Sunday, 1 December 2013

Reading on a Step Machine: Take 2

I made one last attempt at combining these two activities this week, after trying it out a year ago.

This week’s text: Don DeLillo’s Falling Man, a novel blending fact, fiction and hypothesis and focusing on the man seen jumping from the towers of The World Trade Center on 11th September, 2001.

From the third or so of the book that I managed to read, It's a bleak but typically magnificent book from the New York novelist. Out of the smoke and ashes emerges a man carrying a briefcase that isn't his, picked up in a moment of confusion and fear. While he searches for the owner, a terror cell is planning another horrendous attack...

This time, I took breaks to work the stomach for 5 or 10 minutes between chapters, to let the legs rest and cool, which would increase stamina. I’m not sure this set-up was as successful as previous attempts: concentrating on the story was harder than ever, and I tried the exercise with this book on two separate days. Day 1 I managed just over 2 hours. Day 2, just under 2. The main problems were mental fatigue and muscle fatigue, the seizing up of the brain and legs. I think the movement of stepping isn’t as fluid as walking, and definitely not cycling, so keeping your eyes focussed on a moving page is a real struggle. The first 2 chapters took 20 minutes a piece, but the third I stopped 35 minutes in. Starting the next day I polished the chapter off in a further 12 minutes. The more I read, the more tired I got and the more I found myself rereading and trying harder to picture what DeLillo was conveying.

In short, it’s not the best way of combining exercise and literature due to the movement. I recommend cycling for mixing reading and exercise, particularly if the bike has a seat with a back so that your upper torso is in a reasonably fixed position.

Proper Falling Man review to follow in the next few weeks.

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