The Fat Economy!
It’s a new world order and I’ve got it all figured out.
Posted Sunday, 5 February, 2006
Has America’s “addiction to foreign oil” got you all bummed out? Well, all the yammering intellectuals on NPR were in a major tizzy this week over Mr. Bush’s use of that phrase in his State of the Union speech. I was listening to a bunch of the professional pontificators hashing it over this morning as I drove to my long run start.
Being a yammering pseudo-intellectual myself, it got me to thinking. As usual, it all hit me and coalesced into a semi-rational thought process during my damp 20 mile training run. Isn’t funny how that happens? Is this the same phenomena that makes you wake up at night with those ‘ah-hah’ solutions? You write them down and then there is nothing but gibberish in the morning? Or when you are out at the local watering hole and you’re convinced you’ve got the world’s problems figured out? Then you wake up in your clothes with a headache and your tongue stuck to the roof your mouth and have no idea what the big deal was?
I don’t know, but all my really good ideas come to me when I’m out running. It makes me want to run with a tape recorder. Hey, wait! There’s another good idea; the running Dictaphone! You guys can have that one for free; just send me a commission check when you get around to it.
The host/inquisitor on the NPR program asked his guest, “So what would happen if we just went ‘cold turkey’ and stopped using foreign oil?”
To which the guest replied, after a fair amount of stammering, “I guess we’d have to ride horses.”
Well, there you go. Now, is it too much of a leap to assume that in this new world we long distance runners would instantly become the master race? It gives new meaning to “Honey can you run down to the store for me?” That’s right, 95% of the American working class would be stuck in the living room fighting over the last TV dinner while we’d still be able to get to work, right? Ten, twenty miles? No problem, I’ll be there in a couple hours. More than that? I’ve got my bike!
I don’t know about you, but my family already does it to me. When we go to the beach and have to park two miles away, is it a problem? No sweat, Dad can drop us off and run down. He likes it. And when we’re done he can run back to the car and pick us up!
Think of the possibilities! Maybe it would get the other 95% of our fair country off of the couch. If we grounded the SUV’s, there’d be plenty of road for walking, riding and other such healthy forms of individual perambulation.
However, I’m no Pollyanna. I’m a yammering realist. I do believe this utopia is probably out of reach. Except in Colorado and San Diego where they already live that way. Heck, in Boulder they climb up the outsides of the buildings to get to work. But, I’m under no illusions about the heartland. Joe six-pack doesn’t want to change. Americans don’t like lifestyle changes; especially radical ones that involve exercise. No, I don’t think cold turkey is the answer.
Americans believe that there is a technological solution to everything. We are a herd of inventers and entrepreneurs. The NPR speakers went on to discuss various technical solutions to make our cars burn less oil and our populace more efficient energy consumers.
I’ve got my own technical solution. It came to me the other night when I was at the gym finishing up my work out. I had done a wonderful set of five intervals. One mile each at a peppy 6:30 pace with a 3 minute recovery in between and a couple warm up – cool down miles. I have to confess, I was beat. My heart was pounding, my lungs were yearning and I was, much to the chagrin of the other gym rats, ankle deep in sweat. To summarize; I felt great!
The treadmill, which thinks itself so smart, announced to me that I had just burned around a thousand calories. I would have been happy not knowing this, but it always feels a need to report after I finish my work out. (I think it has low self esteem and is looking for attention.) I’m thinking to myself, “A thousand calories? That’s half a Big Mac. Geez, I’m never going to lose any weight…”
The human body is a very efficient engine. We should harness that energy. Looking around at the other gym patrons all cycling, jogging, lifting, elliptical-ing and other creative forms of physical flagellation, I wondered why we don’t hook them all up to the power grid? Sure! Wire up all those machines with a power take off and hook them up to the grid! Instead of that annoying calorie counting, my treadmill friend could show my electric bill with the digits counting down! Now that would inspire me to run faster.
I think we could figure out a way to rig all the machines. I haven’t got the swimming figured out yet, but most of the people I run with are engineers. I’m sure they’d love to invent some cockamamie rig for it. Think of the gigawatts generated by twenty thousand people running from Hopkinton to Boston in a single day! The mind boggles at the possibilities.
Think about it. Instead of having to go work out, now you’re powering the economy! You’re strengthening the country! You are no longer a strange anemic person running in circles, you are a patriot! That’s a great solution, but it probably only gets us half way there.
Soon every house would have those Fred Flintstone treadmills. I can’t wait for the time when I can turn to my teenager and say “You want to use the internet? Start peddling.” Talk about your pay-for-use program. No more freeloading. Can you picture a bunch of guys on converted exercise bikes watching the big game? “Put down that beer and start peddling Al, it’s sudden death!”
Then the NPR nabobs were going on about hydrogen and the coming hydrogen economy. Of course they hadn’t quite figured out how that was all going to work, but they were hopeful. That’s how we Americans are, hopeful. I’m hopeful too.
Hydrogen sounds interesting, but, why stop there? What untapped energy resource do we have more of than any other country in the world? Wait for it… Body Fat! Yes that’s right; we see it on the news every day. Why not take that obesity crisis and put it to use? Instead of a great national weakness, let’s think of it as a natural resource. They say we don’t save? Of course we do, we save it all in our beer bellies and our wide-glide hips. We’re not being gluttonous. We are, in fact, being strategic. In the coming Fat Economy, I’m going to be a rich man!
Now, how do we tap this resource? We could chain people to treadmills and use the methods I’ve outlined above, but I don’t think that would fly. We need some direct method. I think some of my engineer friends have to come up with a direct coupling of some sort so we can just plug our adipose into the wall. Just like those hydrogen burning things.
Think about the ramifications! This is a great solution. Let’s face it, eating is already our national pastime whether we want to admit it or not. Now instead of being ashamed and depressed about those 10 fudge brownies you just ate, you can be proud! You just filled the car tank for tomorrow’s commute! What other solution allows us to so thoroughly leverage our strengths?
We don’t really build stuff anymore, but we do make the best darn fattening junk food on the planet. In the Fat Economy the tables will be turned. The rest of the world will be petitioning us for our strategic Doritos recipe. We could turn around and tell those Middle Easterners “We don’t need your stinking crude! We’ve got Slim Jims!”
Of course it would cause some cultural shifts. No longer would the skinny people hold positions of desirous role models. Let’s face it, I couldn’t run my electric razor off Calista Flockhart. We’d all be looking to hook up with well-filled, meaty mates. Talk about really keeping you warm at night! It’s brilliant!
All that wasted effort that depressed, chubby people spend on those crazy infomercial exercise programs would disappear. No more ab-busters and bun-whackers. Just plug it into the wall. The whole self-hate propelled diet industry would implode. Is Spring coming and you need to get into that bathing suit? Just run the dishwasher a little longer. Got to drop 20 pounds for that high school reunion? Turn the thermostat up a few notches. That body fat would just burn away!
I guess we’d have to figure a way to deal with all that extra skin. People would be looking like deflated balloons for awhile. Those are details I’ll leave to the engineers and technicians. I’m an idea man.
These are just a couple of the brilliant ideas that hit me when I’m out pounding the pavement or squelching through the muddy woods. You should really consider yourselves thankful that you don’t have to run with me! I think I’ve actually caused people to run faster just to get outside my prognostication perimeter.
This week’s advice to you (free and worth every penny!) is to get out there, let your brain baste in those happy running chemicals and help me solve the world’s problems!
See you out there!
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Cool Running Note:
Chris has just finished writing his first book. The Mid-Packer’s Lament is a series of short stories on long distance running, racing and the human comedy inherent in all sports enthusiasts, but prevalent in the mid-pack. This is a book for runners and wannabe runners. There are stories about training, eating, special places and special races. There are stories about the accidental athlete in all of us and the stupid things we do for even amateur endeavors. Whether you are a weekend mid-pack runner or a competitive club runner, you’ll find something thought provoking and amusing that you can relate to in the Mid-Packer’s Lament. Cool Running encourages you to buy the book. It can be ordered directly from Amazon