Apr 11 2012

Use it or lose it

Two weeks ago I uncharacteristically attended four yoga classes in the space of 6 days, and — from my intercostals to my hamstrings — my body protested. Then last week, because I had four consecutive days off, the weather was fine, and I didn’t want to push my luck on the cobra-chattarunga front (did I mention my vulnerable wrists, my aching back?), I went for a run three days in a row. (I know, I know.) But I didn’t go far, nor fast and — for two of the days — not even on pavement (the gym I sweat in sports four bouncy rubber treadmills hooked up to TVs to keep your mind from convincing you that you’re tired, when you’re really just lazy.) What can I say? It’s spring.

The truth is, even if my muscles groan a bit when I push them, or my problem hip threatens to keep me awake at night, there’s no good reason for me not to be moving around. I feel better when I do. I sleep better. Work better. “Move it or lose it,” my father says. (Or does he? Do I just imagine he says that because in his ninth decade on the planet, he’s still playing tennis three times a week?) He aches, too. Runs after the ball less, is slower. But he plays.

I am inspired by this, and by choreographer, Twyla Tharp, who writes in her book, The Creative Habit:

I begin each day of my life with a ritual: I wake up at 5:30 a.m., put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st Street and First Avenue, where I work out for two hours.

This woman — who has created dances for the Joffrey, the Martha Graham Company, and the Paris Ballet Theatre, to music from The Beach Boys and Bob Dylan to classical composers and jazz artists, who has played on Broadway and toured the world — is 70 now, although when she wrote the book, she was in her early 60s.

But still… Every day? At 5 freakin’ 30 in the a.m.? For two hours?

I can’t really conceive of how many occasions remain in my life when it would make sense for me to attempt to fling my right leg into the air above my head as Ms. Tharp does here, much more successfully than I ever could have, even at 15. But I’m guessing the two-hour daily workout helps explains why it’s possible.

And you can’t help but admire her for it.