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Life in South Africa: Exercise

It all started while waiting in an aisle to pay for the groceries. You know those magazines… the ones with Photoshopped six packs? Well, I bought one. I dug deep into my resolve and my wallet and fished out R35,95 for this month’s Men’s Health edition. This particular edition came with a mini booklet called “Abs for Life” – complete with workouts, diet plan and info on how to get the mid-section you always dreamed of.


Well, the only reason I have any aspirations to bear resemblance to a Greek god is because, well, it seems like a noble thing to do. One of the main things is not spending so much money on junk food. That money could be used to help local charities, for example. Plus, the advantage of exercising everyday is that you die healthier. And besides, everyone seems to be aspiring to six packs rather than a whole barrel.

So I resolved that I was going to get a set of abs so tight, you can play tunes on them… “I mean, how hard could it be?” I thought to myself. I signed up at the local gym and assigned certain parts of my week to the new regimen.

Most of the problem with gaining abs for life is psychological… I mean, I knew that inside me there was a thin person struggling to take over, but I could usually sedate him with 3 slices of cake. The problem was that my newly acquired handbook actually encouraged the take over of the skinny persona. Do you have any idea how hard it is to allow the thin person to take over? Yeesh.

At the gym I met a rather large middle-aged woman, who seemed to empathize with how hard it was to get fit – particularly the jogging routine on the treadmill. “You simply must do some things,” she told me. (She weighs in at 137 kilograms.)

“I stopped jogging because my thighs kept rubbing together and setting my panties on fire.”

I refrained from asking questions.

I was, however, impressed at her resolve. Many South Africans talk about getting fit, but here was a lady who was actually getting on with it.

“You are doing a good thing by exercising now, while you are young. You must never be like me,” she continued. “When you get old, it’s hard to be thin because now, my body and my fat are very good friends… HAHAHAHAHA!!!!”

I make a mental note to chain myself to the gym for the rest of my life as I begin with my workout under the watchful eye of my gym instructor.

“Easy run” = oxymoron

First we start with cardio, which, according to my handbook, should be “an easy 10-minute run”. Fah! “Easy run”… that’s an oxymoron if ever there was one.

Interesting – a mate of mine says he’s allergic to running, as every time he attempts to do it he breaks out in a sweat, gets really tired very quickly and finds he has trouble breathing. Funny, it somehow rings true…

After I’ve exorcized every last bit of energy in my body, it’s time for some free weights. My gym instructor – a 6 foot 4 coloured dude, with peroxided hair and numerous tatoos all over his arms – hands me a 20-kg dumbell. “Curl it,” he says. “No, you only need one arm.”

Trying to convince him otherwise is a fruitless exercise, as the guy obviously has no measure of what it means to feel real pain.

You know that you have had a good workout when you get into your car afterwards and you can barely turn the steering wheel…

Gym is probably the safest option in terms of a workout. Jogging on the streets in South Africa is generally ill-advised, as muggings do happen. In other countries you’d probably end up shoeless. Here you’ll end up naked and with multiple knife wounds. If you’re lucky you’ll just get shot, which is easier than having to file an affidavit at the police station… naked.

Be that as it may, I do jog on the streets more often than you’d think. I justify it on the basis of:
1. My shoes aren’t worth much.
2. My sweaty clothes would be enough of a deterrent.
3. This is a my country, and I can flippin well go for a run on the streets if I want to. Anyone who begs to differ will have to catch me…

I’ll be fit in no time.

“Life in South Africa” is an online social experiment by the Ryan Calder Band to produce online animated webisodes.

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10 thoughts on “Life in South Africa: Exercise

  1. LOL!!! 🙂

  2. Finally, I made it into one of the stories!!!

  3. So much rings true. I still say I was not created to run and in fact I don’t. I shuffle. But anyway in the quest to die healthier, I took up “shuffling.” In this regard I have to say thank you to Fifa for allowing us to host the Fifa World Cup 2010 because it caused a whole lot of movement on the Durban beach front which resulted in a safe and extremely beautiful (not to mention flat 🙂 ) stretch of beach to shuffle along. Dare I say it makes me want to shuffle more often 🙂

  4. Haha Mark! Got any more good quips on exercise??

    It’s true Bron – the world cup did lots of good. So you still shuffling? Is the beach still safe enough to shuffle or do you have to hot-foot it?

  5. Yip still shuffling my way along the beach front. We were down there twice this weekend. Its so great. There are still police patrolling. And litter is basically non-existent thanks to the clean up crews! So we all hoping things stay this way.

  6. Dude, the tricks to not being attacked while running are: a) Swing elbows and knees like mad, and adopt a focused, slightly crazy expression, and b) Don’t talk on your cell phone while running, like some of the Sandton set in Joburg do.

  7. Sounds like the voice of experience, eh Doug? I think your points should be added to the script.

  8. Adding these points to the script will be cool. Even cooler, will be animating them!

    Maybe Doug can send us some video footage of himself demonstrating these safety measures?

  9. Awesomwe story bru. I had quite a lag! Exercising for the sake of exercise is very poor motivation for me, almost like not spending money and calling that a saving… I need to be duped into exercise, where I’m burning calories as a result of an action that isn’t as premeditated as gym schedules or braving the pre dawn chill to pound the tarmac. No, I get valuable exercise unintentionally when lugging the 25kg dog food up the stairs, or when taking the 200m trip uphill to the admin office for the umpteenth time in a day. If we could be less intentional about exercise and concentrate on doing fun things that require activity that has the side effect of burning calories and rescuing errant rear cleavage, perhaps it would catch on so that fitness & good health would be accessible to people like me.

    I suspect that Nintendo wii & Playstations’ Eye Toy could be roped in to help revolutionize fitness through fun. Remember the piano keyboard staircase on youtube? More people used the stairs when it proved to be more fun than the escalators. People will exhibit large reserves of energy just to dance to the macarena, diski or MC Hammer, because apparently its fun quotient outweighed looking ridiculous. Throw a ball or frisbee in the middle of a pack of teen boys, and the chemical reaction results in noisy boisterous fun. So I’m dedicating an hour of fun, where my butt is actually detached from a seat. Perhaps then I can lose a few pounds, and whip Ryan at Epic Karting….

  10. People are giving me “the eye”.
    RAC, you killing me man. I’m dehydrating as I scribe!!!

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