Posted in Lessons by The Books Production Team on November 12, 2008


typewriter7          Back when I was an undergraduate, I had this professor who used to say that it was impossible to be the world’s greatest Chaucer scholar and to also have the world’s greatest abdominal six-pack.  By this, he meant that it was necessary to prioritize your goals in life – and to make a choice between producing elite-level scholarship and being on the cover of Men’s Health.  But, to this maxim, which I guess might be true, I’d like to add an important caveat: it is also impossible to be the world’s greatest Chaucer scholar and to weigh in at 350 pounds – at least for very long.  Why?  Well, because heart disease is a motherfucker, that’s why – and it tends to attack people with excess body fat around their mid-section.  So good luck living much past 45 if your lifestyle is completely sedentary and you pack away a dozen Krispy Kremes every morning.

         The truth is, folks, that exercise is important, and because technology has so radically transformed most people’s daily jobs, we don’t naturally get enough of it anymore.  You see, back in 1808, I’m pretty sure that the daily regimen of milking the cows, rustling up the hay, fixing the wheel on the wagon, fording rivers, and going out to shoot Buffalo (I’m basing this scenario entirely on knowledge learned from playing Oregon Trail) kept most people in pretty decent shape.  But now, 200 years later, we get our milk from the grocery store, and there aren’t very many Buffalo left to shoot.  This being the case, society has invented the gymnasium – a place where we can simulate the milking of cows by using the triceps pull-down machine to work out our arms.

          Now, I realize that for many of you, this lesson might be unnecessary.  Study after study has shown that student recreation centers receive way more daily traffic than university libraries (and to those of you who error in this direction, allow me to point you towards Lesson #66: Using the Library), but there’s also a large portion of the college population that, for one reason or another, hates lifting weights.  Luckily for you, billions of dollars have been pumped nationally into this aspect of university life in the last few decades, and today’s Gymnasium offers a whole lot more than the bench, the curl bar, and the sit-up pad that are the necessary accoutrements for the fraternity lifting experience.  So if lifting isn’t your thing, you can still visit the gymnasium for thirty minutes of daily squash, swimming, walking, yoga, or kickboxing – all of which will provide enough exercise to keep you healthy and lean.  The secret to knocking out this important daily task, particularly if you are an extremely busy student, is to learn to make it a habit, and to learn to multitask.

          Most of us, when it comes right down to it, are creatures of habit – and we follow the laws of inertia.  For example, I don’t particularly like or dislike brushing my teeth every day; it’s just something that I do because I like being able to chew my food and I don’t want my teeth to turn green.  I know that brushing my teeth, like visiting the gymnasium, is good for me, and because I’ve gotten into the habit of cleaning my teeth daily, it feels weird and gross to neglect this ritual.  If you make exercise a habit, the same mental perceptions that accompany hygiene will shortly follow you to the gym.  You’ll just feel a little off on days when you don’t make it there.  Similarly, I look at brushing my teeth as an opportunity to multitask – it’s during these three minutes a day that I do most of the cleaning of my apartment.  It’s also during the thirty minutes a day that I spend running around St. Louis that I do most of my mental writing of these Dr. Wizard lessons – and this is the second key to knocking out your daily responsibility of exercise.  If your life is so busy that you can’t always make it to the gymnasium, then you’ve got to make the gymnasium come to you.  And, for the perfect example of this phenomenon, we now turn to…

          Lincoln Hawk, the character portrayed by Sylvester Stallone in the movie Over the Top.  Now, as far as I know, Over the Top is the greatest arm-wrestling movie that has ever been produced.  Luckily for us, it’s also got a lot of relevance to this lesson.  You see, just like you, Lincoln Hawk is a very busy man – he’s trying to cram 36 hours of life into each 24 hour day.  But he also realizes the importance of exercise in the job market.  Now, traditionally, a healthy lifestyle (at least in most of your cases), becomes beneficial in the workplace in the sense that healthy, trim employees tend to be promoted faster, earn more money, and miss less time with illness.  The relationship of exercise to monetary gain is even more direct, however, for Lincoln Hawk – who must continue driving a semi-truck to feed his family, but who must also win an arm-wrestling competition in order to win a new semi-truck so that he might free himself from the evil machinations of his scheming father-in-law.  As such, Lincoln rigs up a triceps pull-down machine in his truck, so that he can work out his breadwinning right arm as he drives with his left – the ultimate killing of two birds with one stone.  So, to make a long story short, what I’m saying is this: bring your required reading with you to the gymnasium, and knock out that Chaucer while you’re on the elliptical machine.

          Finally, I want to close with this: it’s not about “the freshman 15” and it’s not about genetics.  If you graduate college weighing 15 pounds more than you did when you graduated high school, that’s a good thing.  Most guys grow a couple of inches past the age of eighteen, and their shoulders and back start weirdly stretching horizontally as they come into their manhood; most girls look better once they’ve filled out a little bit from their stick-like, hyper-metabolic high school state.  Your weight isn’t nearly so important as your health.  Likewise, the fact that your parents are marginally obese does not necessarily guarantee that you will be too – it probably just means that they have either made poor food decisions or they have given up on exercise.  Genetics and nature only determine a small portion of what we are capable of being. I mean, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Connor Oberst can’t sing for shit, and they’re out there selling millions of records.  So, just devote half an hour a day to exercise (roughly one-fiftieth of your time on the planet), and I promise you that you will be all the better for it.  Oh yeah, and I almost forgot: you’ll also be more attractive – which does tend to help when mating.

14 Responses

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  1. UVA Mike said, on November 12, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    The Oregon Trail! You’d be playing along and then all of the sudden recess would be over – it was so hard to quit the game! “But Mrs. Butler, I can’t turn off the computer! Sarah has tuberculosis and I’m afraid she’s going to die!” CLIFFHANGER!

    Then again, in retrospect, maybe I should have been exercising during recess.

  2. funktifiedacoustic said, on November 13, 2008 at 12:01 am

    When thinking about Oregon Trail –
    From talking with other students who do not come from small rural communities, msskin and I have concluded that it appears Mattoon, IL is the only place in the world with a computer bus.

    It’s definitely the only one that had a computer bus driven by Ms. Heckel. Man she was crazy.

  3. Green Wave Fever said, on November 13, 2008 at 12:09 am

    The computer bus = awesome. Both Mrs. Heckel and Coach McDowell would be so proud of this post. (I’m pretty sure Coach was an extra in Over the Top)

  4. MS said, on November 13, 2008 at 12:34 am

    Is it just me, or is Sly really into Black Power!? And what’s with the guy in the doorway behind him? Is Stallone just hanging out, flexing in some random dude’s yard? Man, I hope so.

  5. seamstress for the band said, on November 13, 2008 at 12:36 am

    I’m going to need to know what a “computer bus” is.

  6. MS said, on November 13, 2008 at 1:21 am

    me too.

  7. drwizard said, on November 13, 2008 at 2:12 am

    Allow me to jump in here on behalf of my good Mattoon readers…

    Because Mattoon was a dirt-poor community during our youth, and our elementary schools were built back when Grover Cleveland was President (the first time, not the second), we didn’t have the classroom space or the money to build individual computer labs in each of the schools. So, the good old Mattoon CUSD #2 rigged up an old bus with a bunch of Apple IIE computers and one giant extension cord, and Mrs. Heckel just drove this bus from school to school. Each class got an hour a week on the bus, and thus we were indoctrinated into the world of computers. So, basically, we were like one of those Arkansas families that turns an old school bus into a motor-home. But, as you can see, it’s pretty much worked out. I’m starting to figure out this whole blogging thing, and Will Leitch was just named Forbes Magazine’s 13th most powerful person on the internet.

    Thank you, Mrs. Heckel.

  8. The Uncle Jesse Fan Club said, on November 13, 2008 at 2:20 am

    Wow – and I thought my hometown schools sucked. Anyway, how long could Connor Oberst last in an arm-wrestling competition with Sly? Would it be fairer if he got to use both arms and had help from all the other members of Bright Eyes? Fuck it, my guess is that Stallone takes the entire staff of SaddleCreek Records, left-handed.

  9. Greece Lightning said, on November 13, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Is it even possible to eat a dozen Krispy Kremes every day? Wouldn’t that turn your plasma into donut glaze after like a week? Gross. And Wiz, anybody say anything to you yet from the English Dept. since the article dropped?

  10. Barry H said, on November 13, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    Where did this stereotype about the “fraternity lifting experience” come from? When I was in college, I didn’t just do those three things. I also did the military press.

  11. Jenn said, on November 13, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    I hadn’t thought about the computer bus in years. Thanks for that reminder. How the hell did you even remember her name?

  12. Meghan Jansen said, on November 13, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    MS – I agree about the Sylvester Stallone picture. From the one eye that is visible of the guy watching it is clear that…A) he is bewildered by Sly’s being in his yard, and B) he is amazed by Sly’s overwhelming physicality.

  13. Carlin said, on November 14, 2008 at 12:50 am

    I thought the main reason guys went to the gym was to see the girls in booty shorts on the elliptical? No?

  14. Charlie said, on November 14, 2008 at 3:38 am

    @Carlin: There exist other reasons for going to the gym? I was always wondering why people were repeatedly picking things up and putting them down. Seemed like such a waste of time. Huh.

    Anyway, I was led over here by the RFT, and the site’s definately been bookmarked.

    All the best, Doctor.

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