Fitness or Obsession

Campbell or Camp as everyone on the Coast knows him, owner of ‘Coast Books’ – ‘a non-profit book service’ as he likes to call it sauntered in just as Vicky set down a couple of ice cold for us. After taking the first sip – which is always the best one – I confessed without delay. “Clare and I have joined a spin cycle class twice a week,” I said, “one hour of intense pedaling and sweating to 80’ies disco music.”

“Whatever on earth for would you subject yourself to such torment?”

“To counteract gravity and get our un-toned bodies into presentable shape for a bicycle holiday. It’s quite the workout and I’m proud to say I did no worse than all the other participants. Eight women and one lone guy. Me.”

“Therein lies the mystery. Women worry much more about their bodies than men do while we worry too much about money and politics.”

I ignored Camp’s comment and said: “ It’s not that I’m worried about my physique but I was dismayed when I started huffing and puffing when we walked up to Soames Hill last Sunday.”

“You walked up Soames Hill?  Good for you. As for myself I walk to and from work every day, except on Thursdays when I take a detour through the pub. I also lift boxes of books and do my stretches reaching for the books on the top shelf and bending for the lower rows and sometimes I bow and scrape at the bank.”

“That’s just everyday activity which doesn’t count as exercise,” I said.  “It’s like me claiming that doing dishes and the laundry are exercise. Maybe mowing the lawn or digging up rocks qualify but Clare decided we’ve become lazy and delinquent in the physical department and advocates for a regular exercise schedule. You know, daily push-ups, sit-ups, squats, regular swims, walks; hiking and biking. Good for the core, the back, the tummy and the appetite.”

“I think this fitness craze is just another obsession with our bodies,” Camp said. “We’re told by the fitness gurus that we all need to have flat stomachs, tight asses and calves shaped like drum sticks. When they talk about six packs I’m thinking Heinecken and Corona, not stomach muscles.”

“Well, I guess being fit is healthier and looks better than hanging guts, wobbly butts and legs shaped like sticks,” I said, “and a new study says that exercise reduces the risk for developing depression.”

“It’s all part of our glamourized body culture,” Camp retorted, “And no matter how much we jog, bike and exert ourselves in those torture chambers they call gyms, we cannot change our body types. That is always the illusion people want to buy into,” Camp said.

“Are you part of a fitness club, Vicky?” Camp asked our attentive server who was just passing by with a full tray of empties.

She raised a quizzical eyebrow and said: “I walk for miles and lift trays of liquids every day at work but I take yoga classes twice a week. What’s this about? You two boys planning to go to the gym?”

“Oh no, nothing as drastic as that,” Camp said, holding up his hand, palm out,  and shaking his head, “we’re just talking about the fitness craze sweeping our foolish western world. More gyms and Pilates studios than pubs and bars.”

“Don’t forget the joggers and speed walkers,” Vicky said, moving on.

“Not to mention the billion dollar fashion industry built around jogging, hiking, biking and yoga outfits. Fitness is big business, just like diets, weight control and ageless aging,” I said.

“Goes hand in hand with organic diets, yoga classes and light beer. It’s all because we eat and drink too much and have to shed those extra pounds by artificial means, while the other half of the world worries about their next meal and does not have a child obesity problem.”

We drank to that and looked out at the sparkly water and lush green islands framed by the snow capped coastal mountains and the baby blue sky, and it occurred to me once again how lucky we were to live in such a paradise.

“All this talk about exercise makes me thirsty,” Camp said. “I should have bought a spandex franchise instead of a book store.”

Like magic Vicky set two refills in front of us and said: “I have friends who live right on False Creek and the only sounds they hear is the swoosh of rubbing spandex and the slap of running shoes going by their house.”

“And all that rubbing of synthetic jogging outfits probably creates enough static electricity to set off a minor explosion,” Camp said.

Vicky almost dropped her tray doubling over with laugher.



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