In the pursuit of ecstasy, one journey to fitness begins with walking, working, laughing and loving life

A woman who now lives in Sherman Oaks has sent me her personal story of how to achieve physical fitness and a love of life, and it may shape up as a chapter in the Jack and Duke book on how to get and stay thin in the pursuit of ecstasy.

She thinks her story will fit best under the subtitle "What Jane Fonda Didn't Tell You," and I think she's right.

This woman, Mary Lou Heyer, is no chick, having started her fitness program as a child in the 1930s. She lived then with her family in Trinidad, a mile high in the foothills of the Colorado Sangre de Christo mountains.

Every morning she walked a mile to the convent, then home for lunch, then back in the afternoon, then home again. Then, if her mother needed groceries that evening, she went down the hill, then back up, carrying bags.

In nice weather she would roller-skate a couple of hours before supper. Sometimes, after supper, she would do cartwheels, handstands and somersaults, and walk on her hands and play "run sheepie run," until at 9 o'clock the curfew siren sounded, and everyone immediately dispersed for home--girls and boys.

Then came high school; and again she had to walk, this time a different route, across town and over the Purgatory River, carrying more and larger books. She would still go out anytime she could after supper, but she avoided cartwheels, handstands and walking on hands. She was getting to be a big girl. And when the siren comes at 9 o'clock, she remembers, "nobody wants to disperse."

She emerged as a young adult in the middle of World War II. "See all the boys, our dates, mind you, exit town for war. Some don't come home. The ones that do are a little kooky. The girls are kooky too, and lonely. Have irrational, emotional experiences with the guys that fade in and out of the picture.

"All the time walking up and down the hill to work, jogging after departing trains, dancing in a frenzy all night to Harry James, Gene Krupa, Ray Anthony, Glenn Miller. Walking running, dancing, ice skating. . . ."

She was married in the '50s, and still walking, but soon pushing two small boys in a stroller to market. Living in a tract. No trees. No grass.

"Kids, though, lots of kids. I have to go to Scout meeting, Little League, work overtime, lift heavy pans, carrying a new boy on your hip. Great for muscles. Work part-time. No electric, self-erasing typewriter. . . ."

In the '50s and '60s she was a woman: "a two-legged animal used for testing all sorts of drugs--uppers, downers, exotic anti-depressants, narcotics, the first birth-control pills. . . ."

And still walking. "Trying to pull and tug young teen-agers through the '60s. See one go off to service--please God, not Vietnam!

"Expand your mind. Say no to Dr. Spock. Say no to Joseph McCarthy. Be different (Jane knows). Take lectures so you can help your poor, muddled kid cope with 'modern math.' Ride bicycles, surf with kids. This is 'togetherness.' Take golf lessons for husband. Do all household work. Great for your circulation! . . ."

Then, in the San Fernando Valley, in the '70s, she was running in deadly earnest. "Jog for your life. Run to get some of the great, enjoyable sex you did not have. Run after cars. Go back to work in the '80s--legal office, electric, self-erasing typewriter, hooray!--paint, write.

"No time to exercise, but hurry up and down three levels of town house, run to swim, work, market. Jog all over the mall. . . ."

As a result of all this exertion, this up and down the hill, the cartwheels, the jogging in the mall, Heyer says of herself today: "I may not be a Jane Fonda, but I still have a good body, and, quote, the best-looking legs in town, unquote."

Not bad for a woman who must be, what?--in her 50s?

Of course Duke's and my book is going to be a guide to one's way of life, as well as to diet and exercise, and Heyer has worked out a philosophy that might well find its way into "The Jack and Duke Way to Ecstasy (Including Ray Bradbury's Recipe for Canned Tomato Soup); or What Jane Fonda Didn't Tell You."

"Philosophy of life?" she says. "Just love. Love your kids and husband. Love your sons as adults. Be able to discuss anything with them--accept and endure anything.

"Don't ever let the Jerry Falwells bother you. And, be able to enjoy yourself, be by yourself--not alone--just with yourself. Don't walk away from yourself."

"Please, Jack," she concludes, "I want a book on chili (my soul food). I want to be told how to be loved. I want to laugh. Give me barrels of laughs. . . ."

I'd like to know why she said no to Dr. Spock. Was she right? Was the good doctor full of spinach, after all, like McCarthy?

But we aren't going to go into child-rearing. We're just concerned with developing one's body and personality for survival and ecstasy in the '80s.

We do hope to come up with a barrel of laughs, since I believe, with Norman Cousins, that laughter is the best medicine.

As for the chili, though, I was going to go with my own recipe--Abandoned Husband's Chili (a can of chili and a bottle of Mexican beer); but if chili is Heyer's soul food, and she has the best legs in town, maybe we'd better go with her recipe.

That will be just another bonus.

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