Have a chair, runners, sitting will do you good

January 10, 1994|By MIKE ROYKO

Mike Royko is on vacation. In his absence, we are reprinting some of his favorite columns. This column was originally published on April 7, 1978.

By now, every major publication in America has taken an in-depth look at the national craze of running.

It is claimed in most of these stories that running has passed almost all other participation sports in popularity. Those who love running rave about how it improves their health, makes them feel younger, improves their work and sex lives, sharpens their minds, and even gives them euphoric highs.

I won't argue with their claims, but many people happen to think that the most healthful, rewarding physical activity is not long-distance running, but long-term sitting.

Unlike runners, who can drive you crazy with all their smug talk about how great they feel, sitters are modest. At least the truly dedicated sitters are. They seldom talk about how great sitting is. They just sit. The don't try to talk everyone they know into taking up sitting. The most they say is: "Have a chair."

But recently I talked to Joe Spinecurve, head of the Chicago Area Long-Term Sitters Club, about the benefits of sitting, and he answered some questions.

Can anyone sit?

"Yes. That's one of the best things about sitting. You can do it regardless of how young you are or how old. You can do it alone, or with a friend, or even a large group of people. You can sit in all kinds of weather, any time of the day or night. And you don't have to take any training or read a book about it or see your doctor for approval. It is a very natural activity."

"It also conserves energy.

TTC "Do you realize how much energy all those crazy runners burn up? No wonder the Arabs have us over a barrel. If those loonies would stop burning up all that energy and sit down, this nation could be self-sufficient in energy."

Does a person need any special equipment to sit?

"Absolutely not. That is one of the best things about it. You don't have to buy special pants or any such wasteful junk. You don't even need pants, although I prefer them, especially when sitting in mixed company or on a cold surface. All you really need in the way of equipment is a chair. Actually, if you can't afford a chair, you can get by with any flat spot and a wall or a tree trunk to lean back against."

Do you recommend any particular kind of chair?

"It depends on personal preference. I prefer a big, soft, womblike, motherly chair. I position my chair so that I am near my books, magazines, TV set, salami, Swiss cheese, potato chips, liquor supply, an other life supports. Hard-bottomed and straight-backed chairs are adequate for short-term sitting, such as when you have dinner. But if you intend to do some very serious sitting -- a full day or maybe a whole weekend or an entire week's vacation -- then you need something you can really wallow in."

Is sitting good for your health?

"Let me answer that with a question. When you go to see your doctor, what is he usually doing? He's sitting, right? Well, it must be good for you, or why would doctors do it so much? Those guys are no fools. With the kind of money they make, they want to stay around long enough to enjoy it."

But is it as good for you as running?

"Better. Scientific studies show that long-distance sitters suffer 92 percent fewer sprained arches, broken toes, twisted ankles, torn ligaments, pulled hamstring muscles and sore knees than runners do. Sitters are hit by 82 percent fewer cars, bitten by 71 percent fewer dogs, and trip over 89 percent fewer fireplugs and short people than runners. And sitters are cleaner than runners because they step in 78 percent less doggy do-do and are hit on the head by 83 percent less pigeon do-do, so you are far safer in letting a sitter walk on your rug or borrow your comb. Also, sitters are nicer to be around because they don't smell as bad as runners, who sweat all over the place."

Runners say that running sharpens their thinking. Some say they get a "high" from it. Does this happen from sitting?

"I will answer it this way: The immortal Beethoven composed his nine magnificent symphonies while sitting. Shakespeare wrote every one of his plays while sitting. Believe me, that man could sit. Einstein figured out his theory of relativity while sitting. Lincoln wrote his Gettysburg address while sitting. Winston Churchill devised his greatest military strategies while sitting. Mark Twain wrote his greatest books while sitting. Gandhi had his greatest thoughts while sitting.

"The greatest minds in the history of civilization have had their finest moments while sitting. You name me one great piece of music written while running, one great book, one great anything. While running, you don't have time to think because you are breathing so hard and worrying about some mugger tripping you and wondering if that pain in your chest is something serious or just gas."

Runners say their sport improves their sex lives. What about sitting?

"That's crazy. How can you have sex while running? But sitting in a chair, there are all kinds of possibilities. Check any manual."

Does your sport have a motto?

"Take the load off your feet."

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