A couple of years ago, I resolved to get into shape. It wasn't that I was terribly overweight, it was just that the pounds that used to creep on and off with the cycle of life began to creep on a little more frequently. And they weren't leaving.
I wasn't in a position to join a gym but I had an old exercise bike in the basement and a great neighborhood to walk in so I took the plunge. Very quickly I discovered I had a problem.
I was bored.
Bored, bored, bored.
So I decided that what I needed to get me moving and keep me moving was an ipod. I figured if I had something to listen to while I worked out all would be spiffy.
And it might have been, except then two things happened. The exercise bike decided it now went only one speed - and it wasn't a good one - and winter hit. At first I tried pedaling my now tension free bike like mad but I could tell I wasn't really getting anywhere. I also bravely went out in the cold weather and walked around the neighborhood a couple of times. A fall on an icy unshoveled sidewalk put a stop to that.
So I put the ipod to the use for which all such devices are really intended anyway.
I used it to play solitaire.
More pounds crept on.
This state of things continued for a while and then, luckily, two things changed again. First, I realized I drove by an indoor walking track every day. A track to which I, as adjunct faculty at the college housing that track, had access to.
Free is good.
Secondly, my sister came to visit and brought her ipod playlist with her. This was important because it contained a large amount of Irish music.
Up until this point, despite my Welsh/Scots/Irish antecedents, I am afraid my main acquaintance with Irish music was a song by Dennis Leary called "Traditional Irish Drinking Song". (I am unable to find a video of Dennis performing this himself - I saw him do it on Letterman and it was hilarious.) So there was obviously going to be a learning curve here.
I started with the Chieftains. Everyone should start with the Chieftains. They have a lot of great up tempo jigs and reels and some of them even have funny lyrics.
I moved on to music by "The Celtic Women". I have no idea who these women are. I suppose that, true to the title, they are a number of women who are Celtic. But I quickly ruled them out for exercising. Beautiful stuff but not really rousing.
Then I came to the music of Bill Whelan.
Bill Whelan is the composer behind the music that swept the country by storm as the backdrop for Riverdance. When I realized this, I promptly fast forwarded past it because I now remembered that I had another previous acquaintance with Irish music and that was Riverdance. And, by the time it had stopped showing on PBS every pledge drive, I had had enough of Riverdance.
But this was a mistake. Because, removed from the trappings of the Riverdance machine, this is some great music. And much of it is incredibly up tempo and just right for walking around and around in circles on an indoor walking track. The two best tunes I have found for this purpose are "Reel Around The Sun" and "Countess Cathleen".
So I got myself into gear and made it a point to walk at least 3 days a week for 30 minutes.
Almost immediately I noticed a difference. I didn't lose twenty pounds in a twinkling, but I noticed a difference. Along with being good for walking, the music was starting to alter my mood.
Like many folks I have a busy life. A life so busy and full of the needs and demands of other people that I often feel overwhelmed and a little depressed. Not clinically depressed but the sort of depressed that makes many days seem daunting right from the outset.
Walking to this music was starting to make my days go more smoothly. I had more energy for one thing. But, and I think this is really important, I had more optimism.
I'm sure the energy partly comes from being physically active and endorphins and stuff like that. But the optimism really seems to be tied to the Irish music. When I listen to other types of music, even good up tempo rock music, I don't get the same feeling. A feeling that I am ready to tackle my day and conquer it. A feeling we could probably all use a big dose of these days.
Of course, there are some side effects.
I now frequently find myself wishing for a pub, a pint, and a rollicking good group of people to dance crazily with.
I have an unaccountable urge to run up and bite the Queen of England on the leg.
And it feels right to drive about 15 mph over the speed limit.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.