Eat the exercise, drink the burn

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

If exercise were a food or drink, I would want more of it. It makes me feel great. It helps me function better around other people. My clothes fit more comfortably and I have more energy. But I can’t eat exercise, nor can I chug it from a brown paper sack. So when the time comes, even though I know it will make me feel better than I feel right now, I don’t do it.

Like right now. I am alone in my home. I face absolutely no obligations preventing me from putting on my shoes and coat to go for a walk. The kids are in school. My wife went to town. In fact, the things I’m doing right now — like this — aren’t even important. Before this, I was just messing around with a tyrannosaurus rex in Photoshop. Heck, the mail is probably here now. Maybe I got a magazine or something. I’d be doing everyone a favor if I walked that mile to the road, especially myself.

It’s funny how much of what is classified as “health” is really in our minds. Our psychological reliance on eating too much food, drinking or ingesting things we shouldn’t, follows us down through generations of families, using our biological need to eat and drink against us in a twisting tornado of self-destruction and strained elastic waist bands. So not funny “ha-ha,” I guess. Unless a guy in workout clothes falls down reaching for a sandwich. That’s still funny. (Sigh). I wish I had a sandwich.

I’ve seen my weight go up and down dramatically throughout my life since I was a little kid, and I’ve got the half-empty toothpaste tube physique to show for it. Invariably, the root cause isn’t the fact that I happened upon a month’s supply of liverwurst and heavy whipping cream in the woods, but rather that the instincts that I work hard to manage simply take over my unconscious decisions. Hey, these pants are tight. Where’d these empty bags of jelly beans come from? Why do my fingers smell like ranch dressing? What happened?

Food is much more than sustenance here in America — it’s an emotional release from a complex web of contradictions. Working hard often means sitting down most of the day. Workplace injuries are usually from repetitive motion or the stress placed on a human spine from inactivity. Our forbearers lifted hay bales and 50 pound sacks of potatoes. We shuffle papers and swipe screens. When you have a job you’re told to spend extra hours at the desk. Meanwhile, the unemployed are told to try exercise until they get a call about a job. With luck, they’ll be sitting again soon.

It really makes me think … there is a steak up in the fridge right now. A nice one, left over from the other night. That’d heat up pretty good.

See, there we go again. A lot of times people write things like this for sympathy, attention or to brag about weight loss. I really don’t care about all that anymore. I’m not interested in the gimmicks or fads of professional dieting, or even how I stack up on the chart at the doctor’s office. This problem, like all the problems we all face, is a matter of attitude. And it really doesn’t matter if the problem is changing the culture of a school or town, or the personal travails we each face alone or in our families.

How about steak salad? Yes, we’ve got lettuce. That’d be alright. The sun just came out. It’s getting warmer. I can do this. Eat the exercise. Drink the burn. Wake up tomorrow and try it again.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This post first appeared in the Sunday, April 12, 2015 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.


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