Photo by Thosh Collins
Chelsey Luger, photographed by Thosh Collins

Rooster Topsky, Chicken Legs, and New Year's Resolutions: Getting Healthy for 'Regular' Skins

Gyasi Ross

My little sis Chelsey is the one who writes about wellness and fitness.  She should—she knows a whole bunch about it.  Me?  My family has a history of diabetes and heart problems (so I always lie on those questionnaires that you have to fill out when you go the doctor’s office, as if that will make that family history disappear).  I mean, I’m healthy, but I’m not that healthy!  I don’t drink organic water or eat spirulina sherbet or anything like that. 

No, I’m simply a middle-aged, mixed-breed Native man who loves bad food yet isn’t quite ready to give up on seeing his private parts yet. Last year I got particularly out of shape for the holidays. (And before the holidays. And the summer time.  And…) So I was kinda in triage mode when New Year hit; here’s a few things that I tried last year—my efforts to answer the question, “How does a Native on the rez, without a ton of access to facilities, get into shape?” If you all have any suggestions about how I (or anybody else) could do it better, please share—I’d love to run them in a future Thing About Skins column. 

So I tried running.  Running on the rez is a dangerous game.

Statistically, we have wayyyyy too many car accident fatalities per capita.   Natives don’t seem to like seat belts.  Anyway, after almost getting run over four or five times (and also having seven or eight cars generously offer to pick me up, assuming the only reason I’d be on the road is because my car had stalled), I figured this probably wasn’t going to be the most effective way to get in shape.  Plus, “Running Brave” I am not—when you’re overweight, running can be pretty harsh on the knees and cankles, especially when you have chicken legs.  So that didn’t last long. 

Next, I tried P90X.  The DVDs that I borrowed were scratched tho—only the yoga DVD ran straight through with no interruptions.  So, it's safe to say that, even though I stayed pretty plump, I also got pretty darn flexible. 

Flexible dough boy.  With Blackfeet chicken legs.  Nice.

Speaking of “chicken,” my quest for fitness continued.  I’ve been promising myself that I would start dancing again soon.  I grew up as a grass dancer, but have been saying that I want to start chicken dancing.  I have an outfit and everything—honestly, I’m just really scared to start.  I wanna be like Rooster Topsky or Rod Atcheynum—they are amazing!!!  Buttttt… I’m scared of sucking really bad.  Therefore, my plan was to start dedicating myself to practicing chicken dancing for an hour a day—that way I could also include my son, who likewise wants to start dancing.  I’m a bad dad.  

That plan went over like a fart in a sweat.  A hot mess.

Honestly, that plan was over before it started.  I was too scared to really give it a meaningful shot at the time—hopefully my ego can take sucking at it for a little while to improve.  It’s an important lesson.  I want to get back out in pow-wows, but that probably won’t be for a little while still.

Ultimately, I ended up just doing some stuff around the house—calisthenics.  Lots of them.  Push-ups, squats, lunges—I did sets of those every single minute (for example, 8 push-ups and 8 squats every minute for 25 minutes), and that gives you a pretty good sweat.  You combine that with changing up my eating habits some (I will NEVER give up on gas station burritos...but now I try to limit them to football Sundays) and get all of my bad food out of the way on “cheat days”  and that worked pretty well. 

Don’t get me wrong—I admire my brothers and sisters who are disgustingly fit.  I think it’s beautiful when Native people choose healthy lifestyles. I LOVE checking out the Healthy Active Natives page on Facebook and seeing the amazing stories of hard work and results. Thosh Collins’ abdominals are impressive; his biceps daunting. Yet, I simply want to be slightly better than I was last year—not quite as slow, skin not quite as greasy, man boobs not quite as voluptuous. 

How about you folks?  What are you doing to get fit?  Any suggestions?

Gyasi Ross
Blackfeet Nation/Suquamish Territories
Twitter: @BigIndianGyasi

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talyn's picture
Submitted by talyn on
Every weekday I bike to school with my kids. We are lucky, this is about a 1/4 mile ride, so nothing much fitness wise. My mother comes along. This is where the exercise comes in. Once the kids are in the building, mom sets off for the quietest, low-traffic roads about, and I follow. Quiet roads around here means straight up the mountain. We climb 400 feet in the first two miles. Every weeks she adds another 1/4 mile to the ride. I may die on that mountain road, but I will die thinner than I am now! By the way...the Mom I'm trying to keep up to is 67, two stents in her heart, total hip replacement five years ago. If you can make it a team effort, do it. I have swallowed a lot of pride, and gotten up earlier than I would on my own, so I can keep up with mom. If she can head off up the mountain when it is dark, raining, and a balmy 40 degrees, I can too!