My parents weren’t as thrilled as I was about a physical output that consisted of moving my eyes across a page and using one hand to turn it. “Don’t you think you should go outside for a while? You can’t keep your nose in a book all day.” Hah!
In those days, the main reason girls went outside was to get fresh air and a little exercise. You could list the names of girls’ sports on the back of a matchbook cover and have room leftover. My physical achievements included tether ball, trampoline, baton twirling (and marching), swimming and tennis. The one reason I didn’t become a complete layabout was that when I needed to go somewhere, school for example, I had to walk.
But fitness? What was that? In contrast, these days you must abide by a rigorous exercise routine to avoid being shunned. I never heard the word fitness when I was growing up, except — wait! it just came back to me — except when twice a year all elementary school children had to take the Presidential Physical Fitness Test, a dreaded experience of mortification via timed sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, races and other tortures. While boys had one test designed just for them, which I can’t remember, girls had to walk the balance beam, the only test I didn’t completely fail. Gym teachers making scores public added to the humiliation, and then there were the few winners who got to show off their special badges and show them off they did. As soon as the first round of these exercises from hell had passed no one spoke of fitness again until time came for the next tests.
In adulthood I have periods of sloth and high activity. Lately I have been in the moderate physical activity mode taking a course three times a week at my local Y… until I missed the last step of my staircase, landed on my heel and turned one foot into the size and shape of a hoagie sandwich.
During the injury recovery period, I have returned to my earlier habit of lying on the couch and reading a book, except that these days I’ve added a nap to that regime. I’m surprised that although my foot hardly hurts, within a few days I’ve moved directly into hibernation mode. I’m behaving more and more like my cat, who might paraphrase the feline in a recent “New Yorker” cartoon summing up his end-of-life regrets: I wish I had napped more.