The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Train Exercise is Exercise Training

Reuters News India reported that yesterday in the eastern state of Bihar, the driver of a stalled electric train asked passengers to help get it moving again. We call this a G.O.P. car (get out and push).

The train had stopped in an electrically neutral area between wires. Hundreds of passengers pushed for more than half an hour to move the train until it connected with the electric contact overhead to supply power again (different distances, time, and why the electric connection to overhead wires was lost, according to different news sources).

In the 1970s and 80s, I often worked as a scuba instructor and dive guide in the Caribbean Islands and Mexico. There were strange tides one day, and the boatman accidentally ran the old wooden dive boat (with no radio) aground, far from shore. It seemed reasonable enough (to me) to put everyone out in the waist deep water, decreasing the weight and draft (distance from the waterline to the bottom of the hull). All the paying passengers and I got to enjoy a yo-heave-ho of functional exercise in the water pushing the boat free under the shining sun. The boatman stayed onboard to steer. I also put the two children on the trip with us off the boat to help, although the shorter one rode on my shoulders, excitedly pushing with both hands and feet.

For many years, it has been an interesting question whether exercise will increase or decrease risk of decompression sickness after scuba diving. Exercise seems to affect evolution and dissolution of bubbles from the dissolved nitrogen absorbed and released during and after scuba dives. It is turning out that exercise can both increase and decrease risk, depending on the timing of the exercise, to be covered in future posts. It is a topic for divers from military operations to vacationers trying to adjust their risk factors, and divemasters and scuba instructors who haul anchors, gear, and passengers up and down boat ladders (and G.O.P. boats).

Going back to trains, at least 30 years ago, my mother and I came up with the idea that in addition to dining cars, rail lines should have an exercise car, instead of passengers being confined to long sitting. We envisioned stationary bicycles and other simulators hooked up to generators that would run lights (or television), or record the distance traveled, with windows or screens showing passing scenery like a nice bike trip or race. Participants could race with or against each other. (Originally, Mom thought the cyclists could power the entire train.) Ideas flowed, like having proceeds help set up exercise and health programs that develop body and spirit in poor neighborhoods passed though. We came up with several names like "Training" and other variations, and thought it would be a new exercise craze and sure-sell for the rail industry. We made inquiries and didn't hear much back. You heard it here first - now date-stamped in this blog as our fun idea. 

  • I was one of the first people to develop fitness on cruise ships, back when cruises were thought of as only deck chairs and buffets - one story is in Parcours - Old Fun Is New Exercise.
  • Let me know if you want stories (or to set up a Fitness Fixer cruise).
  • Rail lines, are you interested? I will develop it for you as a fun fitness "Training™" program.


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Photo (unrelated to the Bihar train this week) by Prince Roy

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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.