Saturday, December 1, 2012

Treadmills and Timbuktu

Last Christmas, my lovely wife, Darla and I decided to buy a gift that would benefit us both.  I rejected her first idea, which was a one-way ticket for me to Timbuktu, on the grounds that it was unclear exactly how such a trip would benefit me.  Her second idea, rejected for similar reasons, involved Nome, Alaska.  Eventually we came up with something we could agree on.  We decided to buy a treadmill.  The thinking was, she could use it for hanging wet sweaters that she didn’t want to put in the dryer, and I could benefit from the mental gymnastics of figuring out how in the world to get the monstrous thing into the house.
We did not run out and buy the first treadmill we could find, primarily because, at this advanced stage of life, commonly known as the pre-death stage, we do not run. That’s another reason I agreed to buy a treadmill.  Should the impulse to run ever strike me, I didn’t want to have to run outside, where children might point at me and say,
“Look, Mommy, Santa is wearing shorts and trying to run.  I can see his bowl full of jelly.”  A lump of coal is too good for such a child.
Our treadmill research began in typical fashion.  We went to Sears and tried out their machines. Darla brought over some sweaters from the Women’s Department and hung them in various configurations on each machine.  The sweaters were not wet, but they served the purpose.  And I began the mental gymnastics of trying to determine which machine, if any, I could get into our home.  This process ran smoothly until a salesperson began to get nosey.  He interrupted the research to say which treadmills other people were buying, and why, and how long the year-end treadmill sale would last, which as I recall, was until year-end.  I explained that we had only begun our research, and we were still in the “Not-ready-for-a -salesperson” phase.  In defending myself against the Sears Associate I was on my own, as by that time, Darla was trying on sweaters.
I had a major hurdle to overcome before I could part with a thousand dollars of my hard-earned money (No, I will not change it to soft-earned, Pretty Boy, although you make a good point).  I happened to know that if I were to pick a house at random between the Sears store and our home, there was a very good chance that it contained a treadmill that was no longer in use, the matron of the home having found another means of drying her sweaters.  Who in his right mind would buy a new treadmill in a country where gently-used ones are more common than guns in school lockers?  All I had to do, I reasoned, was to walk to my mailbox and remove the sign which reads “No free papers or treadmills” and three or four of them would show up on my porch in the morning.  In my (admittedly limited) experience with wives, however, I have learned that once one has shopped for a new anything, it is very difficult to convince said wife to settle for an old anything. 
Her: “With a used one, you don’t know what you’re getting.” 
Me: “I know what I’m getting---a free treadmill, and the pleasure of knowing I saved a thousand dollars.”

Her: “Just go online and see what you can find out.”
I did. That was a big mistake.  It turns out that acquiring a used treadmill is not recommended by the experts, who, perhaps coincidentally, all seem to have connections with the companies that make new treadmills.  Furthermore, as soon as I did a computer search for treadmills, we were bombarded with Internet ads for every company that ever made or considered making treadmills, mill treads, millstones, stone mills, bread mills, or merchandise featuring The Simpsons’ Milhouse.  It’s almost as if there’s a robot someone paying attention to the web searches we do.  If he paid a bit closer attention, we would have stopped getting such ads after we ordered the treadmill.
Once the treadmill arrived, it became clear that it would not be in use as a clothes rack every day.  After a few weeks, seeing it standing idle, the thought struck me that perhaps I could utilize the contraption for physical exercise.  I doubt very much that I’m the first person who thought of this, because in many ways, the thing seemed to be as well suited for walking on it as for hanging clothes on it. In fact, I remember hearing somewhere that if one walks briskly on a treadmill for 30 or 40 minutes, three or four times a week over a long period of time, there is likely to be some weight loss, or at least, some discernible weight redistribution from fat cells to muscle cells.  I decided to test that hypothesis. 
I am here to report that having maintained such a schedule fairly consistently for the better part of a year, there has indeed been some discernible weight loss.  The tread on the mill is noticeably thinner than it was when it arrived.  I, on the other hand, look the same.  If any of my fat cells have in fact surrendered to the muscle army in the past year, they have evidently been confined to one of several different minimum security prison camps near their former homes, where they are well-fed, if not pampered.  Furthermore, with the exception of the morning exercise assembly, it appears that the guards from the muscle army who are supposed to be running the camps spend their days lounging around with the prisoners, indulging with them in the abundant fare that’s delivered hourly to the camp gate, and telling Your Momma’s so fat jokes. 
Exercise is a good thing.  It has some temporary benefit.  The Bible says “…bodily exercise profits a little…” It is not to be disdained.  It is not to be ignored.  But that verse goes on to say, “but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and that which is to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8)  So we are exhorted, “…exercise yourself toward godliness.” (1 Timothy 4:7)  The clear implication is, it will be of more use to me, and to others, if I devote forty-five minutes a day pursuing godliness, reading and meditating on God’s Word, for example, than if I devote forty-five minutes on a treadmill.  It would be best, of course, if I did both, and with all the I-pods and I-pads and podcasts and lily-pads and pod-people available now, it’s possible to do both in the same forty-five minute period.  It can be done with or without a treadmill, even in Nome or Timbuktu.


  1. I don't have anything to say. It just seems to me that people would rather read an article that someone has commented on than one that no one has commented on. So as soon as I click "publish," the "No comments" message will disappear. This is sort of like people who bang into your car in a parking lot and leave a gibberish note just so the witnesses think they are leaving contact information. I wonder how long a comment I can leave here. Do you think longer comments generate more interest in an article? I suspect that the number of comments matters more than the length. What do you think? Please comment below.

    1. That business about frequency of comments building up interest.

    2. Right. How many are we up to now?

    3. I think you were five, so I must be six. What will that make your next comment?

    4. I was under the impression there would be no Math.

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