With data on your mind, let’s dance to fitness

By Allan Jacob

When was the last time you dabbled in sport for the heck of it, like picking up a racquet and getting into the swing of things? When you took the field or court and didn’t bother to tabulate your calories and the metres or kilometres you have run? I don’t remember when I last did (and I won’t tell in a ‘healthy reputation economy’) but I remember the experience left me with a sore shoulder and a knee that felt like it needed to be replaced.

That was then, this is now. I have aged and refuse to take it in my stride — I know I’m playing catch up with the calorie counter as Father Time places me on the slow track. What happened to those games people play (not chess) and have a field day? I may sound contrarian — especially during the Dubai Fitness Challenge — that has drawn thousands to parks and gyms to exercise and experience the true worth of their bodies and test their physical limits. I haven’t officially joined the bandwagon but I have a poser before I break into a sweat and get into the fitness regimen on these pages.

It’s beginning to weigh on my mind and I’d like to get it off my chest before I pump up my heart rate with some form of strenuous exercise…if stress over those calories doesn’t get me, a workout will. I urge you not to get me wrong here. I’m all about staying healthy, but I try hard not to follow the crowd and like to stray from the herd. I will decline all invitations to workout at a gym. Let me just say that I prefer to set my own pace, do it my way and be frank about it even though I worry that I am not in great shape.

Let me ask that question about sport again before I go for a run that will help get rid of my love handles. I didn’t have them (the handles) when I took up sport in my youth, but now that I’m in my forties, I get a grip on them. It’s a hold that I’m desperately trying to escape from. I don’t know how they crept up and took hold of my waist, which gets me working over more data than sweating in my attempt to keep obesity away.

It’s a strain on my brain, a cerebral exercise, with the results stored in the cloud, online. If we could, we would even count the beads of perspiration with some tracker or dropper of sorts. Our sleek smartphones, nifty Fitbits and other fitness gadgets are already keeping track of the steps we take, calculating readings of heartbeats when in motion or at rest, and taking note of the calories we shed.

So I walk or run with those fuzzy figures in my head for company. Research says 10,000 steps daily will keep me going all the way into the afterlife. I read that it’s the equivalent of 10 kilometres — which is crazy. I must say it’s less fun when I run with the sole purpose of losing the extra flab. If you care to know, I found my rhythm during a run last week and set a decent pace on the synthetic track at a park near where I live. I didn’t clock it but I was pleased that the attempt came in perfect conditions with the temperatures dropping and no sun to slow my progress. Exhilarating, after all those years. I told my wife about it and we did a high-five. Sport was fitness in my youth, now it’s become a luxury as I run around in circles trying to stay in shape while battling my mid-life bulge. “It’s your slouch, your posture,” my wife consoles me. I’m not entirely convinced.

I want to be the me from three decades ago when I almost made it to the 800-metres track team in school for the junior state level meet. Those were the days when Olivia Newton-John was belting out Physical, her last big hit, as she infused new oxygen into aerobics that was all the rage then. ONJ was the gal who made physical special, and sexy even, when she sang such trite lines as: ‘Let me hear your body talk, your body talk…’ She made me see health as a smorgasbord of emotions. It was also sensual and natural, while I tried out as many disciplines as I could — from cricket to tennis. When it ended, (I am not ashamed to say I won some and lost many) I still loved them all. It was fun, yet it wasn’t meant to be fitness, and the waist never crossed the 30-inch mark till late into my twenties. Trust me, my lips don’t lie.

Fitness is now an industry with global revenues of $83.15 billion with all those trackers, fancy gym equipment, sports watches and apps. It’s getting the measure of sporting activity with data and devices. As for me, I’ll just go and play Physical by Olivia Newton-John and hear my body talk when I go for that run.


Allan is a news junkie. He loves a good debate

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