October 2, 2009

Body By Fun

I finally discovered the best way to work out: go outside and play!

It's fun to play. Some people call it exercise, but I'm just doing what my body has wanted to do since childhood: stretch, bend, move ... play.

Sometimes I shoot hoops, not a game so much, just ... shooting hoops. I can see why some exercise experts believe basketball is good for your heart and your muscles, but I like to shoot hoops because I've been having fun that way since age seven. That's when my dad installed a court in the driveway of our new home in suburban Indianapolis. Me and my brothers, and the neighborhood kids--we played a lot of ball.

Wish I had a buddy to play that kind of ball with now.

I also like to play catch, another great way to exercise. A giant Frisbee. Velcro mitts. Football. Baseball. Whatever. And for those times when I need to push my body to keep getting better and stronger, I submit to calisthenics, and those tried-and-true muscle-makers: push-ups and pull-ups.

As a kid in gym class, I froze at the pull-up bar, mentally and physically. Now, I do 'em with the zest of a perpetual conqueror. Take that! What's up!
Sometimes I use resistance bands and do ab work, but even I don't concern myself too much with “the numbers.” lol. Number of sets, reps, heartbeat, this and that. Did you need to count how much fun you were having as a kid?

To get a good workout, all you need is your imagination, you know, that thing you had in childhood that could turn a doorway into a Nautilus workout station.

Another great workout for me: dogercise! Working out my dog Boomer can also be a workout for me, whether it's chasing him around at the beach, or wrestling for control of his favorite toy, the tire-biter!

And then there's my Trikke, the bike of the 21st century. It's like playing like a kid on wheels. I'm starting to love trikking the way surfers love surfing. It gets in your blood that way. Just ask any Trikker (or check out my Trikke review).

The Trikke is a miracle in and of itself. But perhaps it's a miracle that might not have happened had I not allowed myself to finally become the little boy I've always wanted to be, a little boy whose passion is finding different ways to move.

As the youngest child in a male-dominated family, I caught hell for the slightest hint of “acting like a sissy.” I would try to mimic dancers on television, then face immediate criticism and punishment. I couldn't move an inch.

When I was seven-years-old, my older sister taught me cheerleading. From that moment on, I became a student of cheerleading. I would try to mimic cheerleaders on television, then face immediate criticism and punishment. I couldn't move an inch.

In 1976. when I was fourteen, my beloved Indiana Hoosiers won their first title under Bob Knight. The whole family watched. To celebrate, I retreated to the bathroom, where I could move an inch (but not much more). I did some kind of a mini-cheer in the mirror, dared to crack a smile. To do anything more would have meant risking my physical and emotional health.

I escaped to college and became a cheerleader at both USC and UCLA. Nothing was going to stop me from being a great cheerleader somewhere.

If my journey in life began with restrictions on my creativity, it is now filled with freedom of movement and expression beyond my wildest dreams. Not only do I have new ways to play, like my Trikke, I also have my old ways to play, including shooting hoops and cheerleading.

Now, at age 47, when people ask me how I stay in shape, I'm simply tell them: I go outside and play.