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Marriage - the best exercise.

One good thing about joining plights in the trough of holy wedlock, or however that goes, it saves the cost of joining a health club. As a normal married man--if there is such a thing--I have found that marriage provides about all the exercise the victim (but I get ahead of myself)--the husband, I should say--can handle.

Not that I didn't give formal exercises a try. Once. This was some years after life had fallen into place and I'd begun to accumulate a little well-deserved flab around the center section. Society, at the same time, was taking off gung ho on a health kick, natural foods crowding junk foods on grocery shelves, best-sellers carrying titles such as Run for Your Life, Swim and Stay Thin, Dumbbells for Smart People and morning news programs competing with double-jointed acrobats giving instructions on how to slip a disc or fracture your pelvis the professional way.

Finally, one morning, I decided I would try a few mild sit-ups. Unable to get my back off the floor doing them in the bedroom, I went into the kitchen, where I could anchor my toes under the edge of the sink. And it was at his juncture that my bride of many summers (I don't count the winters, because she wears those ski-styled pajamas) came in from mopping the back porch off.

"Oh, good heavens!" she exclaimed, dropping her mop and bucket of suds and straddling my stomach, from which vantage point she began pounding me squarely on the chest.

"What-in-the-blue-blazes-do-you-think-you're-doing!" I gasped.

"EPA," she responded, seeming somewhat relieved that I was still able to talk.

"It's CPR, for pete's sake," I moaned. "EPA is the Environmental Protection Agency."

"Well, whatever. At least it has saved your life."

"You nearly killed me," I corrected her, dumping her off, removing the mop handle from my forehead and wringing the hot suds from my sweatshirt. "I was only trying a few sit-ups."

For single fellows, or the married man whose domestic duties may consist of keeping grass out from between the patio bricks and painting the bird bath once a year, formal exercises are indeed a fine institution. But for a married man with all the diadvantages of a rural setting, to say nothing of a wife who devotes her waking hours to keeping his figure down to skin and bones--the skin black and blue and the bones not infrequently out of alignment--formal exercises are about as necessary as an igloo smoke alarm.

One exercise that I recently experienced in the course of a day's occupation I have labeled the Backward Quickstep.

In this little death-defier, hubby has been enlisted to replace wife, who finds herself too short to install the bedroom storm window from a scaffold she has erected by placing a board upon a stack of five bricks at one end, an overturned potato crate at the opposite end. Hubby mounts the board with window in hand, holds window in place momentarily, then, as bricks collapse, takes a quick step backward, catapults over the yew tree and stretches out on his back in the rock garden. Excellent for the buttocks and the back of the head. Few formal exercises include the back of the head.

Somewhat more advanced but still employing the general strategy is one called the Forward Quickstep and Head Thrust.

For this one, wife asks hubby to break a board that she has leaned up against the well platform. He is so much stronger than she, is her come-on. So innocent old hubby stands on his left foot and brings his right foot (or vice versa, if he's left-footed) down sharply on the board. The board, having carefully been turned rotted-side down and thus offering no resistance, sends hubby plunging forward, thrusting his head into the side of the house and leaving the hide from at least one shin on the well platform. There's nothing like it for strengthening those neglected neck muscles, clear down to the sixth vertebra.

The body-toner that I call the Up, Up and Away also is available in both regular and advanced stages. The first stage finds the target standing on tippy-toe and stretching his right arm as high as possible. Holding this position to the count of one, he inhales deeply and pitches forward, touching down on the floor with his forehead and both shoulders in what has become known in airplane circles as a three-point landing.

This bone-and-muscle bonanza is made possible through the fore-throught and efforts of the helpmeet, who positions the recliner chair, the ottoman and the shoeshine kit so as to enable hubby to hang the star atop the Christmas tree.

Although somewhat more involved, the Advanced Up, Up and Away pays off handsomely in burned-1p calories, increased lung capacity and leg-muscle strengtening. It begins from a standing position, with either the right or left arm and leg being lifted simultaneously. Then the other set lifted to a higher level. Back to the first set again, and so on. At the count of between eight and ten--nine, to be exact--the one being exercised slowly begins a sideward movement, inhaling and exhaling more rapidly as momentum increases. Just before landing on both knees, he further bolster his breathing apparatus by emitting one prolonged, terrifying scream, as they do in karate. From the position on his knees he rolls over on his back and proceeds to writhe briskly.

Credit for this gem again goes to spouse. Entrusted to hold the ladder while hubby climbs up to clean the gutters, she suddenly remembers a cake in the oven and runs in "for just a sec" to take one more look at her upside-down cake.

A shortcoming of most formal exercises: They concentrate on but a single area--tummy, fanny, thigh, brisket, etc. Not so with the Octopus. While admittedly a bit complicated, this beauty works on everything from toe to shoulder.

It begins with hubby slogging into the house from a disastrous and costly 110 on the golf course that afternoon. On his way to the refrigerator to drown his sorrows, he extends both arms to their limit, stretches the right leg out and twists the foot to the left. Lowering the left hand to knee level and raising the right hand above his head, he then lifts the left hand and thrusts the right knee forward, holding the right hand down around the ankle. From this position, he shoots the right arm out, curling the left hand at his waist. Bringing the knees together, he kicks out first with the left foot, then with the right, at the same time twisting the foot that isn't kicking.

Upon completion of the third such routine, he calls into the living room, "Would you mind coming out here and folding up this blasted ironing board!"

Formal exercisers go in pretty heavily for jogging. This in itself, without someone bounching along beside you, becomes rather boring. So, to liven up this method of turning flab into flesh, jogging trails are now being enlivened with the installation of apparatuses such as chinning bars, water jumps, trapezes--that sort of thing. The married man, on the other hand, requires no such gimmicks. His spouse stands (or lies, rather) ever ready to supply the necessary means for a monotony-relieving break: the colorful Back One-and-a-Quarter Gainer being a fair example.

It was approaching dusk this past Wednesday when the better half came down to where I was dredging the creek with a short-handled spade. My spinal column by this time having assumed the graceful lines of a croquet wicket, she thought it safe to challenge me to a race back to the house. In spite of the U-turn in my torso, I still was leading by a good ten feet when I suddenly relieved the monotony by bringing both feet up to eye level and both shoulders down sharply to the ground. The shoulders are another area too often neglected in formal routines.

Good sport that she is, my dear wife stopped long enough to look down and inquire sweetly if I hadn't noticed that she'd left the clothes-line up.

No, I hadn't. Nor in trying to catch her did I notice the trash burner. Flop Your Fat Off, I think I'll call this one.
COPYRIGHT 1984 Saturday Evening Post Society
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Mar 1, 1984
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