Exercise and the body (politic)

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    ‘…if I value my health and well-being sufficiently enough to go through this process on a regular basis, I am hoping that we all can collectively value our society’s health and well-being sufficiently enough to want to find an exercise program that can similarly do the trick for our society.’

    I’M getting to love running.

    That may not sound earthshaking to many people but bear in mind that I am no spring chicken and a few years short of earning my senior citizen card. I also never ever enjoyed taking to the pavement (or the treadmill) to pound away, for minutes on end, seat dripping down my forehead and me occasionally gasping for breath.

    But blame (or thanks to) the pandemic, I had to rethink my anti-running tendencies because gyms were ordered closed by a government keen on shutting down almost all opportunities for interaction that will not require a face mask or face shield imported by a crony (he-he). So with even the condo gyms closed I only had two choices – to work out at home (and occasionally have to do push-ups with one or two dogs jumping up on my back), or pound the pavements of BGC and run.

    I chose the latter and chose to do High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) by doing six laps around the triangular lot consisting of the Singapore Embassy and the empty lot next to it.

    Each lap measures about 0.5km (I drove around it to measure the perimeter) and so six laps is equal to three kilometers. For someone like me, doing HIIT over a distance of three kilometers is revolutionary. It is extraordinarily revolutionary that I do it at least three times a week.

    For me to now say that I am getting to love the effort – which I have been engaged in since March – surprises even myself. And I love the occasional mental battle I engage in with that part of my brain that says “you’re stupid you could be sitting back on the lazy boy with your feet up watching CNN detail Trump’s defeat,” and yet each time the other part of me that says “that can wait, it’s fun to try to beat yourself” wins out and I find myself checking my time and rejoicing every time I cut a second or two (or even more) off my previous clocked time.

    But yes, there are days when you already know as you are getting dressed that this will be a slow day. Still you go ahead and do it. And that’s why my size 36 pants are now about a size too large for me.

    The other day while enjoying the brisk walk part of the HIIT routine it dawned on me that keeping one’s body fit and healthy as best as one can is no different from keeping our body politic “fit and healthy” as best as we collectively can. It’s not easy, and you will be tempted to do other things that bring more (and immediate) pleasure. You need to do it constantly and consistently. You need to have some plan. And it requires a commitment that others may find too much – until it’s too late.

    Ultimately you need to have an ending vision of why you want to torture yourself in the first place. That vision should be captivating and desirable and fulfilling – and if it all these three (and maybe even more) then doing what you have to do won’t be torturing yourself at all.

    Body politics around the world are under tremendous stress and strain. There are so many interlocked but sometimes contradictory demands all needing to be met. The citizenry is impatient, and social media amplifies that impatience. Deep divides are everywhere, and with the deep divides come intolerance for opposing viewpoints. Very often one side of an issue or one faction of political and economic forces plays not only to win but to dominate and decimate the other. Working towards a compromise is overshadowed by giving no quarter.

    To paraphrase Joe Biden’s comment in relation to US politics recently, a society is in trouble when we regard those who disagree with us as more than just opponents – as enemies.

    Thinking along these lines I am tempted to think it inevitable that societies such as ours will just collapse upon itself because the divides are too deep, the gaps too wide, the distrust too widespread. But one other part of me says that this is no different than the first time I laced up my running shoes and took the first step around the triangle on that day in March when I tried it. And let’s assume that for every month of the last eight months that have passed I’ve done my program 12 times, which adds up to 96. And if every lap is equal to some 640 steps (yes, I counted them), done six times, that means I’ve done some 3840 steps per day of exercise, or 46.080 a month, or a “whopping” 368,640 steps since I first began this madness in March.

    Now if I value my health and well-being sufficiently enough to go through this process on a regular basis, I am hoping that we all can collectively value our society’s health and well-being sufficiently enough to want to find an exercise program that can similarly do the trick for our society. Before it’s too late.

    It’s time to search for that program.

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