You know, stuck here inside as we are, during these days of self-isolation, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to exercise.
A lot of thought.
You might say, thinking about exercise is inescapable. Seriously, I can’t get away from it.
Everywhere I look, there is Rose … exercising. She takes long walks or runs just before sunrise. She comes home and rolls out her yoga mat for one, two, even three different sessions with cream-and-sugar-voiced online instructors.
If nothing else is pending in the afternoon, she might take another dose of cosmic body-bending instruction from some slender young thing with a vaguely British accent and a Germanic sense of discipline.
Mind you, this is her profession. So, yes, well done, Rose. I support you to the fullest.
I am a realist. I get it that we can’t squeeze two people on to one yoga mat. And so I defer to the one of us with the stronger motivation.
But the realist in me also says that something needs to be done before the quarantine is lifted. I don’t want to be the only person on earth who emerges from the Dark Ages with a beastly rotund gut and but, t while crying to the wind, “Bigger pants! I need bigger pants!”
Not me, brother. No sir.
So with an expanding behind in mind, I have set about designing my own regimen: M.C. Escher-cise.
I began with the simplest of questions: What resources do we have in this house that I can make use of in my new exercise program?
The first thing that I discounted was the presence of a really excellent yoga/pilates instructor.
After an hour or 90 minutes of intense instruction, let’s say four times a week, would you really want to go home with your exercise coach? And I am talking in the most platonic sense imaginable.
Of course, you wouldn’t.
So, other, resources?
In a word, staircases.
This house is blessed with staircases and stairwells, in a variety of shapes and materials. We have a metal spiral staircase and the three-story central stairwell and a two-story back staircase to the garden. There are five in all.
I have devised a path that takes me from staircase to stairwell to steps — and back again. Up and down, over and around — over and over and over.
In total there are 177 steps to climb and descend and 108 flat-ground steps to connect them all, for a total of 285 steps in each circuit — going absolutely nowhere and back again.
All in the name of good health.
Yes, M.C. Escher-cise. This is bench step-exercising taken to new and exciting levels — three stories, in fact.
My exercise route — more or less:
No less an authority than the National Institute for Health, from back when it had fewer crises on its hands, says that bench-stepping has proven value.
- “Recent investigation of acute cardiorespiratory responses to the current ‘popularised’ style of bench/step exercise has validated its use in improving aerobic physical fitness, particularly in women.” — The Physiological Effects of Bench/Step Exercise by M Scharff-Olson 1, H N Williford, D L Blessing, J A Brown
- “The results demonstrate that aerobic bench stepping is an exercise modality that provides sufficient cardiorespiratory demand for enhancing aerobic fitness and promoting weight loss in females.” — The Cardiovascular and Metabolic Effects of Bench Stepping Exercise in Females, by M S Olson 1, H N Williford, D L Blessing, R Greathouse.
I know what you are thinking and the answer is, I couldn’t find any bench/stepping studies involving men. Frankly, I think climbing steps as exercise is a tough concept for many men to grasp.
Admittedly, I have been blessed with an unusual number of staircases. But I believe M.C. Escher-cise can be applied to single staircase households as well.
A word of caution: Think twice if the staircase is in a multi-unit building. Think three times if your current sedentary behavior is already driving your partner/spouse crazy.
I’m thinking 20 minutes of steady climbing and descending is a good start. My goal is to increase the time to a full hour or until I perceive that all-important warning sign: “Jesus! Enough already!”
OK. I’m ready to begin. Tomorrow.
Or … hmm. That’s Wednesday, so maybe start on the first of the week. …
But, you know, it is already almost June, so … it would be great to start on the first of the month. As long as it falls on a Sunday …