© Copyright 2024, Daffy Dave

Clowning around makes exercise fun

By Larry Magid

Larry on Fitness

When you want advice on a serious subject, ask a clown.

That's exactly what I did this week, seeking health and fitness advice from Daffy Dave, a Palo Alto-based clown and children's entertainer.

Daffy Dave, whose real name is Dave Mampel, 41, has been exercising at least three days a week for the past two years. Before that he exercised on an occasional basis.

"If you look at exercise as work, it becomes something you're likely to resist. When it's fun, you seek it out," he said. Dave also likes to "think of how good I'll feel afterwards."

To stave off the monotony and boredom, Dave likes to mix things up.

"Usually I go to the YMCA three times a week to do my half-hour cardio plus my weight-strengthening exercises." That alone provides some diversity because he's working on his heart and his other muscles, but he also gives himself "the out" that on any one of those days that 'I'll just do a power hike at the Arastradero Preserve."

Dave has a special reason to stick with a regular exercise routine. About a year and a half ago, he wound up at the Stanford Hospital emergency room with what was diagnosed as coronary vasospasm, a type of heart attack. Dave says that the doctors can't explain why he had the attack but, from his perspective, "exercise helped me to recover and cope with the episode." After a couple of weeks of recuperation, Dave resumed his full workout schedule and has been feeling great ever since.

Daffy Dave makes most of his living by doing performances for children typically from ages 2 to 8. Most of us don't think of clowns as educators, but a successful clown can have a pretty big impact on his young audiences.

Dave also teaches classes to kids, including a pre-kindergarten soccer class.

"To make soccer attractive to kids that aren't ready for competitive sports, I have to make the game fun. When we do the warm-up exercises at the start of each class, I do things that make them laugh."

Laughter, says Dave, "makes kids breathe in more oxygen and helps them exercise more effectively because they're breathing better." He may start by telling the kids that "the wall is falling," giving them stretching and strengthening exercise as they lean against the wall in a comedic effort to keep it from falling. Then, when they're in the midst of holding up the wall, Dave screams, "There's a monster up there ... run!" The kids "laugh and run to the other side of the court where they hold up that wall." The kids, according to Dave, "are laughing the whole time they're running, which gives them more oxygen so they're less tired."

After they run around for awhile he leads them in traditional calisthenics with a "comedic twist." As the children hold their hands on their waists and twist back and forth, Dave chants "Wash, wash, washing machine, get your stinky socks so clean." He engages the kids in making up more lyrics, which means that they're concentrating on the fun of the game, not the work of the routine. "They don't even know they're tired," he said.

Dave is also a strong advocate of dancing both for kids and adults.

Dave sneaks dancing into his routine. During his regular shows he'll "do the shakedown," where he and his audience "start jumping around and dancing and doing silly dances like 'the lawn mower' where kids reach down as if to start the mower."

You can find out more about Dave and his video and dance music at www.daffydave.com.