Break a Sweat

Advice and insight from a professional poet.

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I’ve never been much of an exerciser but I’m trying shed some of my winter weight for the summer. I hate gyms with a passion. Could you please make me up a workout routine that doesn’t involve going to the gym, preferably involving poetry?
— Sara

   

OK, but you should consult your doctor before starting this or any exercise routine. I’m going to recommend that you exercise at least three times a week — that is the only amount of time I can take a break from my responsibilities to exercise (sorry trainers, yogis, and other health nuts). This plan can easily be doubled, of course:

Day 1:  Jump rope for 15 minutes with the neighborhood kids. If you don’t have neighborhood kids, or all the kids are perennially parked in front of the TV, ask some friends who are likewise interested in shedding the winter weight. Have a contest to see who can make up the best jump rope chant. I like this one: “I like coffee/ I like tea/ I like boys/ And the boys like me!”

Day 2:  Speed walk with a backpack carrying Norton’s Anthology, any edition published after 1992. Do this for 30 minutes.

Day 3:  Go to people’s houses on a scavenger hunt for poetry books. You’ll be running around all day! And if you happen upon an attractive someone who has the poetry books you’re looking for, then you’ll have the rest of the evening free to do other exercises. Like play tennis.

So Sara, the cool thing about gaining a few pounds is that now you will get more bang for your buck, in terms of caloric expenditure. That was something that made me feel better when I was eight months pregnant and had to enter my weight on the elliptical machine. I had never burned so many calories so quickly!  Good thing, too. And while you’re struggling to fit into that mini skirt, always, always, always remember that you’ll still be beautiful no matter what.

“homage to my hips”

these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!

(Lucille Clifton)

22 April 2011

Kristen Hoggatt lives, works, and writes in Boston, where she received her MFA from Emerson College. She volunteers at 826 Boston.
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