Confession time: I am a nerd. I’ve always been a nerd, and I always will be. I’m a nerd on multiple levels, really. I love science fiction, high fantasy, computers, and comic books, on top of classical music, show tunes, and the juvenilia of Charlotte Brontë. My bookshelves overflow with Japanese comics, Annie Dillard, and Victorian chick-lit (wedged in between the action figures). I own the complete works of Oingo Boingo. I write essays on the genius of Oscar Hammerstein. I like jokes about math. The only claim to non-nerdishness available for me to cling to is that I’ve never been to band camp.
Like a lot of other nerds I know, I’ve always had a sort of hate/slightly-less-hate relationship with physical exercise. As a young child, I enjoyed playing outside—running around my suburban neighborhood with the kids next door, fueling our epic summer adventures with adrenalin-pumping games like “Bloody Murder” and “Kick the Can.” But as a ten and eleven-year-old, freshly struck with the power of the written word, a summer’s afternoon was more likely to find me sprawled on the floor with a good book than braving the hot sunshine. More and more, I avoided physical activity in favor of mental endeavors. After all, why confine myself to the limits of my increasingly uncooperative body, when I could explore the seemingly endless landscapes of my ever-accommodating mind?
When I decided to pursue a career in musical theater, I grudgingly accepted physical exercise as a necessary evil. I dragged myself to dance class, and dutifully showed up at the gym. I rarely enjoyed any of it, but between classes, workout sessions, city walking, and performing on stage, I managed to keep myself employable in an industry that demanded high energy and some semblance of conventional beauty. And even after I left the business, the 25-block walk from my midtown apartment to my new tech job in Chelsea kept my precarious state of fitness intact.
In the winter of 2000, I left the city. The consequences were swift and severe. While my new life granted me more time for nerdish pursuits like blogging, Dungeon Siege, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it offered little incentive for me to get out of my chair and move. Without pressure to “look the part” or a lengthy on-foot commute, I put on fifty pounds in no time at all. Fifty turned to sixty, and sixty to seventy, until I eventually found myself over a hundred pounds heavier than I’d been at the peak of my performance career. Attempts to turn things around (or at least stall the devastation) failed time and again, as I was faced with the unavoidable truth: I did not enjoy physical exercise. It was painful, time-consuming, and most of all, boring. I could always think of something I’d rather be doing than hefting my unwieldy body around.
One of FOODPLAY‘s core messages is that the health of our bodies affects everything we do—and not just obvious physical activities like juggling or playing sports. Our minds and imaginations are inextricably linked to our bodies, and no amount of intellectual protest can deny this simple fact. So when I began losing my ability to finish writing an important article or even to get through a really good book, you’d think a smart nerd like me would have made the connection. Fortunately, I’m surrounded by these messages every day here at FoodPlay, and after nearly ten years, it seems they’re finally sinking in.
So how have I addressed my hostile relationship with exercise? I’ve gone full-out nerd on it! A long walk is too time-consuming? My smartphone allows me to use that time to catch up on my favorite comics podcasts, listen to audiobooks, compare show tune selections for the singers I coach, dictate my next blog post, or blissfully enjoy that Oingo Boingo collection. The stationary bike is boring? Nothing is boring while I’m using my computer to stream episodes of Battlestar Galactica. It’s tedious to keep track of what I’ve done? There’s an app for that!
I’ve used the technology at my disposal to turn those bleak hours of physical drudgery into a delicious, nerdy treat! As a result, not only do I look forward to my fitness regimen every day, but in a shocking turn, I’m accidentally starting to love the activity itself. I’m starting to crave the feeling I get from moving my body. In fact, just a week or so ago, as I was feeling fatigued after a long meeting here at work, I caught myself thinking not “I want to go lie down,” but instead, “I want to take a walk.” For an exercise-hater like me, that’s pretty big news. Achievement unlocked!
So with my mental clarity finally returned, I ask you, fellow nerds and otherwise, how did you unlock your love of physical activity?