Here’s the deal. I got fat. It’s a strange thing, because I was pretty thin in high school and college and then all of the sudden over the course of eight years I got fat. Maybe it was the non-stop diet of pizza and ice cream. Maybe it was the complete lack of exercise. Maybe it was…no, it was probably those first two things. But I’m not here to place blame. It happened.
But I don’t mind saying that I was pretty disappointed to have gone from being called tall to being called big. Tall is easy to change – all I have to do is sit down. Big – that takes a little more work. So, about six weeks ago I joined a gym.
The first time I went, my muscles were furious with me. “What’s this all about?” they asked the following day, “We were enjoying our eight year vacation – what’s up with putting us back to work?” And, in an organized act of civil disobedience, they refused to function for the next three days. I wish I was exaggerating when I tell you that it was painful to lift a pencil. Generally, writer is not a particularly physically taxing job, but for those three days, every time I turned a page it felt like I was lifting a slab of concrete.
Of course, that’s all in the past. I no longer have that type of pain after working out. But, believe me, it still hurts every single time. Some people talk about an endorphin rush when they exercise – my body chemistry, apparently, doesn’t work that way. The only rush I feel is the rush to get the hell out of that gym. Oh, if only I had been born craving broccoli and sit ups – it would be so easy to stay in shape. Instead, I was cursed with the urge to eat fudge and nap. Why is it that the things that are bad for us usually feel the best? That’s just poor evolutionary planning.
Plus, working out is so monotonous. I look at a weight that dozens of people lift every day – and then set right back down. Nothing is being accomplished here. I imagine if aliens landed in a gym they’d be perplexed. To them we’d look like very slow learners. I think someone should devise a gym where members move weights from one location to another to give them some sort of purpose. Or maybe hook up the treadmills to a generator so that we’re supplying power to a nearby apartment complex. (They don’t need gyms in third world countries. To get a work out they just remove the “out.”)
It is a little strange to go to a gym and lift weights. What, you don’t have heavy things at home that you could pick up? That’s also why I don’t like the stationary bikes. I own a bike that I never ride. It seems pretty silly to pay people to let me sit on their bike that’s glued to the floor. That’s why I prefer the elliptical – at least that presents me with a motion that I can’t accomplish for free on my own. This way I can pretend that this is why I’m going to the gym…not the real reason, that I lack the discipline to exercise independently and the knowledge that I’m paying for this service will shame me into occasionally using it.
The gym is a strange subculture. As I sweat profusely on the elliptical, struggling against the machine’s lowest setting, I watch the sculpted people divide their time between bench presses and looking at their muscles in the mirror immediately following bench presses. There’s a reason, I realize, that the bench press section is surrounded by mirrors and the row of ellipticals and treadmills are reflection free. First we have to get down to a presentable weight on these machines before we can enter the vanity section of the gym.
I’m still a long way from being able to look in the mirror as I work out and think to myself, “Oh, yeah, baby, that’s the definition daddy was looking for.” (Which is what most of the guys at my gym appear to be thinking based on their facial expressions). My profile still bears a disturbing resemblance to the outline Alfred Hitchcock would step into at the beginning of his TV show.
So, how am I going to do it? How will I defeat my dislike of the gym? Oh, I won’t. I’ve never liked exercising, even when I was in shape. I recall my freshman year of high school, when my parents coerced me into joining the cross country team. Do you know what a typical cross country practice consists of? The “coach” would load us into his pickup truck, drive us three or four miles from the school and tell us to run back. That’s not a sport, it’s child abuse.
Knowing I shall never exorcise my exercise demons, I still must find a way to make working out work out for me. Right now I’m using a reward system – if I go to the gym today, I am rewarded with not having to go tomorrow. But then the next day comes and I have to start it all over again – making my reward system as repetitive as my workout. Hmmmm, what do I really want? Maybe I can convince myself that my future health is more important than my present discomfort. Maybe I can focus on the fact that I’m adding valuable years to my life. Or maybe I can just hang a piece of fudge in front of the elliptical.