Sunday, July 17, 2011
There’s an episode of the old Outer Limits TV show where David McCallum plays a Welsh coal miner who gets roped into a bizarre experiment that speeds up his own private evolution.
The man who played Ilya Kuryakin is transformed into the Freak of the Future with an extra finger, a Jiffy Pop cranium and some wicked psychic powers. This is progress?
In an attempt to reverse the situation, his girlfriend dials down the mutant machine a little too much and our hero gets Neanderthal for a few moments before he’s brought back to normal.
I always figured this was just science fiction, but a recent workout at my gym has me wondering more about de-evolution.
I take boxing classes at the New York Sports Club, which provide a great workout and allow you to imagine that you’re a tough guy for 55 minutes. Last week I stopped by the club near Lincoln Center for some early morning abuse.
The instructor ran a great class, breaking us up into pairs and having us hit a series of stations that he had set up throughout the room. We ran sprints, shadow-boxed with elastic bands on our ankles, pounded the heavy bags, and punched the focus pads—the teacher even put on body armor so we could whale on his ribs.
There was a point during the workout where you picked up a medicine ball and threw it against the wall so your partner could catch it and return the favor.
Simple, no? Oh, yes, indeed. It was so deliciously simple that I couldn’t get enough of it.
Medicine ball training is one of the oldest forms of exercise. I remember a scene in I, Claudius that featured two ancient Romans throwing a medicine ball back and forth. Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, had his patients toss around medicine balls for both injury prevention and rehab.
Bedtime for Bonzo
I had a good sweat going by the time I got to this station and I started hurling that thing as hard as I could. It was fabulous.
Unlike barbells, dumbbells and various exercise machines, medicine ball training can be so gloriously crude. You don’t think about sets and repetitions and you certainly don’t worry about form. You don’t worry about anything, really.
I don’t think I’ve ever been more focused during a workout. I threw that big (faux?) leather ball up against the wall like I was trying to knock down the building. I was grunting with every throw and I could feel myself regressing, becoming more primitive…and I liked it.
I wasn’t feeling anger or rage. It was more like liberation. Where else can an adult who is not in a mental institution do something like this?
It was a great experience because by getting so loose I saw how uptight I am. For these brief few minutes I wasn’t concerned about what people thought of me or how I looked or what I had to do when I got home. I just chucked that big old matzah ball until the round ended.
Now I have to stress here that we obviously cannot go through life like huffing monkey people. I think a lot of the world’s problems come from humans acting like gorillas all too often. We as a species can be so obtuse that sometimes the only thing that seems to be separating us from the banana bunch are the Ipods jammed in our ears.
However, it is nice to do a little knuckle-walking now and then to remind us that too many thoughts spoil the brain.
At the climax of that Outer Limits episode, David McCallum is about to use his newly-acquired powers to zap his crappy home town into coal dust when his highly-developed noodle tells him that the prehistoric path is not the way to go.
You don’t need six fingers to figure that out.