then, are a few common-sense suggestions on how to help launch your new fitness plan and fit essential physical activity into an already busy day of eating and napping.

First, assess your fitness level. And don’t be discouraged when you find out you have no fitness level. At least you still have blood pressure. Got a pulse, right? Can still remember the plot of the last episode of “Game of Thrones”? You’re good.

Consider your fitness goals. Do you want to be able to walk to the mailbox without feeling winded? Swim the Pacific? Leap tall buildings at a single bound? It’s always best to try at first for something obtainable but just a little bit beyond your grasp. Consider your neighbor’s mailbox.

Plan to include different activities. This is also known as cross-training and has dual benefits. It can keep you from getting bored with whatever exercise you have chosen and can reduce your chances of injuring or overusing one specific muscle or joint. This way, you can injure and overuse all your muscles and joints at the same time, saving you separate co-pays at the ER.

Put it on paper. Write down your goals. A written plan may encourage you to stay on track. It also may encourage you to go get a bag of pretzels and watch Wolf Blitzer instead.

Start slow and progress slowly. You don’t have to run a marathon the very first week you start exercising. Instead, start by walking out to the mailbox. If you feel you’re hitting the wall, you may have gone the wrong way.

Build exercise activity into your daily routine. When you get up in the morning, make sure to run to the bathroom. Button your shirts or blouses with 10-pound weights attached to your pinkies. Do 25 squats any morning you intend to pay your utility bills.

Turn your commute into a workout. If you are driving, whenever you come to a red light, get out of the car, run around your vehicle twice and then, if the traffic has moved on, get into someone else’s car and ask them to drop you at the office. This also has social benefits and keeps you engaged with the community.

Exercise at work. Don’t spend all day sitting immobile staring at a monitor; every 15 minutes or so, reach your arms above your head, stretch out your feet and recite the prologue to “The Canterbury Tales.” This will work your arms and your legs and improve your olde English.

Sneak in a workout during your lunch break. Order a very large pastrami on rye sandwich. Lift it over your head five times. Rest. Lift the pickle.

Allow time for recovery. There’s a rule of thumb for this: if your thumb hurts after exercise, take it easy and go have a beer. Use the other thumb to lift it.

Find a fitness buddy. I recommend my friend Rob, who hates exercise as much as I do and also would prefer getting a beer and a couple of doughnuts.

And remember — before you start any exercise program, check with your medical providers. If you’re lucky, maybe they will stop you.


Carrboro resident Neil Offen has written humor pieces for a number of different publications, in a number of different countries. His column will appear twice monthly in The Local Reporter.

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