In La Vie en France #15 the Webmaster spoke of differences in diet and exercise in Europe and the U.S. This post is a brief continuation of the discussion; with a focus on exercise. The discussion resumed when reenactor friends of the Webmaster’s 18 year-old son were extolling the virtues of joining a gym for getting in shape. “Why not just go outside and do something?” was more or less the son’s reply.
Indeed, it seems that Americans go to great lengths to do something without doing something. The (suburban) American fascination with gyms is a great example. Many Americans will work out in a gym several times a week; and yet the Webmaster does not believe a “gym” workout is the same as a “real” workout. One can “climb” xx flights of stairs on a Stairmaster machine; but is it really the same as climbing the 18 floors of stairs to the Webmaster’s old office in Manhattan? The Webmaster would argue that one burns fewer calories on a gym treadmill than walking three miles outdoors on a cold wintery day; and does one exercise all muscle groups walking on a nice, flat treadmill.
In contrast, the Webmaster’s European friends tend to exercise in the field. Many of them ride bikes regularly. Some play football in the local club. Most do long hikes over the battlefield areas–especially in the forests and ravines that one finds in the Meuse-Argonne. One UK reenactor friend mows his lawn in uniform as a means of staying in shape for reenacting. One 93 year-old German veteran, now living in Pennsylvania, makes a point of walking up and down several flights of stairs in his retirement home daily to stay in shape! (How many American readers take the elevator one or two flights up at a hotel–with or without luggage?)
Living in another culture helps one to better understand the plusses and minuses of one’s own culture. The Christmas season is approaching. In January it will be New Years Resolution and Gym Membership Sign-up Time. Instead of spending one’s money on a gym membership, perhaps one should take a look at where / how one can get out and get moving in the real world. Now that he is back in the USA, the Webmaster is also struggling to work “real” exercise into his routine too.
Again, the purpose of this blogpost is not to throw stones at the American way of life. Rather, it is to prepare people to maximize their visit to the battlefields; and that means getting into shape before a trip so that they can visit the sites they want to see in the field.