Archives for posts with tag: sports

Recently, I wrote about the importance of exercise and how if we want to both live longer and live better, we have to exercise even if it kills us. I noted that this is particularly true for anyone getting older, which research has shown appears to be most of us.

In fact, according to a new study published in either The Lancet or Teen People, aging patients who met the guidelines of at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week found that they did not have to wear East Williamsburg hipster fedoras to appear to be younger and hipper.

But I failed to explain exactly what moderate exercise is.

Well, to begin with, we need to take 10,000 steps a day. To break that down into specifics, it means that every minute of the day we must take at least 6.95 steps, even if we are sleeping, eating or reading studies published in Teen People.

To get even healthier and fitter, we also should aim for 30 minutes of high-intensity aerobic activity four or five days a week as well as 72 minutes of figuring out what aerobic means, 24 minutes determining how to spell it and 19 minutes of deciding whether feverish manipulating of the remote control qualifies.

Aerobic exercise, which is sometimes known as cardio and occasionally known as Bob, is technically exercise that requires pumping of oxygenated blood by the heart to deliver oxygen to working muscles. Aerobic exercises, for example, would be jogging, swimming or screaming at the television set during a presidential press conference. In other words, it’s exercise that makes you gasp and unable to finish a sent … .

But to be truly fit, cardio isn’t enough. We also need strength training. We need to build up our muscle mass and get stronger so that when we are doing our cardio it doesn’t hurt as much. Also, weight-training helps you lose weight by increasing your metabolism which is the little neurological system inside you that regulates your metabols.

The question is, how do you fit all this essential physical activity into an already busy day?  There are ways.

  • Set your alarm early. Get up at 1 a.m. You can do this if you go to bed at 3 in the afternoon while making believe you are sending out work emails.
  • Turn your commute into a workout. If you are driving, whenever you come to a red light, get out of the car, run around your vehicle twice and then if the traffic has moved on, get into someone else’s car and ask them to drop you at the office. This also has social benefits.
  • Exercise at work. Instead of sitting immobile staring at a monitor, every 15 minutes reach your arms above your head, stretch out your feet and recite the prologue to the Canterbury Tales. This will work your arms, your legs and your olde English.
  • Sneak in a workout during your lunch break. Order a very large pastrami sandwich. Lift it over your head five times. Rest. Lift the pickle.
  • Multitask. While exercising, think of stopping.

A couple of years ago, I decided that I was going to try to run a half-marathon. I thought it would be a good test of my physical fitness, my determination, my perseverance and my utter cluelessness. It didn’t matter how old I was, I thought; I could be just as stupid as I used to be.

I never did run that half-marathon. I would like now to explain why.

First, I found out that a full marathon is indeed 26.2 miles long, or 26.1 miles longer than walking to the mailbox to get the mail. Second, I found out that a half-marathon is, in fact, half a marathon.

To get a better grasp of what that means: technically speaking, it’s 13.1 miles, 21.08 kilometers or, in England, 16.7 imperial liters. It’s a lot of liters. It is, in fact, the equivalent of running to the supermarket, then running back home, then finding out you didn’t buy anything at the supermarket and having to run all the way back, just for a loaf of bread.

And then it turns out the supermarket is closed. And that’s assuming that the bread was any good and the supermarket was only one state away, and mostly downhill.

In addition, I discovered, you can’t just run a half-marathon without preparation apparently. You need to train for it. I would have much preferred that meant I needed to book on Amtrak. But it turns out that means doing a lot of running even before you have to do a lot of running.

Yes, I know it seems unfair.

In particular, in training for a long race, you are supposed to start small and build up over time. I was fine with starting small. I was so fine with it, I stayed small.

You are supposed to slowly increase your mileage until running a half-marathon is as easy as going to the supermarket and buying a loaf of bread. We know how that turned out.

When I was training, after running about three or four miles I would begin to get that certain feeling you get, that runner’s high — you know, that moment when you are certain you are surely going to die.

My feet would swell, my legs would hurt, my back would ache and my breathing would be labored. It was sort of like when I’m watching a presidential press conference.

In addition, all that preparation to run a half-marathon takes a lot of time, and, frankly, I’m a very busy person. I have naps to take, emails from acquaintances to ignore, dishes in the sink not to wash. Sometimes, I have to spend whole days figuring out how many characters I have left when I want to tweet something.

But perhaps the most important reason I gave up on my half-marathon quest was that I found out I could just buy one of those “13.1” bumper stickers and not have to prove that I earned it.

Welcome to the gym. All around you can see sleek, powerful and highly effective exercise machines designed to strengthen you, firm you up and remind you of the Spanish Inquisition.

Each of these machines targets a particular area of your body that you somehow may not already have abused by accident. These machines will help you achieve all your fitness goals, including losing weight, toning your torso and figuring out what BMI means.

It’s important to use these machines correctly, so you only hurt one part of your body at a time. So let’s take a look at each of the exercise machines, and learn how to use them, what they can do and whether your health insurance will pay for the damage.

With the lat pull-down/chest extension/leg curl, first choose your weight and sit on the machine with your legs under the pad (feet pointed forward, teeth clenched, brain terrified) and hands holding the side bars with mouth rounded to better allow you to scream. This will be your starting position.

Remember, if the angle of your elbow is less than 90-degrees, that means your ulna is already dislocated and you should go to the emergency room as soon as possible, or after you do 10 reps, whichever comes first.

For the triceps extension/sealed dip/abdominal crunch, make sure that you adjust the knee pad of the machine to fit your height and prevent you from flying across the gym floor and into the sauna before you’ve requested a towel.

Grab the bar with the palms facing forward using the prescribed grip. If you haven’t already gotten a prescription for the grip, see your healthcare provider. Have both arms extended in front of you holding the bar at the chosen grip width, then bring your torso back around 30 degrees until you hear something crack. Exhale.

The hip abductor/triceps press/pec fly takes your hips and flies them to Brooklyn, where they can work the triceps by making artisanal pickles. During your reps, the upper torso should remain stationary, the lower torso should be frozen in fear and only the arms should move while you whimper.

With the biceps curl/lateral raise/pec fly/seated chest contortioner, you always need to remember to breathe out when you bring the bar down until it touches your upper chest before shouting for help. This machine will work your pecs, your delts, your glutes and any other muscle groups with whom you are on a first name basis.

If you do not know your delts from your glutes, be careful while putting on your pants.

When using the shoulder hoist/leg press/triceps twirl/lateral raise, you will need to adjust the pad so that it falls on top of your lower leg (just above the scar from the hip abductor/triceps press/pec fly). Also, make sure that your legs form a 90-degree angle so you can get up from the machine quickly before it comes crashing down.

On the other hand, you could take our Zumba class.

It was a beautiful, warm, gloriously sunny late spring day. The perfect kind of day to stay home, eat a carrot and alphabetically organize my old fabric softener sheets.

Instead, I went sailing with my friend Bruce. Well, that’s not completely true.

We sailed for a good 17 minutes. We prepared for sailing for about three and a half hours. We unsailed for about two and three-quarter hours. We recovered from sailing for about 90 minutes.

This was, in fact, the first time I went sailing or almost went sailing. Sailing was not the sport I grew up with. It’s very hard to play it on the streets of the Bronx.

Still, when Bruce suggested we go sailing, I immediately responded with the only sailing phrase I knew — “full speed ahead, captain, full speed ahead,” which was a line I stole from the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, the official anthem of the U.S. Navy.

I figured, even if I hadn’t ever done it, how difficult could sailing be? All you needed, I assumed, was water. Maybe wind. Turns out, you need a dictionary, too.

After we got to the marina, which is the name of the woman who owns the boat yard, we had to prepare the boat. Before we could actually go out on the water, which seemed to me to be the whole point of sailing, we first had to attach the battens to the bollards before we could broach the jib and have cocktails with the foremast.

After keeling the gunwales, we lashed the luff until we could no longer tolerate the mizzen. But just when we were ready to launch, I unfortunately dropped the shackle right into the sheave, making the spinnaker uneasy and convincing the tiller not to talk to the rudder.

We had to regroup.

While Bruce tacked to the staysail, I trimmed to the spar and learned how to pronounce leeward. Then we hooked up the boat to the car — nautical talk for automobile — and actually headed to the water.

We slipped down the slip — nautical talk for slip — and Bruce unfurled the lateen while I hoisted the headstay and hanked the backstay. Apparently, though, I was supposed to stay the hank and back off completely while Bruce tried to get the boat in the water.

Finally, though, we were almost ready to get out there on the water and sail. All I had to do was put on my deck shoes before I actually got onto the deck.

Bruce tossed the shoes to me. The left one landed, of course, in the water, its jib flying, its bollard beating to windward. It quickly sailed away.  We chased it, tacking and gaffing, furling and broaching and booming.

We made it to the exact middle of the lake. While the shoe floated westward, to the shores of Tripoli, the wind stopped. The boat stopped. I dreamed of fabric softener sheets.

Since it’s still the beginning of this baseball season, or as most of America thinks, the pre-pre-season for football, I’d like to defend baseball.

This is a difficult effort. Football has become the overwhelming American game and baseball is generally perceived as three hours of overpaid men scratching themselves in inappropriate places at inopportune times.

But I still think it warrants a defense.

I understand that baseball is obviously no longer the national pastime, as that title has passed to Twittering and glancing at your Facebook page.

When we speak of the “boys of summer” now, that usually means finding out the day camp schedule for the period after school ends.

Most people I know don’t very much like baseball anymore. (Except my friend Dick, who finds it a perfect excuse for a nap.) They complain that it is too slow, too leisurely, not enough action, too complicated to understand, and that not much happens.

Well, yes, exactly. That’s the point.

Baseball is the only game that you can watch at the same time as you do a crossword puzzle. On the other hand, if you were watching, say, a football game and trying to find a three-letter word for the name of the imperial capital of Japan (Edo, for those of you working in pen), you might miss a touchdown or four beer commercials.

In baseball you can miss six innings, having decided to go home and move to Chicago, and not miss very much. Someone will still be fouling off pitches and scratching.

In basketball or football, you miss six innings and someone will have you committed for being very confused about what sport you’re watching.

And baseball is really much less complicated than other sports.

In football announcers spend an interminable amount of time explaining the technical differences between a nickel defense and Yosemite National Park because many of us can confuse the two. Baseball, although it does have a language all its own — in many respects, quite similar to Hungarian — is much more easily decipherable.

During, for instance, the baseball play that is called the hit and run, somebody hits and somebody else runs. And yes, somebody scratches, but fortunately we do not need announcers and color commentators to explain this.