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Exercise and the labor wearing off that scone


I am writing this column from a café in downtown Detroit Lakes. I am seated at one of the dozen or so tables in the cafe, my laptop (an antiquated and almost completely obsolete computer that I got for free, complete with a touchy space bar and a key, though thankfully not a critical one, missing and a few minor cracks on the body) plugged into an outlet next to me.

I have a large cup of full-strength coffee at my left hand, and a delicious, succulent scone topped with melted butter at my right. A woman, seated at one of the tables behind me, is babbling loudly on her cell phone, and on a table on another side of me, a couple of people who look to be grandma and granddaughter, though I could certainly be wrong about that, are having a disagreement that has the promise of getting very interesting.

I, however, am completely serene, taking it all in and trying to keep a straight face in the process. I also seem to be experiencing the early signs of a sugar buzz, (the caffeine will come later) as my legs are jiggling nervously beneath my chair and I'm bug eyed and working hard to suppress the urge to jump up on my table and proclaim the Good News, whatever that may be.

Soon, I will leave this pleasant café and, after lunch, go to the local community center for the afternoon. That, my friends, is when my day will really get interesting.

During my youth (if I can think back that far) I used the community center for swimming and the occasional poolside party, and that was it. However, now that I've joined the high school cross-country running team and have incentive to exercise, I've been exploring and utilizing the upstairs portion of the community center, where the barbells and treadmills and other instruments of bodily improvement are located.

I always feel a bit out of place, and perhaps nervous upon arriving at the second floor, a bespectacled skinny guy amongst he-men (just about all of them are men) of bulking muscle and impressive physique.

The reason for my nerves is that although the majority of the people lifting weights appear complacent enough, there's always at least one bruiser who is inevitably more muscular than the rest and has a constant look on his face that suggests he wants to hurt somebody, preferably a helpless skinny guy like me.

I usually don't spend much time in the weight-lifting area, for the reason above inferred and also because I always, probably because of my less-than-heroic arm strength, seem to make a fool of myself on the arm-development machines. A good example is a contraption I tried that gives the instruction to pull down two handlebars located above the user's head, an after doing so, ease them back to their starting position.

Well, I managed to pull the bars down, but after doing so, the weights I had lifted on a pulley, which apparently outweighed my body, started to fall to their resting position, thus lifting me into the air. After I had risen as much as I was going to, I had to let go and fall a short distance to the chair, which thankfully was padded. No amount of padding, however, would have saved my ego.

Once I get out of the weight-lifting section of the floor, however, and find my way to the treadmill and elliptical and otherwise more leg-strength oriented machine section, I find myself among more ordinary folks, not all of them men. In fact, I fit right in with most of the "running types," maybe because I'm one of them.

Running, for some reason or other, appeals to me much more than other types of exercise.

Yes, the upstairs of the community center is a strange and wonderful place, with all of its characters and Seuss-like contraptions. Personally, I enjoy the challenge of running long distances at great speeds and, if it's a treadmill I'm running on, at a steep incline. But that's just me.

You may personally enjoy finding out how much weight you can bench-press from a reclining position. That may be you. Whatever you choose to do on the second floor of the local community center (as long as it's exercise), if you do it often enough and at an intensity and duration that is beyond your comfort zone, you will benefit.

Your body will grow healthier, your mind clearer and your character stronger. If nothing else, that scone you had at the café this morning will be justified.

Nathan Kitzmann will be a sophomore at Detroit Lakes High School this fall.