2007.05.02 Exercising my right to be Gooney Bird Leddy

Written by David Green.

By COLLEEN LEDDY

Nobody asked to hear the story of the earplug in the toilet or the escapades on the exercise course at the park near Ben’s house, but I’m going to tell you anyway. Well, I’ll skip the earplug business. Do you recall what I’m talking about? I mentioned both in a column last month when telling about our trip to Florida in late March.

Ben lives in a really nice part of Miami, Coconut Grove. There are mansions to the left of him and mansions to the right. He rents a modest house half a block from Biscayne Bay. He dips his kayak into the bay at high tide and is within walking distance of Kennedy Park, a sprawling expanse of greenery that butts up to the bay.

Ben’s never been to Kennedy Park; neither have his housemates, his girlfriend Sarah and his coworker Chris. David and I accompanied Maddie there so we wouldn’t have to feel like neglectful parents when Coach Brown wondered why she wasn’t in shape for her first track meet. David was going to tackle a particularly hard geocache and I was going to read “Gooney Bird Greene” while Maddie ran loops around the park. That is, until we discovered the outdoor fitness trail.

Ben, Sarah and Chris belong to a gym. It’s too hot a lot of the time to run outdoors so they get their exercise inside the air-conditioned gym. They don’t know what they are missing. Stretched around the park are at least 20 stations, each depicting a certain exercise to perform on an apparatus of one sort or another. We started out with easy stuff like stretching your calves while leaning against a metal pole and progressed to more difficult endeavors like hand walking on parallel bars and doing body tucks while lying on a slanted board.

I was usually less successful than Maddie and David at performing the exercise or performing the suggested number of repetitions. Pull-ups? Ain’t gonna happen. Anything requiring upper body strength on my part sent Maddie and David into gales of laughter as I got into position and then found I could not make my body perform the exercise. And their response sent me into fits of giggles. What else can you do when you’re 49 and falling apart? We probably spent more time laughing than exercising as people walked by with quizzical looks on their faces. Exercise is funny?

On second thought, physically fit Ben, Sarah and Chris might not have the same positive reaction to the course as we did. They would whip through the exercises in record speed and wonder why we thought it was so fun. But fun, it was. And it even brought back childhood memories.

“Oh, look! Monkey bars!” I yelled, as we approached an overhead ladder apparatus. “I’m really good at this. I used to fly across these things when I was a kid.”

I was so excited to see something familiar, something I knew I could succeed at that I ran to be first, totally forgetting my lack of upper arm strength.

I jumped up the ladder, placed my hands on the horizontal bar and reached for the next bar. Suddenly I hit the ground with a loud thud and howled in pain as I skinned my knee.

“Did you feel the earth shake?” David asked Maddie, and I laughed through my pain.

Monkey bars aren’t so easy when you’re lugging around 50 extra pounds. And even though my sister Barbara nicknamed me Monkey as a kid, I’ve lost the agility and strength of my younger years. I don’t even live up to my high school nickname, Gumby.

But I still feel like a kid at heart. I love buying kid games and I love children’s literature—“Gooney Bird Greene,” the book I’d brought with me to the park, is just as interesting and enjoyable as the finest of adult fiction.

“Look a book!” a young boy said as he picked up and and started walking off with the copy of “Gooney Bird Greene” I’d set on the ground.

“Uh, that’s my book,” I said. “But you can look at it while I’m exercising if you want.”

He looked at me and looked at the book (3.9 reading level, 2 AR points) put the book back on the ground, backed up, still staring at me—now with a scared look on his face—and walked quickly to join his father and sister.

Exercising outdoors might be acceptable adult behavior, but maybe I shouldn’t read kid’s books in public, though.

    –May 2, 2007 

 

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