Saturday, July 15, 2006

A close encounter of the embarrassing kind

Imagine you're two miles into your morning fitness walk, striding purposefully along a hilly, country road. The Shuffle is cranking some kick-ass music, your new Reeboks fit great, you're loving the muscle definition you're starting to see on your outer thigh and the bandana wrapped around your forehead is soaked with sweat. So is your t-shirt.

You've startled one deer, rescued one turtle [by moving it to the edge of the road] and seen one dead snake. You decide to press on, and do the long [6.6 miles] loop instead of the four-mile one.

A quarter-mile further along, at the top of a steep hill, you see a man pounding nails into a fence. You've heard that a new family is moving into the area, from Kentucky, and that they're Amish. This man certainly qualifies, so you introduce yourself and welcome him and his family to the neighborhood.

He says to be sure and say hello to his daughter and her friend, who are on the other side of the house. Digging a garden.


Diet-Blog mentioned 'incidental exercise' a couple days ago. Magazine articles push us to park our cars farther away from the door or, better yet, walk or bike to our destinations. [Jonathan is the King of Biking.] Websites offer a variety of exercise routines, while gyms abound, enticing us with free training sessions and extended memberships and the latest and greatest new fitness equipment. And the news stories, online and in print, overwhelm us with reasons for the 'obesity epidemic,' topmost of which is our modern, convenient, effortless lifestyle.

I walked on down the road and saw the girls. They were wearing the plain, long skirts of the Amish, with scarves covering their hair. One was barefoot, as Amish children frequently are; the other was wearing black stockings and sturdy shoes. And they were, indeed, digging a garden. With hoes. In what used to be a lawn. And they hadn't put Round-up down to kill the grass first.

They were very friendly, probably 15 or 16 years old, polite and industrious. And of course we had a little conversation about how I was walking for fitness, while they were, um, digging a garden … from scratch!

I had more than four more miles to walk, thinking about intentional activity and incidental exercise and modern conveniences. One of the Diet-Blog commenters opined that engineers, who create all our labor-saving devices, must be among the most unfit of all professions. [I didn't say that; someone else did, and not exactly like I just said it.]

So did I come back home and find something useful to do?

Only if you count sitting on my ass knitting.


Stretchy said...

I rescued a worm on my morning jog-- I was going up a steep hill and he was only half way across the road.

It is funny how we get into "fitness" instead of the exercise of life (digging a garden) I was so excited over my new shoes, i had to try them out, several times over, until my legs said "Ok Enough already!

But my garden looks um, extremely neglected, and I have closets begging for a clean-out.

Greta said...

Somehow I expected the "punchline" to be that you stopped your walk and helped them hoe for a couple of hours and then shortened the walk back down to the four mile loop. Yes, I do think that actually doing productive physical chore instead of just exercise for exercise sake somehow makes more sense. In fact the more time that I spend walking (for weight maintenance or loss) I find that I end up not having enough time/energy in my day to fit in some of the chores that scream to be done.

Jonathan said...

forgive this long quote from the book I'm reading "Wanderlust" by Rebecca Solnit:

"The multiplication of technologies in the name of efficiency is actually eradicating free time by making it possible to maximize the time and place for production and minimize the unstructured travel time in between. New timesaving technologies make most workers more productive, not more free, in a world that seems to be accelerating around them. Too, the rhetoric of efficiency around these technologies suggests that what cannot be quantified cannot be valued-- that that vast array of pleasures which fall in the category of doing nothing in particular, of woolgathering, cloud-gazing, wandering, window-shopping, are nothing but voids to be filled by something more definite, more productive, or faster paced. ... I like walking because it is slow, and I suspect that the mind, like the feet, works at about three miles an hour."

I WALKED to the library to get this book = )

Debbi, you're doing EXACTLY the right thing, Amish, or no Amish.