Introducing the Dadball Workout

Tones and tightens and brightens—or your money back

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Historically, winter in Indiana is a soul-punching ocean of overcast blah, and this winter has been no different. We’re on our thousandth straight day of not seeing the sun—which sounds about right. Of course, our patented ice storms that usually cripple our roads and schools and bodies have been replaced this year by 38-degree drizzles—which are somehow worse, frankly, although I’m not sure why. Ice storms at least keep it interesting?

Also not interesting: the Pacers and Colts, who have so perfectly and artfully .500’d their way to Apathyville that there needs to be a “30 for 30” on it here soon. (Meh, directed by some random Beech Grove seventh grader.) Not good enough for the playoffs … not bad enough for rage, much thought, or—more importantly—trajectory-changing lottery picks. They’re both stuck in a tar pit of mediocrity. Not that anyone cares. Hating a team is more fun than forgetting its existence.

But the rancid meat of this doldrums sandwich has been the constant barrage of horrifying news and grossness plaguing our Twitter newsfeed each morning for the last few months. Nothing darkens the soul quite like waking up every day and reading—at great length— about everything that contributed to the alt-growth of this country’s democracy and decency while we slept. That is a wildly depressing and unacceptable way to begin a cold, bleak, drizzly morning during an Indiana winter. It’s unhealthy. I was unhealthy.

Enter the 100 Days project.

Two of my friends are engaged in a 100-day bender of activity—a “quest to improve their fitness and health”—designed, in the end, to help others. They’re not athletes or even particularly fit, but they’re filming intense, grueling workouts almost daily with all sorts of professional trainers and fitness gurus and muscly people I generally avoid. This is a noble mission they’re on for sure, for many reasons—the greatest of which being they are succeeding in getting thousands of people up and moving and living a generally healthier life.

Far less noble or important is that they’ve gotten me up and moving and living a less terrifyingly unhealthy life. That is no small feat.

I’m almost one year removed from my hip-replacement surgery. Whatever physical activities I used to enjoy doing before—open gym basketball, jogging, tennis, anything athletic that is even remotely fun—I haven’t been able to do since. So if I were to do anything fitness-related over the past year, it’d have to be the litany of pitiful Old Person Exercises at the gym, or nothing at all. Or that old-timey fat-jiggling machine with the fan-belt around my belly. I had been choosing nothing at all. Until a couple weeks ago.

Following the 100 Days lead, I started forgoing Twitter at 5:30 a.m. and instead simply headed to the gym. The effects have been profound. Not necessarily on my fat man-boobs (yet!) but rather on my mental health. On escaping these dark, drizzly Indiana winter blahs. On simply feeling better. It’s remarkable, really.

I have very little to offer you, fellow exhausted middle-aged parents with bad knees and worse cholesterol. I’ve never tried to make any of your lives even slightly better—this isn’t an advice column. Nobody wants that. I’m useless to you in every feasible way except this:

If you’re not already, you need to be getting up super-early and doing SOMETHING physical. Something aerobic. Something other than Twitter. You don’t need to be dead-lifting backhoes or running triathlons or doing impossible CrossFit Ninja-whatever classes. Not exerting yourself until you puke. But rather simply getting the heart rate up for a bit, just enough to be sweating but not enough to be gasping for air or praying for death. Nothing crazy. Thirty or forty minutes, max. That’s two-and-half TED Talks!

The “super-early” part, to me, is the most essential part. For starters, if you’re going to the gym, the 5:30 a.m. shift is the no-nonsense shift. It’s is the opposite of the afternoon/early-evening meat market crowd, the see-and-be-seen set. We are there specifically to not see nor be seen, to not talk to anyone, to not be talked to. In and out, no muss or chit-chat—all business, like fat Navy SEALS. We each have our own reasons to keep solitary, of course. Mine is mainly because I’m 240 sweaty pounds of awkwardness power-walking on the treadmill at a steep incline. It is an unpleasant sight. Your face would melt off if you even caught a glimpse of me—like when the Nazis peeked at the Lost Ark. The 5:30 a.m. crew respects my awesome grotesqueness.

More importantly, the pre-dawn pseudo-workout ensures that it gets done. Because if you’re waiting until lunchtime or after work to go to the gym, there’s a billion percent chance SOMETHING will come up and thwart your plans in the face. Something always does. Something weird. You’ll have your gym bag packed and ready to go and BAM! School’s on the phone: ‘Your kid’s got the Vietnamese Pigeon Flu—pick him up.’

But nothing interferes with a 6:00 a.m. stair-stepper session, for example. Or a one-mile walk. Nothing ever will. It’s the most reliable time of day to exercise. Never mind the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing it, and also the fact that you burn more fat by working out before you eat. Those are secondary and tertiary benefits. Because I swear to God, you’ll find yourself feeling simply better—mentally and emotionally and otherwise. So what if winter is cold, our teams are a hot mess, and the Doomsday Clock just inched a whole lot closer to midnight? The race to the end just got a whole lot easier.

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