Everyone needs a hobby, right? That thing you spend time and money on simply because it intrigues you, simply because you like it. But when does a hobby become an obsession? I’ve lately wondered this about my growing commitment to physical fitness.


That makes me think of Jack LaLanne and his creepy jumpsuits.


And his creepy jumping jacks, too!

Jack LaLanne, fitness guru, in his glory days (which were many).

He used to show up at our house, and sometimes at Grandma Mary’s, in gleaming black and white (that’s a reference to black and white television in case you’re too young to grasp the concept). LaLanne made a career of fitness through well-publicized and amazing physical feats, a chain of health and fitness clubs (including the first one in the US, opened in 1934), and his television show that aired for decades.


Whoa, instead of writing about my own possible fitness obsession I just fell down Wikipedia’s Jack LaLanne rabbit hole! And you can, too:




If you prefer your LaLanne in a fictional format, he was also the basis for the character portrayed by Robert Conrad in the “Columbo” episode An Exercise in Fatality (1974). Bonus! It’s so old you can view it for free on YouTube:




So who’s going to play you in your fitness movie?


Very funny, Lily. It’s the story of an activity that started out small, just before my 39th birthday.


So it’s an historical piece?


Hardy har har, 9. At that time I suddenly realized my body was going to pot! And only one more year before I turned the dreaded age of 40!! A ski exercise machine had somehow weaseled its way into our household. I committed to using it three times a week, building from 5 minutes to regular 30-minute sessions.


The following year, when I moved to a house with carpeting instead of wall-to-wall vinyl, I added a few minutes of yoga. Soon I tacked on a few minutes of Pilates. Both of these I learned from books. My new routine was three days of ski machine, alternating with three days of Pilates and Yoga.


This went on for twenty plus years. When I traveled and didn’t have access to a ski machine I’d swim if a pool was available or walk. More or less the 150 minutes per week of physical activity that doctors recommend. Not too crazy, right?


Early in 2019 I started walking regularly in addition to the ski machine, Pilates and Yoga. After Bruce died (December 2018) I had an understandable amount of emotional stress to work off. I was more motivated by mental wellness than fitness, exertion to ease my mind, increase endorphins and help my tense muscles loosen. This, too, became routine, boosting the time I spent on fitness activities by at least fifty percent.


Then came COVID. Seemingly everyone started walking more, masked and at a six-foot distance. In addition to longer regular walks, often with a masked and socially distanced friend, I tried a “core yoga on demand” streaming service recommended by another friend. Soon, I was hooked on that three times a week, partly because there were so few activities available in the early locked-down, pre-vaccine days.

Fitness, at home: My in-home yoga “studio” aka the kitchen.

Fitness. Now I was averaging six hours a week of the stuff! When adult tap dancing class started in the fall of 2021 I was suddenly up to seven hours a week (excluding at-home practice). By the summer of 2022 the desire to start swimming again and the intuitive feeling that my skinny self should do some strength training chimed in. I joined the YMCA and started doing these things twice a week. At first I could swim 20 minutes; now I go for an hour.


After a bone density scan revealed I was at the very beginning of osteoporosis the strength training evolved from machines to free weights. I started training with free weights this week. On Wednesday the trainer worked with me on lower body for 30 minutes. It didn’t seem like I’d worked incredibly hard but I must have because my legs wobbled like rubber on the way back to my car. Today we start upper body training. I hope I have enough muscle control to use the steering wheel afterward.


So what are you up to now, 10 hours a week?


As of Thursday night I’m at 6.5 hours. Today, as I said, is free weights, also a walk and core yoga. So add another hour and a half, minimum to that. I’ve dropped the ski exercise machine at this point and the free weights are going to replace some of the strength training I do on machines. Oh, but I do hope to fit in belly dancing class over the weekend.


At the “Daily Om” website “Belly Dancing Goddess Workout” was a Hail Mary pass to work in more cardio when icy streets made winter walks unsafe. And oh boy does it! There are 10 20-minute lessons and I’ve made it through lesson 8. I do two lessons per session, reviewing the last one and adding the next one. So. . .

Look, Ma, no jumpsuit! Fitness is even more fun when you have the right costume. Coin scarves are surprisingly cheap. . .

When does fitness become an obsession? Some guidance from Webster’s online dictionary:




ob·​ses·​sion äb-ˈse-shən 

1: a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling

broadly : compelling motivation

an obsession with profits

has an obsession with gambling

2: something that causes an obsession

Losing weight can be an obsession that results in the avoidance of certain foods.

* * * *

Reality check: Are you disturbingly preoccupied with fitness?


Not if I stay on schedule, Lily. Oops, that hints at a Yes.


Are you avoiding something by exercising?


I’m trying to, 9. Improved fitness, in my mind, is a way to improve my overall health. And clearly I need to stay physically active to maintain and (hopefully) improve my bone density. I’m trying to avoid growing weak and sick unnecessarily.


And is this a reasonable idea?


I think so, Lily. Fitness, for me, is probably best categorized as a lifestyle, and I realize I’m fortunate to have the time and resources to pursue it. In some ways, it fills in the blank places in my day, and since I’ve joined the YMCA I have more social contact, too. Sometimes that’s as important as the physical work itself.


So, okay, maybe what I have is a mild fitness obsession. And you know what? It’s been both empowering and fun to see how many different physical activities I can do if I simply try. I like the challenge, and I also like to reach the point where I can say to myself “I’ve done enough.”


Uhm, I think you’ve done enough?


Oh. Right. Thanks 9.

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