I Got An Exercise Jones / Epiphany Of The id

Basketball Jones, I got a Basketball Jones
Got a Basketball Jones, oh baby, oo-oo-ooo

Oh yeah, sing it out like you’re proud
All right, everybody watchin’ coast-to-coast
Sing along with us, Bill Russell, sing along with us
Chick Hearn, sing along with us
Chris Schenkel, don’t sing nothin’

Basketball Jones, I got a Basketball Jones
I got a Basketball Jones, Basketball Jones
Basketball Jones, I got a Basketball Jones
I got a Basketball Jones, Basketball Jones

– Basketball Jones / Tyrone Shoelaces (Cheech and Chong)

A newborn is pure id. Nothing matters but what “I” want. There is not even the concept of “I”, just “want”. And that makes sense, because up to that time all needs have been satisfied with no effort, not even breathing. But almost immediately the need arises to deal with the outside world. It’s tough, because id does not recognize consequences. So ego starts to develop in order to negotiate between id and the rest of the world.

Probably the toughest day I had coping with id was the day I had to report for induction into the army, Oct. 6, 1969. Now let me say right here that by comparison my army career was an easy gig. Not as easy as guys who became clerk typists at Fort MacArthur for two years, but really easy compared to the guys who went to Vietnam, and unbelievably easy compared to the guys who were in combat. But I didn’t know then I wouldn’t end up in Vietnam; so for me, Oct. 6, 1969 was the “day the horror began”.

If it had been up to id, on Oct. 6, 1969 I would have done nothing, certainly not take the bus from the valley to downtown LA to report in. But ego knew that would not play and so I did what I had to do, on Oct. 6, 1969, and every day after until Sept. 20, 1971, the greatest day in the history of the universe – the day I was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army. I weighed 247 pounds and couldn’t walk 100 yards without my back hurting, but still the greatest day in the history of the universe (fitting, because the 70’s was the greatest decade in the history of the universe). From that day forward I could go anywhere I wanted and do anything I wanted.

But even if you don’t get drafted, if you’re over a few weeks old id makes it tough over and over again every single day. And as adults, or even children over the age of 4 or so, we have real responsibilities. That doesn’t make it easier to cope, but the consequences of not coping are just too severe, and we do what we have to do, such as getting up and going to work every day. We hear id and agonize over it, but we listen to ego and do what ego dictates, which is to do what you have to do to survive in the real world.

It may get easier, or not, but it almost never becomes fun. So it’s pretty easy to avoid the “optional” self-imposed responsibilities, such as exercising and eating properly to stay fit and healthy, and not descend into the hellish nightmare of old age more quickly than one has to. If you really, really thought about it, it’s not all that optional, because the more fit and healthy you are, the better you can take care of the people you love. But denial, as they say, is not just a river in Egypt, so most of us just don’t go there, and I don’t mean Egypt.

But, for most of us, it’s tough, really tough, to exercise every day. And as I’ve written elsewhere, that’s natural. Why on earth would you do physical effort that you don’t have to do? You may “want” to do it on an abstract level, but there’s a disconnect between what we “want” to do and what we can actually bring ourselves to do. It’s hard to remember your goal of draining the swamp when you’re up to your ass in alligators. So it’s natural to bail on the exercise when you’re just too exhausted from coping with the “real” responsibilities of life.

The irony here is that exercising every day makes it easier to kick ass on those alligators. My estimate is that for every half hour you exercise you get three hours of quality time that would otherwise have passed in more or less a stupor. And even if you’re not dealing with the alligators, and just watching TV, you’re gonna enjoy watching TV a lot more. And who knows, maybe you’ll be so energized that you decide to do something besides watch TV, such as playing with your kids.

So, what’s to do?

Actually, it’s pretty easy, if you’ll just do it. And there’s the rub. Paradoxically, it’s not that easy, because you actually have to do it.

So what is it that’s easy and not easy at the same time?


That’s it. It may sound too good to be true, and it kinda is. It worked for me, but in the beginning there were days, even though all I had to do was just start, that I really had a tough time doing it. Sometimes I would think “Well, I still feel pretty good from yesterday, so I don’t need to exercise today”, which was ridiculous and a total cop-out. Some of it was a control thing and some of it was a laziness thing but it was definitely a thing that made it tough. And then there was this “I know what’s going on here. Once I get on the bike and start, I’ll get into it and end up riding the whole 30 minutes, and today I really don’t feel like doing that”. Weird, huh.

But, when I started I made the commitment that I would exercise every single day, or at least start. So on those days I would remind myself of that and tell myself if I couldn’t even just start a workout then how pathetic was that? There would be no hope for me – I was literally hopeless. I would tell myself that even though I rode thirty minutes the day before, that didn’t mean I had to ride for thirty minutes today, so today I would definitely quit after a minute or two; but if I at least started I wouldn’t feel like such a pitiful excuse for a human being. And that would happen day after day after day.

Why would that happen day after day after day? Because of id, which cannot be reasoned with. It just has to be overridden by ego. That’s why you have to make the commitment and why you have to make it so easy, at least physically. If you do that, and really commit to your commitment rather that just have good intentions, then as an adult, you can use ego to make it happen, even if you have to shame yourself into it.

After about a month, something amazing happened, or started to. I actually did not resist starting the ride. I wasn’t happy about it, I didn’t look forward to it, but I did look forward to how I would feel afterwards, especially in comparison to how I felt when I got home from work. At 31, I was entering middle age, and any of the remaining youthful natural energy was dissipated by the end of the workday, and all I wanted to do was flop down and watch TV or read a book. Unless you were wealthy, other than eating those were pretty much your only options – and I could and did eat while watching TV or reading.

But now I wanted more, and even better id wanted more. id wanted that exuberant, buoyant  even euphoric feeling it had come to expect. I call it ‘epiphany of the id’, as you may have guessed from the title. From there everything else was inevitable. Over the ensuing years I sometimes had commutes that were over an hour long. When I got home there was no thought of doing anything other than jumping on that bike. My evening did not start until after my shower following the bike ride. And to this day I have an “exercise Jones”. Actually it just keeps getting stronger. I have days when I decide I’m just going to take it easy but id just won’t have it. If id knows I could feel better than I do by exercising, id makes me exercise.

So what’s the best way to get started? For me it was a stationary bike. I bought one to have at home so I could ride after work every day before studying for computer school. But until I came up with the minimal commitment to at least start riding every day it was about 80/20 whether I would actually do it or not, with 20 being the likelihood that I would. It was not pleasant. I would come home after work and immediately come up with excuses to put it off, like the need to watch “Emergency” re-runs, with current day soap opera star Richard Mantooth and current day usually bad-guy Kevin Tighe, who was a total sweetie in “Emergency”. We didn’t even have VCR’s (maybe rich people did – I didn’t even have cable), let alone DVR’s, so I did have a point. But still, that sickly feeling of procrastination as I came up with one excuse after another to delay was very off-putting. That’s why I came up with the scheme of just starting. I figured I could start and then quit in plenty of time to catch “Emergency”. I figured it would be about six weeks before I stayed on long enough or rode hard enough to get any real exercise. Which was perfect; a whole six weeks  to do almost nothing while feeling like I was doing something. Six weeks was forever. Fit right into my personality.

But a funny thing happened. Once I got on the bike and started turning the pedals it was easy to go just a little while longer if I could quit at any time. Maybe just till the end of the next song, and then the next one, and then I would start feeling better and most days make it for the whole 30 minutes. And after I took a shower I’d feel absolutely great compared to how I felt when I got home. And I’d think it was going to be easy-peasy the next day to start. But it wasn’t, at least for about a month. It took that long for the difference to really sink in so that instead of id resisting, id was insisting that I ride.

So a stationary bike is good, because you can sit down and just turn the pedals, but riding itself was never really that enjoyable, at least during the first part of the ride. Even after id got on board it would sometimes recant because it just wasn’t having that much fun. Those were the days when I’d have to ask myself how I would feel if I stopped after just a few minutes. The answer was that I’d feel just as crappy as when I started, so what was the point of stopping – it would really be no improvement over how I felt while I was riding. Like reporting for induction into the Army, what was the alternative? Not pleasant, so might as well just do it.

A better way to get started, if you physically can jump safely, is jump rope. If you are as uncoordinated as I was when I started learning at age 55 then you won’t be able to do a long workout even if you want to. Probably five minutes was my limit when I started, and that basically consisted of hitting myself in the foot or stepping on the rope over and over and over again. But it’s only five minutes. As an adult, you should be able to make yourself do that, but whether you will or not is another question – and the essential one. If you do it every day, it will work; if you don’t, it won’t.

And once you can actually jump, it starts to be fun, at least if you enjoy music. Because if you enjoy music then there’s absolutely no physical activity aside from the obvious ones that is more fun than jumping to the beat. Unless you’re a skier or snowboarder or something along those lines, and if you are, you probably don’t need my advice.

Even Tyrone Shoelaces, who for all these years, even though I was a fan of Cheech and Chong I thought was Bill Cosby (actually I don’t remember when I started thinking that, just like I don’t remember when I started thinking “Where’s that confounded bridge?” was from a James Brown song), probably didn’t have an instant basketball Jones. He had to develop the skill to play well first. And take it from me, learning to jump rope is a lot easier than learning to play basketball well, or at all in my case.

So it really is that easy and it really is that hard. But as an adult you can probably overcome the hard part, if you only will. And the pay-off is tremendous. As you get older you’ll find you’re saving your own life; maybe just the quality of day-to-day living, or maybe literally. When you get right down to it, we all live in the moment, because that’s all there is. If you use your current moment well, you can make the upcoming moments a lot more pleasant, or there’s the alternative of just spiraling downward, functionality and pleasure in living slipping away faster and faster as you age. It’s all up to you.

I'll be 70 in less than 6 months (it's Dec 2016 now) and never expected to be in this kind of shape or have this kind of stamina, at any age. Then I discovered JumpRock at 55 and HoopRock at 66. Both are so much fun it's actually easy to get fit and stay that way; this blog is to encourage you to follow my example and be in great shape yourself going into old age - that's all I can promise for now - we'll see how actual old age goes. I'm highly optimistic.
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2 Responses to I Got An Exercise Jones / Epiphany Of The id

  1. Grandma Kc says:

    Excellent post and great motivation for all of us!