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Matter Over Mind

August 14, 2012

My men’s team has been kicking my ass for months to exercise more. (Yes we call it a team, not a group. It’s a team of men who are dedicated to each member’s pursuit of excellence.)  When things were rough for part of last year and early this year, with Shelley’s health and all the stresses of the move and everything, their advice confused me: I could better take care of business, they said, by making it my business to take better care of myself.

Partly this didn’t compute because my head, which is where I mostly hang out, couldn’t buy how paying more attention to anything down there could possibly help me.

So I stayed for the longest time with 20 minute workouts two or three times a week. But in time, following their advice, I doubled that, to 40 minute workouts three times a week. Slowly this has changed me. But it’s taken me years to invent a workout that’s not only healthy enough that I should do it, but also rewarding or interesting enough that I’d actually want to do it, and want to keep it up.

I used to go to the gym, which not only entailed more time, but also meant dealing with the sense I was always integrating the place, breaking various unspoken Age Apartheid ordinances.

Then I switched to home workouts, with pushups, sit-ups, leg lifts and the like. B-o-r-i-n-g!

Then a teammate suggested weights, which have lately been recommended for geezers in general. That’s when things started changing.

Beginning with 8, then 15 and 20 lb. weights, I now do a whole series of lifts and curls. After completing a set, I can almost feel my muscles grow and come alive as they ache so good. They feel all at once tired and  molten.

During this I’m playing ballads and soft rock to help keep the rhythm: Santana – Maria, Maria; Put Your Lights On. Stones – Salt of the Earth; Tell Me; No Expectations. R.E.M. – Losing My Religion.

I do this for about 20 minutes, and then I shift to my reward: Dance.

And here too, along with the workout, my taste has evolved. I was first dancing to Classic or 80’s Rock, especially songs like Turning Japanese; Don’t Get Me Wrong; Walking On Sunshine; Steely Dan’s Bodhisattva; Endicott (by Kid Creole and the Coconuts. Check it out!)

…and Dr. John’s Right Place, Wrong Time.

But in time I found the kind of sound that’s most conducive to the youthing process: A genre of club music known as Electronica.

This is what they play in some clubs to keep kids raving till dawn. It generally entails strobe-like pulsating rhythms somewhere in the range of 50 to 90 million beats per minute…or so it seems.

My favorite lately in this genre is Madonna (I think this makes me legally gay in some states) and an obscure Queens DJ named Dirty Dan. If you can listen to, say, the first twelve minutes of his recent mix without starting to move involuntarily, check for a pulse. It’s used in hospitals to revive the comatose…or should be. Personally, I find it exhilarating.

Besides ending my 40 minutes winded and happy, the weights are slowly changing my body. I’m beginning to feel bulges and surges I’ve never felt before, and find my walk at times morphing into a swagger.

On a good day, I experience a prolonged elevation of mood and energy, not to mention an endorphin-induced impish grin.

And now, just as I’ve heard happens to others, if I go too long without working out, I miss it. Imagine that!

So lately I’ve been wondering how my life would have been altered had I discovered this earlier on. But back some 25 and 35 years ago, I thought muscular hardbodies looked almost freakish. The whole ratio between the size of the upper torso and the head shifts, and to me that made some guys look like Pinheads. 

But I would have found more confidence and some of the inner oomph I’ve lacked in my being for so long. Confidence is a head game, but the head is also a body game. And back then I didn’t appreciate that my body isn’t something I have, it’s something I am. I didn’t understand that I spend so much time hanging out up there in those top 10 pounds of mine, that it helps me balance myself out if I pay more attention to the bottom 140.  

Anyway, better late than never.

Charley BEFORE starting to work out

Charley AFTER working out

I just have to watch it – lately after a workout I’ve been developing pinching pains in my left shoulder. Oy. But for now I’m intent on keeping this up as long as I can. It’s beginning to make a difference in my mood, my day, my life.

I’m finding things tend to work out better when I do.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Dan W permalink
    August 14, 2012 4:39 pm

    This is awesome, Charley. I happen to think that the mind resides in the body. For example, over half of our serotonin resides in our digestive system. Endorphins, neutransmitters and hormones are all over our body. So much of our feeling happens in and around our bodies. When was the last time you felt love in your head?

  2. August 15, 2012 12:55 am

    I’ve been exercising since my 20s, first running, then some weight lifting, now an elliptical trainer & weights. It’s the healthiest way to feel good. Be careful not to hurt yourself. Don’t push too hard and do a mix of exercises so you strengthen lots of muscles that support each other and your joints. Don’t just hammer away at one muscle or joint. There are lots of good exercises you can do with elastic bands to strengthen the muscles around your shoulder so you don’t injure it. Elastic bands are safer than weights. Consult a physical therapist if you can–they know best.

  3. Laurie Yankowitz permalink
    August 15, 2012 3:40 am


  4. Laurie Yankowitz permalink
    August 15, 2012 3:43 am

    …and enjoyed the video!

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