Best Medicine: Somewhat effective ways to stay fit in Asheville

HEALTHY CHATTER: Cayla Clark, top left, returns with her latest round of local comedians to discuss the futility of New Year's resolutions, staying in shape (kind of) and Valentine's Day. Also pictured, clockwise from top right, Alex Parsons, Miranda Allison and Ryan Gordon. Photos of Clark and Gordon by Donnie Rex Bishop; photos of Parsons and Allison courtesy of the comedians 

January is over, which means New Year’s resolutions have likely fallen by the wayside. If you’re anything like me, you completely lack conviction. Half-assed promises to “eat better” and “exercise more” have turned into mountains of stale pizza crust and remorse.

Fortunately, I have gathered some of Asheville’s most insightful stand-up comedians to keep us motivated and educated. This very special edition of “Best Medicine” features my very own boo-thang, Ryan Gordon — better known for his expert joke telling and heart of Southern gold.

Also in the lineup is Alex Parsons, a hilarious comedian who has taught me plenty about orgy etiquette — from his comedy, I mean; not from, like, attendance at, um. … Oh, and the gorgeous and wildly creative Miranda Allison! Miranda, who co-hosts The Hot Seat at Alley Cat Social Club on Mondays at 8 p.m., has quickly become one of my favorite Asheville comedians.

Along with their critiques of New Year’s resolutions and health tips, these three comedians are an extremely romantic bunch, willing to impart some Valentine’s Day-related wisdom. So grab your stale pizza crust and enjoy. 

Cayla: What’s one resolution you plan to stick to for the remainder of 2024?

Alex: I’m on a journey of constant self-improvement. You know, trying to do and be better than the day before. Therefore, I think resolutions are built to fail, sort of like the bike lane on Merrimon. Instead, I like the idea of free-falling into a new year and seeing what I can learn from my many, many, many inevitable mistakes; I suppose all while reducing the number of repeated mishaps from the previous year(s). After all … if I’m only making new mistakes, I can allow myself to feel less remorse and eat more pizza crust. 

So far, though, I have been making this my year of committing to more strict disciplines as a comedian by setting aside structured time for writing and by creating opportunities for myself and others — like the recurring show I’m starting in February at Static Age Loft. Balance is key. So I’m also planning on not doing things I don’t have energy or time for. My resolution is the revolution of me. Mwahahaha!

Ryan: Well, I wouldn’t say that I’m really big into what people would call “self-improvement” or even “linear time,” so that can make New Year’s resolutions kind of difficult. At one point in my life, I was into studying Eastern philosophies and came across the idea of purposelessness or effortless action, and I kind of wish I hadn’t. Turns out, this particular philosophy can make it quite difficult to try to accomplish anything at all. Now that I’m in my 30s, I’ve come to the realization that I will probably never change, and it’s a pretty freeing feeling. 

If I had to choose, though, I’d say maybe I’ll try to go back to community college to become a doctor so I can actually afford to live here. 

Miranda: Unlike Alex, I prefer to do mental gymnastics. Why tell my body to try something new when I can just overthink every possible circumstance?

We’ve all heard the quote “Treat others how you’d like to be treated.” This year, however, I have resolved to treat myself the way I treat others. So, if my internal critic is a little extraboisterous, I will simply say what I’ve said to many of my peers: “I’m bored with this conversation, goodbye.” 

Cayla: Wow, I’m really into all of these ideas. Especially the one Ryan mentioned about effortless action. That one sounds a lot easier than the stuff Alex and Miranda touched on. I mean, don’t get me wrong, structured writing time and self-kindness sound great. But have you heard of binging Max and muttering, “I could’ve written this show,” between mouthfuls of Häagen Dazs? 

Speaking of living life in savasana, I consistently pay West Asheville Yoga a monthly membership fee, yet I haven’t attended a single class in roughly four months. (Maybe nine.) Every morning I wake up and think, “This is it. Today is the day I make it to a yoga class.” At around noon, I think, “Damn, I’ve already eaten about 12 pounds of cheese. If I go to yoga today, I might publicly fart. I’ll try again tomorrow.” There are few things as humiliating as a down dog cheese fart.

Anyway, this is all beside the point. My resolution is to curse less. 

Cayla: In addition to not going to yoga and eating a grotesque amount of f***ing cheese on a daily basis, I incorporate pole dancing into my personal health and wellness routine. Pole has been great for my core strength and floor twerks. I’ve been taking weekly classes at DanceClub Asheville with Kathleen Hahn for the past two years. I haven’t improved even a little bit in those two years, but that’s because I’m just really bad at most things. Not a reflection of her teaching skills, which are unmatched. What’s the best way you stay in shape in Asheville?

Alex: I don’t own a car. How’s that for a reduced carbon footprint? So, I leave my footprints all over by strutting these lanky tree trunks I call legs across these hilly terrain of our fair city. Commuting this way — up and down, and up and down, and (you guessed it) down and up — releases endorphins, gets the heart rate going and the blood pumping. All of which keeps me shaped this way and leaves me completely out of breath and rather hungry most of the time. 

Cayla: Wasn’t Asheville rated one of the least walkable towns in America?

Alex: Almost definitely yes. It is absolute hell on earth to get around here on foot. I was told by an Uber driver recently that Asheville is used as an example of how not to design a city in some university civics engineering courses. Pretty whacky.

Ryan: It may seem counterproductive, but I’d say probably a pub crawl. Especially in Asheville, where a pub crawl easily turns into a marathon if you stop at every brewery in town. Or honestly just try and walk literally anywhere. Between all the hills and dodging all the cars on the roads without sidewalks, you’re sure to burn some calories. 

Alex: I couldn’t agree more, Ryan. I only ever felt OK about consuming too many Village Tarts at Noble Cider during the Freshen Up open mic if I did laps up and down Walnut Street afterward.

Miranda: Wow, you guys are making me feel a lot better about never walking anywhere. I don’t even go into Ingles anymore because the walking is too much. 

Ryan: Every few months I go back to Planet Fitness and watch stand-up specials while I ride on the exercise bike. Honestly, that feels like enough. But going that infrequently means I’m not very in shape or very funny. Unfortunately, I don’t really like the gym that much. I also don’t like the cold, which means I can’t go walk around at the park and wonder how we let the French Broad River become radioactive. Some people like a runner’s high, but I prefer a nice walker’s buzz. 

Miranda: Cigarettes and coffee are a girl’s best friend when it comes to maintaining that chic silhouette. This year, though, I have ditched the chemicals and will be trying out new shapes. To be real, I think it’s important that we let our bodies meander naturally through the BMI chart. Instead of chasing thin, I am throwing away my Walmart mirror and learning how to mend my clothes. 

Cayla: Honestly, yes. Time to tune out the sociocultural messages encouraging us to embrace the “ultra-thin ideal.” Having grown up in Southern California (through no fault of my own), superficiality was ingrained in me from a young age. Since my youth, I have been on a mission to love myself in all of my ebbs, flows and fluxes. Radical self-acceptance, to me, sounds much more appealing than working toward an unrealistic beauty standard. Wait, Ryan, is radical self-acceptance an Eastern philosophy thing?

Ryan: Well, I don’t know if that’s entirely true, and I’m certainly no expert. But judging by American culture, it definitely seems like radical self-acceptance did not originate here.

Cayla: OK, final topic! Valentine’s Day is almost upon us. Fortunately, Asheville is the most romantic city in the world (after Paris, France, and maybe Myrtle Beach, S.C.). This year, I’m forcing my sweetie to buy a ticket to Blind Date Live, a live dating show that I created and co-produce alongside Double Dip Productions. Because the show takes place on Wednesday, Feb. 14, at The Grey Eagle, our V-Day is spoken for. What are your plans? And what’s the most romantic thing to do in Asheville? 

Alex: Anything can be romantic if you have good chemistry with your certain someone(s). Eating chicken wings, going for a drive on the parkway and tourist watching are definitely good ways to explore your connection. I’ve found that some of my best friendships and deepest connections with lovers stem from eating messy food, exploring nature and creatively insulting clueless out-of-towners. 

And recently, thanks to Blind Date Live, I’ve discovered more than just a rad bromance here in town. Because of the show, I get to spend a lot of my time with our city’s talented drag queens and expose them to the wonderful world of comedy this town has to offer. Together, we’re slowly but surely making this already queer and silly place even queer-er and sillier! *See aforementioned evil laughter.*

So, on Valentine’s Day, I’m absolutely going to be in attendance at The Grey Eagle with my fellow alumni for what promises to be an entertaining night of romantic hijinks.

Cayla: For the record, I did not pay him to say that. My heart is, however, melting. 

Ryan: I’m not exactly what a lot of people would consider a king of romance. If I had to guess, I’d say the most romantic thing to do in Asheville is to stay in, maybe watch a movie and just enjoy each other’s company. Possibly plan a way to dismantle our current oppressive economic system. Nothing too crazy. 

Miranda: I’m with the boys on this one. I love a good romantic night in. There’s nothing that boosts my serotonin quite like getting cozy on the couch and rewatching old shows. But because my cat prefers to tackle lamps and stare at ghosts, I’ve been trying to get out more. As we know, it’s illegal to dislike Valentine’s Day. But many people don’t know that prison is one of the best places to find a mate. So, in the true spirit of the holiday, I will be putting cherry bombs in mailboxes and running around downtown in my underwear. (Kidding, of course.)

In all actuality, come Valentine’s Day you will see me at the Asheville Music Hall for the Disclaimer open mic. I will be crying and eating chocolate cake with my hands. 

Cayla: I love crying and eating chocolate cake with my hands. I do agree with Alex: Anything can be romantic alongside the right person(s). The most romantic thing Ryan and I do regularly is make Instagram reels that gently poke fun at ourselves and Asheville as a whole. Turns out, collaborating on creative endeavors is my love language. Screw physical touch, let’s co-produce a show. Gift-giving, who? Time to drive to Tennessee for a 10-minute gig, baby. 



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