How Exercise Works in our Family

Years ago, I had a colleague and friend who was studying accounting part-time. She was in her early twenties at the time, already had an undergrad. degree and loved a good party. God knows why she signed up for 8am Saturday classes at Wits, but she did. On the day she got her results for a really important exam, I asked her how things had gone, in an effort to be supportive.
“I got 20%,” she replied.
I wasn’t too sure how to respond. I think I said I was really sorry or something, but I remember her next words very clearly.
“Oh no,” she said. “I’m not upset. What I found really impressive is that I actually knew 20% of my work!”
This is PRECISELY how I felt when I got a very kind, very courteous e-mail from Discovery Vitality recently, informing me that my discounted Discovery gym membership “might end if you do not go to the gym more often”. (The rules state that in order to maintain one’s discounted membership, one must use the gym at least 24 times in a rolling twelve month period.) The e-mail informed me that I had “only” used the gym 20 times since 1 February 2011.
Seriously? I have been to the gym 20 times in the last 11 months? I was super impressed to hear that.
Discovery Vitality, however, was not too impressed. They are going to cancel my gym membership if I don’t use the gym four times in the month of January. Very kind of them to warn me, I thought. I do want to avoid the “once off” activation fee. I say “once off” with a hint of irony because I have paid this activation fee of R645 many, many times over the years, by not going to gym the requisite number of minimum times, thereby losing my membership and having to start again.
Full of New Year’s resolutions, I have already visited the gym three times in the last two weeks and I need to go at least once in the next week for my membership to be safe. Completely feasible. And then I just need to make sure I go at least twice a month from February onwards and my membership will be safe as houses. Easy!
I love walking. Outside, though – not on the treadmill. I love seeing how fast I can possibly go at a pace I can maintain. I feel good, I don’t feel like a can’t breathe or I’m going to die which is often the case when I run. The Husband, however, is proper athlete. His idea of a decent week of training will be 12 to 20 hours of cycling. My idea of an extremely good exercise week means exercising 4 or 5 times, for 35minutes if you’re running, else 45-60 minutes for everything else. On the odd occasion since The Princess’ birth he has agreed on a light walk around our suburb. This is normally my time to exercise so I like to give it horns, walking with the stroller. He, on the other hand, has typically just rode about 100km the day before and wants to meander, stop to chat, pause to reflect and just generally take an age to cover the smallest amount of ground. Because what’s the point of walking fast, right? Walking isn’t real exercise for real men.
So you can imagine my surprise when he suggested a walk around Emmarentia with The Princess this Sunday. Perhaps surprise is the wrong word. Perhaps I was more suspicious of his motives. So I said:
“Sure, but you have to actually wake up before she’s due for her morning nap at 8am, we have to actually go to Emmarentia and we have to walk at a decent pace.”
He says he agrees to all those conditions except the last. He has “never understood the point of walking at a decent pacing.” I think, “Fine, we can meander. At least we’ll be out as a little family in the fresh air. I won’t get a workout but who cares?”
Sunday morning rolls around. The Princess and I are up at 5:15. Saturday was Margie, our night nurse’s night off, and The Husband complained he couldn’t sleep with the crackling of the baby monitor. So I am amazed when I wake him at 7 and he’s still committed to our walk – he’s groggy and underslept but he’s committed and excited, even. We’ve borrowed our neighbour’s Mamalove baby jogger with super thick wheels. It looks like it can tackle almost any terrain. I’m dressed for a gentle meander and, as we start walking, it turns out to be a lot hotter than the overcast skies suggest.
Not 300m into a slow, Sunday stroll The Husband starts running uphill pushing The Princess in the jogger. I am mentally unprepared for a run, but I play along. A pattern develops: The Husband will start running. I can’t keep up so eventually he has to start walking or he’ll lose me. In time, I catch up to him, and, relieved, start walking, at which point he promptly starts running again. I’m exhausted. We end up doing 6km like this. I manage only because he does allow us to do some walking in between for me to catch my breath, now and again.
So much for a slow walk! We are both sweating like pigs at the end and I’m also puffing like the big, bad wolf.
The Husband is on an endorphine high. He wants to do it again next week. And every Sunday after that. I should have known the exercise bug was biting him when we stopped at Vida in Greenside to get him a coffee before we started our “walk”. We ran into a friend who’d just completed a 5km run and who was about to climb into her car with her Vida breakfast wares. The Husband invites her to join us. She declines. I tell her to ignore him and say that I’ve never understood a double exercise day. Seriously, I think one set of exercise per day deserves a medal. The Husband disagrees. He looks our friend in the eye and says to her: “It’s during the second set that the real gains will be felt.”
She looks at him as though he’s gone mad. I mean, she’s just run 5km, for God’s sake! I can read her mind. She’s thinking, “the only frigging gains I want to feel right now are the ones from my Vida croissant, buddy!”
And that, dear friends, is my life with an exercise freak.