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Stamford: Don’t nag, set example with your workout

I received an e-mail recently in which the writer, a middle-aged woman, expressed frustration.

She had started an exercise program and wanted to share the benefits of her weight loss and feeling better with family and friends. She explained that no amount of effort on her part could persuade others to start exercising, and she was seeking advice.

I believe she was serious when she inquired as to the most effective way to “nag” others to exercise. Should she be more aggressive, and not take “no” for an answer, because she knew it was for their own good? She wanted to know my secret.

I learned long ago that trying to persuade others to exercise is no small task. In fact, when I was at my peak as an exercise evangelist, my success rate was horrible.

I was obnoxious in my certainty that everyone should be exercising regularly, and I’m sure my words and demeanor suggested strongly that if you weren’t exercising, you were committing some sort of sin, or at the least, you weren’t very smart.

Worse, my efforts were most forcefully directed toward those I cared the most about. This, I guess, is typical of zealots who believe they have discovered something wonderful and who are dying to share it.

Finally, I wised up. After countless failures, I had to accept that my track record as an exercise salesman was abysmal. When I started examining why I was such a bust, it occurred to me that good salespeople don’t nag. Instead, they make you believe you are missing out on something important, and they convince you that it’s in your best interest to follow their lead.

So I quit nagging and decided to set a good example and be a resource for those who might be interested.

This, I’m sure, was a great relief to loved ones, and it made my life a whole lot easier.

My advice is: If you have found something that truly is working wonders for you, others will want to know about it. The smile on your face, the spring in your step and transformation in your body and your health will be like a giant billboard, telling them you have discovered something they would be smart to explore.

So just be patient, eventually some of them will come knocking at your door.

Bicycle trailers

A while ago, I wrote about jogging strollers and bicycle seats and trailers. As always, I received e-mail responses. Typically, it was a mixed bag. Some praised my efforts and were thankful for the information. Others were not so kind, and felt that I was wrong about bike trailers.

Admittedly, I am not an expert cyclist, and I’ve never used a bike seat or a trailer, so my information, although not based on first-hand knowledge, was based on research and the opinion of experts.

Regarding bike trailers, I was skeptical and said that experts did not recommend them for a variety of reasons. One was that with your child several feet behind you while traveling at a pretty good speed, it could be dangerous to keep looking back to make sure everything is OK. An e-mail I received revealed how “not looking back” can be even more dangerous.

It read: “I enjoy reading your articles in our Salem, Ore., newspaper, The Statesman Journal. Recently, you mentioned safety with bike trailers. While on vacation at the Oregon coast, I observed another danger involving those trailers.

“Highway 101 runs along the coast and through most of the towns. A family was on a bike outing, riding through Newport on the side of the highway. The father pulled a trailer with their infant in it. Suddenly, the trailer came loose from the bike and, with the father unaware, it careened into the highway with the horrified mother screaming from behind.

“Fortunately, the trailer was not hit, but we all gained some gray hairs just watching this potential tragedy unfold. Parents need to double-check their trailer connections before they take off.”

The bottom line is if you believe that using a bike trailer is appropriate, please take every precaution. The cargo you are towing is precious.

Bryant Stamford is professor and chairman of the department of exercise science at Hanover (Ind.) College. Write to “The Body Shop,” The Courier-Journal, P.O. Box 740031, Louisville, KY 40201-7431

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