I typically detest things that are cliché, so I’m actually appalled at what I am about to write, but here it goes… Laughter is the best medicine. Gasp… Wheeze… Let my catch my breath. Ok, I’m good! Yes, it’s cliché, but oh so true. Laughter is amazing medicine. Here are just a few of the benefits of a good hearty laugh. Laughter reduces pain and allows us to tolerate discomfort. Laughter offsets the negative effects of stress. Laughter relaxes the whole body. Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being. And finally, laughter protects the heart.
With that in mind two things inspired me to focus on the laughter aspect of exercise this week. First, I ran a race this weekend (p.s. I finished!), and the man standing next to me at the starting line was wearing plaid dress shorts. I talked to him some, and he was a seasoned runner. Therefore, I can only assume that he finds dress shorts comfortable, and that the pleats in the front of the shorts don’t cause chaffing or waist-drifting (that’s when your shorts drift up your waist until it is impossible for them to go any farther). Anyhow, his attire made me chuckle.
Then on the drive home from the race I listened to Garrison Keillor’s “Lake Wobegon” which made me laugh, and got me to thinking that if Garrison Keillor lived in Kemmerer, WY he might consider it a town where; “All the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” Since Garrison isn’t here to divulge tidbits on the people in Kemmerer, I figured the least I could do is paint a very REAL & CANDID picture of the exercise that goes on in Kemmerer.
I’d like to start by addressing exercise induced gas. Which I like to call, the “Metronome”, because it typically makes its presence known at the exact beat/pace of your exercise. First, there is nothing you can do about the Metronome. Your only salvation lies in correctly executing the Metronome. I can’t give away all my secrets, but a few tips are: 1. Avoid being the only other person in the room. 2. Keep moving. 3. The range is ALWAYS farther than you suspect, plan for more room than you think you need. 4. When you smell it, look as shocked and disturbed as everyone else in your vicinity.
Another reality of exercise is the “Exerstumble”. This occurs when you appear as if you carry most of your weight in your feet, and you are not a native walker. It may also occur when the “bubble isn’t in the middle” – you may feel like a 7th grade Woods Class Project. Another typical sighting of the Exerstumble is in overzealous, under-strengthened weightlifters. Once again this is not something you can prepare for or avoid, it will happen. I have two suggestions for dealing with the aftermath. First, you could try explaining that you are training for an “Obstacle Course Race” – yes those exist, I’m not making things up. If that doesn’t fit the bill, I suggest continuing to stumble forward while engaging in loud coughing, acting as if the sheer force of your cough propelled your upper body forward at a speed at which your feet could not keep up. If neither of these options are an adequate cover-up, I’d go ahead and do what everyone around you wants to do and just laugh.
The next exercise reality is the intense desire to flex after any form of strength training. Naturally, the name for this is the “Force-Flex”. The only problem with the Force-Flex is that the desire comes in public, but it must be executed in private. You may be tempted to question or disvalue the Force-Flex, but I assure you it is normal and healthy. I believe we all need to admire our own improvement. However, unless you are currently a body builder and know, “the-moves”, your Force-Flex may easily become the ongoing gym joke. Therefore, speed, stealth, and an awareness of your surroundings are your friend when it comes to the Force-Flex. If only YOU know about your Force-Flex, then it has been executed properly.
Finally, I’d like to address the “Crawler”. This is a close cousin to the “Waist-Drifter” which I mentioned earlier. The only difference is that the Crawler may or may not have anything to do with the waist. The only distinguishing characteristic is the fabric build-up in the seat of your pants or shorts. The cause may be waist-drifting; however, it could also be attributed to sneaky-slick clothing, a close legged stride, or ill-fitting workout clothes. Once you are working out though you can’t just change your clothes. You must simply endure your workout with the Crawler. The two main goals to enduring the workout are: 1. Keeping the Crawler to yourself. 2. Avoiding painful chaffage due to the Crawler. The best way to keep the Crawler to yourself is to change directions often and work on staying in the back of the room. Avoiding chaffage is a bigger problem. My best advice is to consider putting a stick of Body Glide Anti-Chafe Balm in your gym bag.
Have you laughed? Do you feel better? I bet the answer is yes to both. My challenge for you this week is to look for laughter, and that may just be at the gym.
* an article from my column in the Kemmerer Gazetter (4/14/11)