A few weeks ago my wife, Mary, was driving on a little traveled farm-to-market road when she was stopped in her tracks by a magnificent wild turkey leading his harem. Mary snapped some quick pictures with her cell phone as the turkey marched to the middle of the road, snapped to attention, pecked at the front bumper, and denied her passage. He made an impressive sentry with his feathers puffed, tail fanned, dark uniform, grey cap, and red necktie. The standoff continued until a truck coming from the other direction demanded his notice and he strutted over to check the driver’s ID. Corporal Turkey’s bravery, spit, and polish made a very favorable impression on the five or so rather drab hens he had brought to work with him that day.
Wild turkeys are strangely beautiful birds. What is stranger, to me, is that they are apparently agile flyers reaching speeds of up to 50 miles per hour in short, quarter-mile sprints. When I think of turkey, I think golden-brown, plump, sedentary, reclining on its back with feet in the air inviting a stab with my fork—not wings outspread defying gravity. It’s true. Domesticated turkeys cannot fly. I looked it up. They are bred for two things: either to be pardoned by the President and spend their life hiking the country like Woody Guthrie or to embrace eternal repose at the center of my Thanksgiving feast. Thanksgiving turkeys can’t fly.
I recently suffered a devastating injury while playing basketball and tore the ACL and meniscus on my right knee. The repair will require reconstructive surgery. I had the same injury to my left knee about 15 years ago and the screws and substitute ligament are still holding up very well. The surgery is not the problem—it’s the six-month rehab that follows. Bi-weekly basketball has been my sole source of exercise for the last few years because I am not mature enough to work out unless a game is attached. Now that I can’t play or even exercise until the knee heals a little bit, I realize how much I miss the sweat and (especially the therapeutic camaraderie of the friends I play with). The point is, I feel myself turning into a Thanksgiving turkey—not good.
So, I have to change my mindset, embrace some sort of regular exercise, and make it a habit. When I was younger I used to go through phases of rigorous training to get into playing shape. I have found that the same approach doesn’t work now. I burn out very quickly and quit. The key is to do something, anything, for 20 to 30 minutes at least three times a week and, more importantly, to give me permission not to train like an Olympic wannabe. Walking, biking, and a light weight workout can be very healthful especially compared to making a nest in the recliner. (Flicking the remote does not count as exercise even though my right thumb is twice the size of my left. The only time a remote can accelerate your heart rate is when it becomes lost.)
It is easy to go online and do some research to find the health and productivity benefits of getting regular exercise. To borrow a phrase, you and I need to just do it! After a short time, we’ll feel better, have more stamina, be more productive, sleep better, be in better moods, and, truthfully, live longer. Or we can hope the President will pardon us.
Adapted from a column published February 11, 2008