A STATE OF MIND: No Pain, No Gain

AStateofMind-LarryFloerschby Larry Floersch

don’t know about you, but I’m getting a little tired of my Fitbit scale telling me my Body Mass Index is way out of whack or my wrist activity tracker urging me to move every 30 minutes. Who do these devices think they are? My doctor?

This whole fitness thing is getting out of hand. I mean, who can afford to stay fit? It’s expensive enough just to get or stay well, what with the “help” of people like Martin Shkreli or the maker of EpiPens.

I remember the first time I tried jogging, which was shortly after it was invented — like in the 1970s or something. I didn’t have the right shoes. Someone told me I needed track shoes, so I went out and bought track shoes. But those were not right either, because they were designed for sprinting on the artificial surface of a track and did not provide any cushioning on pavement. Then Mr. Nike or Mr. Adidas or somebody invented “running” shoes, which were like track shoes on steroids — both in the amount of cushioning and the cost. If you ran a lot, running shoes had to be replaced about once a year or so. The last time I bought new ones they cost me over $140 — and that was for just the shoes. You also had to look the part. You couldn’t just wear your old gym shorts from high school. Nosiree! You had to buy all kinds of shorts and shirts and socks and jogging suits and rain jackets so you could jog “comfortably” in all sorts of miserable weather conditions.

A catalog for high-end office and stationery objects arrived in my mailbox the other day. I knew it was high-end because the pens and pencils were described as “fine writing instruments.” That’s a far cry from the days when a fine writing instrument was a good old yellow No. 2 Dixon Ticonderoga that you would take up to the pencil sharpener at the blackboard. Now that was a fine writing instrument you could sink your teeth into — literally.

Anyhow, in this catalog, among the expensive leather portfolios that James Bond might carry only if Q had made them lethal, and the fine writing instruments that looked like ordinary ballpoint pens to me, was a curious object — a stool. But this was no ordinary stool. This stool had a small seat, a single telescoping leg, and a spring-loaded base that forced the user to wobble around on it. The idea behind it is the user exercises core torso muscles while trying to balance on it, thereby working out and becoming more fit while “sitting” at a desk and trying to use a fine writing instrument. So technically it was a piece of exercise equipment. And to demonstrate how important your core muscles and your fitness are, the catalog was offering this stool for — and I’m not making this up — ONLY $600! Did I mention that it was a STOOL? A ONE-LEGGED STOOL!

We have several old office chairs here at The Bridge that wobble when you sit in them. Staff members avoid them like the plague when we have staff meetings. I don’t think anyone here considers those chairs to be pieces of exercise equipment, and yet here we are sitting (sort of) on a gold mine! (Note to Publisher Nat Frothingham: If we sold those old chairs as exercise equipment, we could pay our hard-working columnists twice what they are paid now! Just a thought!)

It turns out there are a lot of such things out there in the “office” exercise equipment marketplace. Some of the devices are miniature versions of regular exercise equipment that you can hide under your desk, such as stair steppers or pedaling machines. Some of it is just standard stuff, like hand grip exercisers. But some of it is office furniture specifically designed to be exercise equipment. Instead of a stool, for example, there are several versions of the ball chair. This is a chair into which you place one of those large inflatable exercise balls that you sit on to work your core muscles. Given that these chairs have a back and, sometimes, armrests, I guess they give you a more business-like appearance than just perching gargoyle-like on a ball in the middle of your office. If I were to sit in one of those chairs and wobble around, I would resemble Jabba the Hutt on his throne. People might fear me, but not necessarily think I was a hard-working journalist. And I’d have to eat raw frogs.

There are also office chairs that resemble Nautilus machines, with ropes and pulleys and elastic bands that you use to work your arms and shoulders. Victor Frankenstein would be impressed. One of my favorites is a desk with a built-in treadmill, which gives new meaning to “the daily grind.” You can spend eight hours a day chasing your work with your fine writing instrument in hand.

Like the wobbly stool in the catalog, none of this stuff is cheap. But that’s what I’ve come to expect from the exercise and fitness industry. And I know that if I wait long enough and drive around to enough yard sales, one of these days I will find, sitting at the end of driveway with a Concept2 rowing machine to one side and a Nordic Track cross country ski trainer to the other, one of these wobbly stools with a FREE sign on it. In the meantime, being a dedicated but (at least according to my wrist fitness tracker) a semi-sedentary columnist, after a hard day of pushing words around, I prefer exercising my biceps while occupying a more substantial multi-legged stool at Charlie O’s or the Three Penny. At least then I know if I wobble it’s the beer.

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