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Somebody stop me, lest I learn to enjoy grunting and sweating

Somebody asked Chauncey Depew, the politician, if he took regular exercise, and he answered, “I get my exercise acting as pallbearer to my friends who exercise.”
The apostle Paul told Timothy that physical exercise didn’t do much good.
A doctor friend of mine said many years ago that one of his colleagues was going to die of a heart attack if he didn’t stop jogging so much.
But where are these exercise naysayers today when I need them?  I can’t find anybody these days, not even an overweight, laid-back doctor, who will encourage me to cut down on exercise.
After my heart kicked out of rhythm a few weeks ago, leaving me sputtering like a 1966 Dodge Charger running on cheap gas, I sat in my cardiologist’s office and asked as pitifully as I could, “Do you think I need to cut back on aerobics? I do them three mornings a week, you know.”
“No,” he said, “you’re back in normal sinus rhythm now. You have a strong heart, so you don’t need to cut back on your activity. If you have more trouble, we’ll consider changing your medicine. Just keep exercising.”
My wife, who was sitting in the room, smiled knowingly.
It was she who rousted me out of bed at 5:30 in the morning several years ago after convincing me the night before that I needed to get on an exercise schedule since I was working part-time. She had been kicking and puffing and pumping and stepping and stretching and crunching since 1993, she was quick to point out, so now I could join her. I did.
So three mornings a week — unless I can think of a good excuse, such as a bad night’s sleep or my socks need washing or a sudden onslaught of the GI quick-step — I drag my still-asleep rear end to the car and drive four miles to a family life center, where a dozen otherwise normal adults grunt and sweat for an hour.
“If you’d told me I’d be getting up before the chickens to suffer like this, I would’ve said you’re crazy.” I’ve made that statement at least once to every aerobics participant in the bunch, and each one has nodded in agreement.
But there’s something about exercising with a group that keeps all of us coming back, time after miserable time. It may be accountability. Members of the group definitely will hold you accountable. “Where were you Monday, Phil?” they’ll ask almost in unison.
It may be that misery loves company. And we’re all miserable sometimes, all of us but Janice, our leader, who exercises seven days a week, eats birdseed and carrots, and weighs no more than a piece of carry-on luggage. Janice is miserable when she’s not exercising.
Whatever it is that gets us there at 6 a.m. to torture ourselves, whatever it is must be powerful.
And unless I can find a doctor who’ll tell me to stop, I guess I’ll keep going. Lord help me, I will keep going.

Phil Hudgins’ column is published in many newspapers around the Southeast.