The technology of “exercise” for the middle-aged, part 1

At issue here is not muscle, protein, water, space or time–it is my will that is lacking. Entropic fingers seem to hold me down into my recline, away from getting up and moving.  

A vegetative stupor can grow over one at middle-age. My body and society may be saying, “Relax. You’re almost 50. You’ve been through a lot; you deserve this rest.” And ensconced with a book, or lying down listening with eyes closed, one does not want to get up and do something. It seems an un-necessary stress on the machine, which is functioning fine as it. But if one were to succomb to gravity’s embrace too often, one would regret it. Without deliberate use (regular physical exercise) and performance analysis (health), one’s middle-aged system is bound to break down.

That is why I deny myself that second beer, eat local food, drink those additional waters, get regular massages and coffees, the health benefits of which are now known. That’s why I bike places around town and play catch and frisbee. In an example of my Industrial Age imagination, I imagine my body as a complex factory. Like the amazing paper plant I toured in Wisconsin recently (depicted), my factory will not endure without a Plant Manager’s regular attentions.


I must remember my not-so natural and healthy environment. My physical plant resides in a tough neighborhood, polluted Chicagoland, home of nukes and chemicals. And so I must act the dutiful manager of my plant,  put on the hardhat and make a walking tour of the place. I check my many systems. I remain vigilant and  do what I can; I cannot post-pone or out-source this work. That is why I will see a specialist tomorrow who can check out a suspicious development in one sector of my corporeal factory. If one has decent health coverage (which I do), one does what one can to forestall a break-down.


The imperative of middle age is to remain physically active and consciously fit because you still can. Sooner than later, one will discover one’s plant in some way busted, not producing as designed. And it won’t be reparable. Like the best American-made cars, one’s physical self will not endure. My family friend’s story reminds me that eventually, one will find oneself in a real downward slope to the junkyard and rust, with nothing but repair jobs on the way to the last tow job. It is the dismal outlook of the Industrial Age.


Until then, one tends to one’s physical plant, without which nothing else matters. One gets up. One does exercise.


Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for some yoga stretches (and while I do them I imagine my careful factory manager tending lovingly, intentionally, with lots of deep breaths, to each of his plant’s wonderful chakras).

photo of Flambeau River Paper company, July 2010

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