Jewish World Review Sept. 15, 2004 / 29 Elul, 5764

Lloyd Garver

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Consumer Reports

Resting Up For The Next Olympics | I miss the Olympics. They were a lot more fun to watch than all this political stuff. According to the television ratings, I'm not alone in this opinion. (Even with the various drug cheaters, the Games still seem cleaner than the presidential campaigns.) It was thrilling to see those fantastic young athletes, pushing their bodies and minds to new limits. Like millions of viewers, I struggled with the competitors as they reached for the swimming pool wall or as they fell off the balance beam. I was one with them. I even adopted the Olympic motto of "higher, faster, stronger," but it was while I was on ... The Couch.

Millions of people watched the Games in the prone position. I can't ignore the irony that so many people all over the world celebrated sports and physical fitness by sitting or lying around more than usual. I haven't seen any statistics, but it wouldn't surprise me if new world records were set in the amount of snacks consumed while watching the Olympics. Many of us actually increased our caloric intake while watching grueling events like the marathon. Worldwide, how many pounds were gained by viewers during the Games? If Hershey's made a Gold Medal out of chocolate, it would've been a huge seller.

In defense of "couch athletes," we are very active viewers. I sweated during some close competitions. I strained my voice yelling at the TV when that guy pushed the marathoner off the course. It took all of my concentration to help Paul Hamm make his comeback. And I got a stiff neck from watching too many consecutive hours of the games. But it was all while I was on ... The Couch.

I've felt a little guilty about my own fitness and exercise regimen ever since the games. I know my body will never even seem to belong to the same species as an Olympic athlete. But after watching these great competitors, I couldn't help thinking that I could do more. I work out, but not enough. "Couldn't I try to get more fit?" I asked myself, while lying lazily on ... The Couch.

So, I was thrilled the other day when I saw an ad for a product that seemed perfect for me. (I was watching TV on ... The Couch.) Nautilus, the company that makes those exercise machines that look like torture devices, has come out with something new: the fitness mattress.

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The ad said, "Finally there's a mattress for the fitness-minded individual." Athletes showed off their muscles next to their new beds. And the good news is that these beds are not just "a must for serious athletes," but they are also for "the Weekend Warrior." In the past, we've all seen those ridiculous ads for products to help people lose weight and build muscles without exercise or dieting. But this was no bogus company, trying to sell something at 3:00 a.m. on Channel 812. This was Nautilus, the respected manufacturer of equipment used by real athletes.

I had to find out more about this product that seemed to promise that you could get in better shape by sleeping on it. Not surprisingly, there's a Web site that gives more information about the mattress. Also not surprisingly, it turned out that the mattress is not the miracle that I hoped for. It's just a comfortable mattress that is supposed to help the athlete - or anybody - sleep better. The disappointing, but reasonable, theory is that rejuvenating sleep helps the athlete perform well. "If you are serious about fitness, you should be serious about sleep, too." That's all there was to it.

So, I guess if I want to get into better shape, I'll just have to push myself to exercise more, regardless of what's on TV. And no, I'm not buying that new bed. On the other hand, I don't know if I could resist if Nautilus ever comes out with a couch.

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JWR contributor Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover. Comment by clicking here. Visit his website by clicking here.


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© 2004, Lloyd Garver