How to Stay Trim

blue soapbox  A recent article in the New York Times, “Fidgeting Your Way to Fitness” (May 11, 2011), suggests that “incidental” physical activity, such as drumming your fingers against your desk top in frustration, can burn calories and help maintain or augment your physical fitness.

This is great news to those of us whose primary form of exercise is hunting and pecking, wrinkling our noses, rolling our eyes, and shaking our heads at how bad something looks on the page when it looked perfectly fine yesterday.  Writing is a lot of work, my friends, and it’s nice to have this officially recognized by sports and exercise researchers normally concerned only with silly matters like the cardiovascular benefits of cross-training for marathoners.

But—what if you can’t get to the gym, and you also can’t seem to get any writing done?  Are you simply out of luck, fitness-wise?

Suppose, just hypothetically, that your hip has finally given out.  You’re largely housebound, and you need to go in for a big surgery.  With your physical activity significantly curtailed, there’s nothing much you can do besides sitting around with your laptop—which would seem like the ideal opportunity to, say, start working on that other novel.  Yet you find yourself shockingly unproductive.

Not only can’t you go for a walk; you also can’t seem to manage the aerobics of hand-wringing as you confront a draft or, worse, a blank page.  How, oh how, are you to maintain your waistline?

This is where abject terror can be a lifesaver.

Turns out you don’t need to flutter your fingers as you try coming up with a nice metaphor for that one pesky paragraph.  You don’t need to mop your brow, rethinking that clunky sentence with the weak verb.  Instead, simply work yourself up into a frenzy of anxiety over impending events.  Tighten your stomach muscles into an obstinate tangle, and voila—abdominal fitness!

Also known as isometric exercise, this technique can be applied in many other parts of the body with equally silhouette-flattering results.  Sit in the wrong chair and get some lower back tension going.  Develop a case of temporo-mandibular joint disorder.  Clench your fists.  Clutch desperately at your chest.  Look, I’m not recommending rigor mortis, but rigor vitae happens to be great exercise.

Oh, and don’t forget about the lungs.  Say you’re headed for surgery kicking and screaming—but, having had to give up kicking lately, you’re increasingly reliant on the vocal component.  Isn’t it reassuring to know your physical fitness can be enhanced by a little, um, musical expression?

If you insist on considering the eardrums of others and still wish to exercise your lungs, hyperventilation is definitely worth a try.

“You’re nice and slim,” your surgeon tells you, explaining that this will make his job easier.

“I’m nice and slim while unconscious,” you correct him.  “When I’m awake, believe me, I’m a big fat pain in the neck.”

And you whip out your list of questions, and try not to be too obvious about pulsing in agitation.

Published in the Piedmont Post, June 1, 2011

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9 Responses to “How to Stay Trim”

  1. Miriam Pollack Says:

    Dear Lisa,

    Amazing that you were able to launch this at such an early point in your recovery, and with all of your humor and wit intact! Congratulations!



  2. BB Says:

    I cannot believe you could get it together to write PERIOD. Much less such a such a funny piece! You are so amazing…and trim! Wow, I’m impressed!

  3. ERB Says:

    I think that you just won the award of the decade for best response to a surgeon: “I’m nice and slim while unconscious. When I’m awake, believe me, I’m a big fat pain in the neck.” Hahahaha. I could try that one on people commenting on my weight, but I fear that they would agree too quickly. Wonderful essay and I’m so glad that you’re on the mend!

  4. Rebecca Wald Says:

    Lisa, another great post! I find it hard to believe that you ever suffer from writer’s block.

  5. Michele Says:

    AHAHAHA Oh, Lisa! You have rebounded since I talked to you on Monday evening EDT. I am happy, thrilled, relieved, and full of admiration. Not to mention, I literally LOL.

    Your baaaaaaaack!

  6. Michele Says:

    You’re back, oops!

  7. Georgia Says:

    Well put, my dear! (I’m not agreeing with you, I just think it’s about time rolling of one’s eyes gets its due!)

  8. Nina Lesowitz Says:

    There’s always a bright side! Lisa, how are you??

  9. Lisa Braver Moss Says:

    Hi all, and thanks for the great comments! I wrote this piece before going in for surgery, but waited until it appeared in the Piedmont Post to publish it as an entry in the “I’m Not Impressed” collection. I’m getting a little better each day down here at the rehab place in Sunnyvale, and should be home in a week or two. It’s great hearing from all of you! xoxoxox

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