On my flight from Phoenix to Columbus Tuesday, I looked around at my fellow passengers and noticed a lot of them were unusually bulky and appallingly fit.
The implication was inescapable: the annual Arnold Schwarzenegger Sports Festival is back in town. And, without a conscious thought, I immediately sucked in my gut (at least, to the extent my aging, sagging frame permitted) and stuck my chin out in hopes that it would reduce the obvious wattles in the neck area. And as I left the plane after a long flight, and saw muscular men and women lugging their tote bags and wearing their ultra-tight clothing that accentuated the strain of every conceivable muscle that exists on the human body, I tried to walk especially straight and keep those glutes as tight was possible — which admittedly was still pretty flabby. By the time I got to my car I was sore all over.
That’s really the only downside of The Arnold for those of us who live in Columbus. It’s a great weekend for tourism in our city, the hotels and restaurants do a land-office business — don’t try to get a steak this weekend, for instance — and there are people taking shuttles and walking all over downtown. It’s one of the top tourism weekends for Ohio’s capital city.
But, in reality, most of us look pretty puny and paunchy compared to the contestants in The Arnold. That means it’s a gut-suck weekend, Columbusites!
If you walk around your town, you’ve probably noticed this already. I’m talking about the number of people who are going from Point A to Point B, carrying a coffee cup or water bottle. I’d say at least half, and maybe more, of the people out and about these days are fully liquified and ready to immediately hydrate or caffeinate.
It’s kind of strange when you think about it. It’s as if these folks can’t bear to be away from the liquid of their choice for any length of time, so they carry it with them — even if they aren’t actually drinking from the cup, or mug, or jug as they walk along. And I’m not talking about people who have just emerged from the nearest Starbucks with a pumpkin latte and are heading back to the office, either. I’m talking about people who seem to carry their containers at all times. One of my fellow walkers from German Village to downtown Columbus always carries a cup of coffee with him on his stroll to work, and he never takes so much as a sip. Of course not! If you try to take a drink when you’re walking you’re risking a spill, and coffee stains are hard to remove from clothing. That begs the question: if you’re not going to actually drink the liquid you’re lugging around, why carry it with you in the first place?
As somebody who prefers to walk unburdened by water bottles and coffee cups, I conclude that there are two potential explanations for this. One is that the water-bearers have become emotionally attached to their liquid containers and their contents, and that constantly carrying them around provides some kind of comfort. The other is that this is all part of some new exercise regimen. Somewhere, some fitness guru has decreed that the muscles surrounding the crook of the arm are under-exercised, and that the best way to deal with the issue is to carry around small containers and maintain the arm perpetually bent at the elbow, with the lower arm and the upper arm forming a 90-degree angle, for extended periods of time. Only by doing so will the biceps and triceps, working with the ulna, radius, brachioradialis, tendons, extensors, and flexors, get the full workout that they really need.
Call it Coffee Cup Conditioning, or the Water Jug Workout.
I’ve really been a slouch when it comes to riding my bike. It’s been at least two years, and probably more, since I’ve straddled the Schwinn Caliente and pedaled off. My bike has been needing new tires and some basic maintenance, and the bumpy brick roadways of German Village aren’t exactly conducive to a thin-wheeled bike, anyway.
This past week, though, Kish got our bikes fixed, and this morning I got up early and decided to take a ride. By staying on Third and Whittier I could stick to smooth asphalt roadways, and that worked out well because my destination was the Scioto Trail bike path on the Whittier peninsula. It’s a nice, shaded ride along the river, winding past the Audubon Center and under the I-71 bridges, that emerges from the woods at the southern point of downtown Columbus. If you’ve got the energy and desire you can then head north, past the Scioto Mile park, and join the Olentangy bike path that rolls past Upper Arlington and the campus area.
It was a beautiful morning and I rode for a few miles, turning around when I read the Main Street bridge. I quickly realized, however, that my years of non-biking had taken their toll. I can walk forever without a problem, but cycling uses different muscles, and on the way back my thighs were screaming as I labored up the very gentle incline that takes you over the railroad tracks on Whittier. I desperately fought the urge to hop off and walk my bike up the hill — which would be a horrible embarrassment and egregious confession of failure — downshifted repeatedly to the lowest gear, and kept going at a snail’s pace until I finally made it to the top and could blessedly start coasting again. Fortunately, I wasn’t passed by any elderly joggers or children on tricycles.
When I acknowledge that biking uses different muscles, I can’t ignore the hindquarters, either. My keister hasn’t had to deal with a bicycle seat in a while, and it clearly needs some toughening up.