Until recently, I was convinced that the only exercise I get is pushing a computer mouse around between trips to the refrigerator (it’s a rule that periods of procrastination can only be interrupted for fridge trips).
Last week, however, while defending myself in a conversation with a student who insisted golf was good exercise, I arrived at a startling realization—I actually do exercise, but it’s disguised as flying.
First, you have to understand the necessity of me defending myself in the golf conversation. As I’ve often stated, golf is one of those things I just don’t get. Yeah, I may be in a minority on the golf thing, but to me, it just doesn’t measure up to making beer cans jump 300 yards away after a resounding bang and a slap to the shoulder or breaking blood vessels in the eyeballs while doing high-G, outside maneuvers. I mean, that kind of stuff makes sense, right? Punishing a dimpled ball while wearing questionable attire doesn’t.
Anyway, while I was preflighting the airplane, my student was waxing eloquent about the benefits, physical and emotional, of golf. He continued talking as I pushed the airplane, with him in it, out into the sunshine. (I preflight in the hangar with the student in the airplane so he doesn’t turn into a crispy critter in the process—this is Arizona, remember?)
The perfect comeback to the golf lecture came to me while pushing those big doors shut after walking back to the hangar and realizing how much exercise I’m getting in the act of flying. But I had to prove my case.
So, let’s analyze this flying exercise thing and, since I’m coming up on TBO on my engine (the fourth one), we’ll base the study on 2,000 hours of flying. Also, each hour represents one flight, which is a perfectly accurate profile for the kind of flying I do.
We’ll look at the exercise value of hangar doors first. Mine split at the middle, and to open them, I have to push each door back 23 feet. And after bringing the airplane in or out of the hangar, I pull the doors closed. That’s a total of 92 feet of door-pushing and I do it twice for each flight. My fingers dance across the calculator and—holy sweat beads— that’s a shade over 69 miles! In the course of wearing out this engine, I’ve walked 69 miles while pushing a heavy hangar door. And I have neither a caddy nor a golf car to do it for me. Yikes!
When I preflight the airplane, each lap around it is almost exactly 65 feet. That’s another 24 miles logged over the life of that engine. Okay, so I’m not exactly breaking a sweat during pre-flight, but at least I’m standing up and moving, and that’s exercise in my book.
And then there’s pushing the airplane out. This should count as double exercise because I’m pushing and pulling a 1,000-pound load every foot of the way. I’m working out with a bi-winged barbell (or what I sometimes call a bi-bell). It’s 70 feet each way for—ka-ching—another 53 miles in my exercise log. And then we get to the really big numbers.
By the time I arrive at the airport, I’ve generally been in the office at least four hours. That’s two cups of tea, two Diet Dr Peppers plus a caffeine-free Diet Coke on the way to the airport. With each step, I hear a sloshing sound from somewhere deep inside of me. This results in preflight trips to the pee-atorium at the far end of the hangar complex, which is 520 feet each way. Then we seldom taxi up after a flight when I don’t say to the student, “Tell the fuel guy I need six gallons,” and I waddle another 520 feet in that peculiar, and totally identifiable, crab-like shuffle we all adapt when we’re trying to hurry with a full bladder. Multiply that by the number of flights and, are you ready for this, I’ve logged 787 miles of going back and forth to the head. I guess that falls into the category of “urinary exercise.”
On top of all of this is the physical exercise I get while I’m in the cockpit, like all of the butt-squinches I do as I suck up the seat covers while trying to keep my hands off the controls as a student leads us toward certain doom. Nor does it count the getting into and out of the cockpit (a climb and descent of approximately 12,000 feet).
Who says I’m not exercising? Just thinking about it tires me out. And speaking of which, that calls for another trip to the fridge.
Budd Davisson is an accomplished aviation writer and photographer, CFII & A, aircraft owner and builder. He has authored two books and lectured at the Smithsonian and NASA’s Langley Research Center. Check out his Website at www.AirBum.com.