One of my humanities professors in college, a rather portly fellow I’ll call Dr. Gibbs, once told me vigorous physical exercise is actually very bad for you. You’re only allotted a certain number of heartbeats per lifetime, he said, and exercise makes them tick off way faster than necessary.


About a year ago, I bought a stationary bicycle equipped with enough digital bells and whistles to plot the course of a rocket ship to Mars. I’m sure you’ve seen similar ones--in gyms, in sporting goods stores, in dark cobwebbed corners of friends’ basements. Maybe you even have one yourself. Or, maybe you have a treadmill. Or a weight bench. Or the latest gadget from a TV infomercial.

Admit it. At some point during your lifetime, you have purchased an expensive piece of exercise equipment with the intention of finally getting in shape. If you can commit to just twenty minutes per day, you reckon, you’ll be looking like Michelangelo’s sculpture of David in no time. Right?


The models you see in ads have to work out several hours a day to maintain those muscular physiques. Working out is their job. It’s their life. They are really, like, you know, into it. If you can commit to just twenty minutes per day, it will take you approximately 314 years to have the kind of body those models have.

Okay, so maybe you’ll settle for losing a little weight and improving your overall fitness. That sounds reasonable. That, I’ve decided, is my goal for 2009. To lose thirty pounds.

Will riding my fancy exer-cycle for twenty minutes every day help me achieve my goal?

First of all, if you’ve ever climbed onto one of those contraptions and started pedaling, you know twenty minutes is a glacial age. If an archeological team digs up my bike in 5000 years, they’ll undoubtedly think it was some kind of 21st century torture device. Back then, interrogators would escort a suspect into a dusty space illuminated by a naked bulb, unveil the machine and say, “Vee half vays of making you talk.” If the suspect lasted twenty minutes, well, it was a safe bet they were never going to give up the goods...

Twenty minutes of huffing and puffing. Twenty minutes of quadriceps screaming for mercy. Twenty minutes of ass-numbing boredom.

Not to mention the...perspiration. You know, you have to take a shower afterward. There’s just no getting around it. You can’t expect another human to want to be around you after your daily Sweat-O-Rama. So, you have to take a second shower for the day, use twice as much water, twice as much electricity, soap, shampoo, deodorant...

When you get down to it, this thing called exercise is costing you--and the planet Earth--a fortune. It’s totally un-green. If everyone stopped exercising today, we could probably stop global warming in its tracks.

But I digress. Back to my goal!

Regardless of what the latest fad diet book or dietary supplement advertisement might tell you, weight loss/gain is all about calories consumed vs. calories burned. If you eat more and exercise less, you will gain weight. If you eat less and exercise more, you will lose weight. It’s a very simple formula...

So where am I going with this? What could any of this possibly have to do with writing? With getting a seven-figure book deal?

Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Tess Gerritsen, Brad Thor, John Grisham, Janet Evanovich, Robert Crais...

What do all these bestselling novelists have in common?

I’ll tell you what they have in common. They are SKINNY.

Just a coincidence? Or is there something a little more sinister going on here? Is there a direct correlation between body proportions and book sales? Is the publishing industry secretly blackballing husky, paunchy, plump, rotund, tubby, beefy, heavy, pot-bellied, plus-sized writers while promoting their lean counterparts? What is an editor really saying when he tells you to trim the fat?

It’s a conspiracy, I tell you! Just ask any fat writer who hasn’t gotten a book deal yet or who hasn’t made it to the NYT bestseller list.

So, I’m determined to lose thirty pounds this year, and the only way I know how to do that is to eat less and exercise more.

But, as anyone who has tried can testify, eating less and exercising more isn’t as easy as it sounds. I can subject myself to The Administrator of Pain (no, I don’t have a dominatrix. I’m talking about my exer-cycle, you perverts, so get your minds out of the gutter!) for twenty minutes every day, only to see negligible results by the end of the week. You see, twenty minutes on level 5 of the Plateau mode only burns 140 calories. That doesn’t sound bad, until you consider that SITTING ON YOUR ASS DOING NOTHING burns about 40. So, twenty minutes of torture for a net expenditure of 100 calories. That’s one light beer. Half a Snickers bar. One friggin’ bite of a cheeseburger...

And now, without further ado, here’s what you’ve been waiting so patiently for: Math!

According to my exhaustive, painstaking research (i.e. about thirty seconds on Google), to lose a pound a week, I need to alter my caloric intake/expenditure by 500 calories a day. So, if I burn 100 calories/day through increased exercise, and lower my caloric intake by 400, I should, in approximately four years, theoretically, disappear.

Gee. I hope I get a book deal before that happens.

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Oh, God! There has to be a fat author somewhere who is successful. This isn't fair.

I used to own a cheap exercycle, but the chain kept slipping and I gave it to the salvation army. Now I go to the gym or ride a real bike. I hate boredom. In the gym I can switch around.

Good luck! Let us know if the 30 pounds are the magic shortcut to a fat advance.
I try to combat the boredom with something a little more cerebral than pushing the bike's pedals. Like watching my fingernails grow, for example.
The only equipment I ever bought was a leather jump rope. I've been through a few of them over the years. I started jumping 30 years ago when a date told me I had skinny legs. The doc says my cardio tests are pretty good because of jumping rope, but my legs are still skinny.
Jumping rope is an excellent aerobic exercise, Jack. It has its drawbacks, though. For one, it's high impact and hard on the joints, especially as we get a little older. Plus, it's hard to do indoors, so you have to find a place outside where no other human being can possibly see you. ;)
You can do it inside; just don't use the rope. It's not like the rope actually does anything anyway.
Ha! I think I'll do it outside without a rope. I hear they have a great weight loss program in the psych ward.
I listen to music while a jump -- helps with the monotony -- and I try to keep time with the rope. Works best with the blues, a nice boogie beat.
Not much impact the way I jump, Jude. Seriously. I blew my knee twenty years ago, and the doc said I'd have to lay off the jumping because of the high impact. You guys -- doc included --read all the literature, but you don't jump rope. Truth is, most people "skip" rope -- one foot, one ankle, one knee at a time hitting the floor. I literally jump -- both feet up, both feet down, and my feet never go more than a few inches off the ground. No high impact. Even better, all the leg muscles around my knee built up, and the joint stopped failing.

I also jump in three minute bursts, then one minute off. Like a boxing match. See how many "rounds" I can go.
Actually, I jump rope the same way you do, with both feet leaving the ground. I did it for a while in my 20s, and I did lose a bunch of weight. Maybe I'll try it again...
You should try it again. I really don't experience any "impact" problems. Jogging gives me shin splints, but jumping never has. It is great exercise.
For jumping.
Yes, supreme irony of driving to gym to pedal on bike. You should at least hook the bike up to a generator to power your computer so you can write your seven-figure book.

Barbara DaCosta


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