CHURCH OF TWAIN: On Exercise in the New Year

The new year is marked by many changes. One of my favorites is the increased traffic at the YMCA and other fitness centers.

Each year about this time, an army of freshly resolved exercise fanatics are stretching their tendons like suspenders and pulling the tags off their new workout suits. They are attempting another assault on Mt. Physical Fitness, which for most of us makes Everest look like a speed bump.

A majority will burn out in the first week. Others will make it through a month or so before old habits or tweaked tendons put them on the sidelines for another year. A few will soldier on, avoiding disappointment and injury, and eventually add the habit of exercise into their overloaded daily routines.

They will improve their time in the mile on the treadmill. They will increase their bench press and military press and bicep curl. They will lose a little weight, feel their heart rate decrease as their exercise increases. They will feel really, really good.

"Best I’ve felt in years," they will say to anyone within earshot.

Then, eventually, they will die. Sometimes swiftly and violently. Other times slowly and painfully. If they are really lucky, they will die in their sleep.

But, sooner or later, they will breathe their last breath and move over for another overweight guy in the overcrowded fitness gym of life.

Saint Mark of Missouri belonged to no fitness clubs I know of, which is perhaps why he lived to 75.

As he rambled into middle age, he observed, “I am pushing sixty. That is enough exercise for me.”

As he grew older, he added, “I have never taken any exercise except sleeping and resting.”

In his late years he said, “I take my only exercise acting as pallbearer at the funerals of my friends who exercise regularly.”

That line is sometimes attributed to Chauncey Depew, but this ain’t the Church of Chauncey pal.

Amen, Saint Mark. Now go in peace.

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