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Michael Perry: A workout routine that won't leave you twisting in the wind

Michael Perry: A workout routine that won't leave you twisting in the wind

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Last week’s winds whipped knots into the swing set chains.

I discovered them while working out at my personal health club, currently located in our granary, which overlooks the swing set, which is planted on the brow of a hill with a view to the valley below.

Based on a date scrawled in the concrete, the granary was constructed just after World War II. It is unheated and uninsulated, so there is little point in keeping the doors closed while getting fit. Unless we are under blizzard conditions, I roll them open so I can enjoy some vista with my misery.

“Getting fit” is a relative and recurrent reference dating back to my early 30s when I first noticed I could no longer train for a 5K run in under two weeks. Like many self-improving humans, I tend to go in bursts and underachieve, propelled by the belief that next week I am really gonna buckle down and get after it.

And yet, over the past year-and-a-half I have managed to put together and keep together a fundamental program combining a treadmill desk, a smattering of hill sprints, and the lifting of heavy stuff. At one point I rewarded myself for sticking with it by purchasing a set of used weights, thus allowing me to upgrade from the steel fence post and concrete blocks I had been using.

The used equipment has a little rust on it, which is about right. I also just checked the receipt and see I made the purchase on April Fool’s Day. Time will tell.

The last time I tried working out in an actual gym it had mirrors everywhere and I had to leave because I found it impossible to stop snickering at the big boys side-eying their triceps while acting like they weren’t side-eying their triceps. I took my dough-ball self out of there before some striated studmuffin force-fed me a dumbbell.

And so I return to the mirrorless granary. Last thing I need is to contemplate the veins popping on my bald head as I grunt through my routine, not that I’d see them anyways as this time of year I work out in a cap, barn boots, and a chore jacket. Chugging up a snow-covered hill in rubberized footwear purchased at a farm store is my version of running wind sprints on the beach.

So there I was, deadlifting with my sweaty face to the open air, when I noticed those snarled chains. My obsessive gene wouldn’t let it go, so I finished the set and went straight to the untangling.

Apparently the wind had flipped the flat seats around and around, over and over, gnarling the links into the devil’s own macramé. One swing had been flung around a leg of the frame, then snugged into a knot that would have done a sailor proud.

Given time, persistence and physics, nature performs marvelous tricks. An invisible wind moves an iron chain. A fool walks in place, lifts things that don’t need lifting, runs uphill despite not being chased, and a year later feels fitter, if not leaner.

Most of all the fool is grateful for the air, drawn one cool lungful at a time as he undoes the knots, the world for a moment still and untwisted.

An original “Roughneck Grace” column exclusive to the Wisconsin State Journal. Audio versions may air on “Tent Show Radio” ( Read more from Michael Perry at


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