Print Edition: January 21, 2015
Regimented exercise is about as much fun as stirring a pot of soup on low heat for four hours. I hate it. As far as I know, most people feel about the same way, unless they are truly dedicated. However, there are solutions.
Pool noodles are a summer item, so they may be hard to find during the winter doldrums, but they are the key to entertaining exercise. The kind with the hole in the middle can be used to perform a near full-body workout for very little cost. All that’s needed are a few broomsticks to shove in the middle, and a willing victim.
The pool noodle sword is one of the best exercises I know. The arms especially feel it after some time of controlled swinging. My brother and I grew up beating the crap out of each other with broomsticks. We started out striking wildly at assorted body parts, resulting in a multitude of bruised fingers and knuckles. Not only was it great for cardio, tiring me out within a few short minutes, it was also great muscle-building for the arms and shoulders. It was only later that we added the pool noodles for protection.
With just a bare stick, flinching is often the result. No one likes straight pain, and this is where the noodle comes in. It makes a violent beating relatively painless and makes the experience much more exciting. It’s no longer a grind against your own pain threshold, but a grind against your endurance.
Your brooms may break, but that can be an advantage; I found one of the best methods was to have one opponent with a six-foot noodle sword, while the other has two short foot-and-a-half-long noodle swords. The goal is simply to defeat the clearly advantaged person. Straight fights are also exciting, and with a little epic music, you can find yourself recreating awesome fight scenes from movies you enjoy.
There is a technique to sword-fighting, though, and practicing will greatly improve the exercise. For instance, a standard for sword fighting is to control your swing. Do not swing so your whole body goes with it; the best method is to swing hard, but with only enough strength so that you have the ability to stop your sword before the end of its full arc. The stopping of the swing is what truly works the arms. Swinging wildly takes no effort, but stopping is a challenge. Also remember that a direct block (simply holding your sword in the way of another sword) is usually not the best idea. It takes no effort, and generally yields little result against a truly fearsome strike. Swinging it to perform a parry (pushing the sword away by manoeuvring yours) takes more effort and yields better results. Finally, keep an eye on where you are going. Simply standing next to each other and swinging without moving is not a likely scenario for a sword fight. These fights should be dynamic and require you to move around, one person pushing, the other retreating. Keep an eye on where you are going and don’t back into walls. Circling around your opponent not only prevents that from happening, but also gives you range of movement. Move around a lot. It will get your body moving more, and you will feel the strain in your upper body.
By the end of most pool noodle sword-fighting sessions, I feel like I’ve run at least 10 blocks. It’s partly what has kept me in shape, despite my sedentary lifestyle. It’s both fun and rewarding. Injury is probably inevitable, but who cares. Toughen up and get out there!