The Secret to Fitness Success is 1990s Television

Working out is terrible. We all know we need exercise, but very few people actually want to do it. Some people claim to love it, they say it makes them feel great and alive. These people are insane.

I’ve written posts in the past about my attempts to exercise. Every year I come up with another way to try and get myself moving, thinking eventually I’ll find the thing I don’t hate. Weight lifting, bike riding, jogging, Xbox games – all tried, all more or less unsuccessful. Weight lifting is just plain boring. Bike riding is fun, but got nearly impossible to make time for when the twins were born. Jogging makes my lungs explode, and as fun as it is to earn achievement points for exercising with my Kinect, I just can’t enjoy games like Your Shape.

I even tried Insanity a few times to see if an extremely stupid program way beyond my health level would be the thing to entertain me. It wasn’t. It hurt. A lot. I could barely do it. I thought my inevitable failure would be hilarious and therefore keep me interested in improving, but no. Stupid Shaun T with his stupid muscles and his stupid kind and encouraging words.

Eventually, with each new attempted fitness plan, I just stop caring. I decide “it’s not that big a problem right now.” I’m not in bad health, and I really like cookies and beer and stuff.

This Christmas we bought an elliptical. I had to move my office across the house so this newfangled device could be situated in my old office, which is now a really awkward and crappy room with an elliptical, an upright piano and a dresser full of nerd t-shirts. The elliptical provides an excellent workout and makes sweat shoot from my body like the goo blowing from the corners of an over-microwaved Hot Pocket. But on its own, using the elliptical still isn’t very enjoyable. I was searching for something to make it good… then it hit me.

HIGHLANDER. The series. 1992-1998.

I’ve been watching episodes of the television classic Highlander every day for the past few months. It’s given me a break from my normal routine of Star Trek and is incredibly awesome. I’ve been an Adrian Paul fan for a number of years, having first seen him in 2001’s single-season sci fi failure “Tracker,” where he played an alien on Earth attempting to round up escaped convict aliens. It was a strange show but I adored it, and recorded every episode on VHS and stayed up late to watch it every week (Saturday night, after MadTV where I lived). After that, I investigated his movies and quickly discovered Highlander, his main claim to fame, and a show that originally started airing when I was a little too young to be watching shows about swordfights and beheadings and romance and Elizabeth Gracen’s body and such. I was seven when it started.

So that’s my thing. I don’t need funky energetic tunes. I don’t need video coaching by a lunk. I need to watch Adrian Paul in extraordinary and exciting scenarios over the course of a 400-year lifetime.

It’s not that I have a man crush on him, but I have a man crush on him.

You see, Highlander isn’t just a show about immortals fighting each other. It’s a show about morality, life, love, romance, friendship, society, and the human condition. It frequently has cheesy writing, bad special effects, abandoned subplots, repetitive Foley work and is smothered with the stink of 1990s television, but it’s entertaining as hell. It also has Adrian engaging in swordfights with extreme precision and poise. It shows him training, exercising and instructing. You can feel his concentration and dedication to the craft, and fully believe he’s the greatest swordsman/ martial artist/ fighter/ ladies man who ever lived. He seems versed and fluent in every fighting style and it makes you want to achieve even a small level of that. I watch the show and see him combating foes, moving nimbly and resourcefully, exhibiting intelligence and control, looking strong and fancy, and it keeps me focused as I run on an elliptical set to its lowest setting, soaked to my underwear after ten minutes, feeling my pulse beating in the veins on the side of my neck.

I’ll likely never be an icon of physical construction, but if I’ve finally found a thing that can keep my attention on exercise for more than 5 minutes, then I may have reached a goal I’ve been working on for ten years. And that’s bound to lead to better things.

Thanks, Duncan MacLeod.

And to finish, the worst joke ever:
An immortal asks me how many things there are that keep me interested while I work out.
I reply, “There can be only one.”

And scene.


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