I rarely think about exercise, but when I do, I can usually lie down and clear my mind with a few minutes of rest. For me, the thought of exercise is intrusive and stressful. It is an assault on what I enjoy most – FOOD, and it is a prerequisite for what I detest most – SWEAT. My idea of exercise is to slowly chew and savor the food I eat unless it is exceptionally good, then I forego the preliminaries and gulp it down whole. My idea of sweating is not sweating. Sweat triggers memories of the stench of my high school football locker room – a mixture of dirty underwear, urine, and perspiration, which ruins my appetite for lunch and supper, or if you are not from the South, dinner. I see exercise as a ploy to deny me and like-thinking Americans our inalienable rights to be fluffy and content.
However, exercise is the hottest buzz craze around these days. Everybody is doing it! People are raiding their savings and mortgaging their homes to join fitness clubs! They are buying millions of workout DVDs featuring twenty something year old darlings who haven’t the foggiest idea about stretch marks or stress related bloating. They are buying into six-pack abs, bouncing pecks, and softball size biceps of twenty year old guys who live in the gym and have never worked a legitimate eight-hour day in their lives. People have gone bonkers over the “mirror worshippers” with no end to the insanity in sight. I even thought about joining their ranks, but a much needed nap restored my sanity, and all was good. Yet, my wife thought otherwise.
When it comes to exercise and diet, I have always lived by four life sustaining rules. Rule one, when it comes to exercise, leave me alone! I will get off the couch and stand up for your right to exercise, but standing is as far as I will go. I might bend to scratch, but bending to touch my toes for exercise is not going to happen, so don’t try to motivate me, shame me, or disown me. It ain’t going to happen! Rule two is the foundation of everything I believe about exercise. I developed it after Jim Fixx, author of The Complete Book of Running and the person credited with making jogging popular in America, dropped dead from a heart attack while jogging in 1984. He might still be around today if he had not worn out his heart running. If a running machine like Fixx was not immune to heart failure while exercising, why should an out of shape table hugger like me think my chances of surviving exercise are any better? Therefore, my rule two states there are only so many ticks in the old ticker, so don’t waste any exercising. The third rule I have embraced is to carefully watch what I eat. To enjoy life, it is important to pay close attention to the food you consume. Over the years, I have found the best way to watch what I eat is to place my plate in front of me, stick the food with a fork, hoist it eyeball level, admire it, and insert it into my mouth. My philosophy is simple; if it looks good and smells good, it must be good, so eat it. Doctors and funeral home directors love people who don’t eat, so eat often my friend. As important to a hefty go lucky lifestyle as these three rules are, rule four, cleanse your system with fried foods, is the most important rule of all! The greasier the food the faster it slides through your system. As a result, you are less likely to feel bloated or constipated if you stick to a diet of fried foods. Face it, you can eat fried chicken, fried catfish, and French fried potatoes and die happy, or you can swear off fried foods and maintain a clean colon, which in the end will only serve to make your undertaker happy. Over the years, these four rules have served me well. The only negative has been my wife’s constant rants that I am slowly killing myself, but the way I see it is her nagging will kill me long before I eat something tainted, my arteries clog, or I roll off the couch and hurt myself.
For the past forty years, these four rules have been my mantra. Because of these rules, personal vanity is not a condition I suffer from, I am unaccustomed to the roving eyes of amorous females as attested to by forty-two hefty years of marriage, and I have never ever been a patient in a hospital (knock on wood!). Yet, although I am satisfied with these results, my wife is not. A prolific connoisseur of keeping fit, she has for years prodded me to get off the couch, but I have successfully fought her efforts until this past week. I am not sure if it is a collision of vanities, if she is experiencing an amorous shift in her libido, or she is ready to collect the insurance, but whatever the case, she put an abrupt end to my resistance to exercise. Rudely stating my rules were for overweight imbeciles, she put her foot down and signed me up for a membership at an exercise gym. I fought with her over this issue, but ultimately, she gave me that “Shut up and do as I say, or else” look. I have always been too much of a coward to press the “or else,” so I fought the wife and the wife won.
This past Monday, she dragged my whimpering body to the gym. At the gym, I pretended I had forgotten my membership number in hopes the girl at the desk would send me home, but my scheming wife had memorized not only her number but mine as well. Once in the workout area, she pointed me to a treadmill, and told me I was not to get off without her permission. She warned me she would be watching me closely as she went through her circuit training routine. I attempted to protest, but she cut me short with her patented “or else” look. I shuffled obediently to the treadmill.
As I stepped on the machine, I felt as though all eyes in the place were on me. The feeling grew stronger as I stood there looking blankly at the control panel not knowing what to do to start the blasted machine moving. I hated to admit it, but I needed help. I knew better than to interrupt my wife’s workout with such a mundane problem, and I was not about to approach some stranger for help. I looked to the front desk where the young girl stood talking to a co-worker, and briefly thought about dismounting and seeking her assistance. I was not going to do it! I refused to ask a female for help! It was a female who put me in this embarrassing position, and I was not about to ask another female to help get me out of it. Since my wife had successfully gutted my manhood, my defiant resolve was closer to pig-headed than pride, but for the moment it sustained what little dignity I had left.
As I stood helplessly on the treadmill, I feigned interest in the news program on the overhead television. I sensed movement to my left, but I purposefully kept my eyes glued to the television screen. A sweet fragrance drifted from my left, and I heard a voice ask, “Are you ready?” I turned to see a young woman on the treadmill next to me. “Are you ready to start?” she asked. Before I could say NO, she reached over and pushed the “GO” button. The machine lurched to life, forcing me to grab the side rails to keep from falling face-first on the conveyor belt turning under my feet. Laughing, she turned to her friend on the treadmill to her left and said, “Beginner.” I hated her!
From that point, I dared not let go of the machine’s support handles as I sped along at a rousing two miles per hour gait on level terrain. The young woman set her treadmill at a forty-five degree incline and zipped along at seven miles per hour, maybe twenty, never missing a stride or a word with her friend. In the following minutes of exercise hell, those young women introduced me to the ins and outs of an irregular menstrual cycle, and the pros and cons of a “C section.” That was the first time in my life I had ever heard anything other than moans and groans come through the lips of someone exercising. I was in awe!
Since that first experience, I have been back two times, and I am contemplating a third visit soon, but today, since my wife is not home, I am taking a much needed break from physical activity. However, I have to admit that so far, it has not been half as bad as I expected. Despite some soreness, I can still feed myself, and I have yet to need new clothes to outfit by newly sculpted and buffed body. The top of my belly is still a nice place to sit my coffee cup when reclining in my favorite chair and my abs will still house a six pack nicely if I was so inclined. I am not sure what results my wife hopes to see, but so far, I am pleased with my transformation.
The best part of going to the gym though is all the neat little things you learn. I learn something new about the gym lifestyle every time I go. One of the first lessons I learned was that with practice it is easy to stand and slowly move your legs while watching television. I also learned there is no way to turn off those non-flattering mirrors hanging on gym walls! And, did you know it is okay to fart loudly if the people around you have on their headphones? Most people are so busy breathing through their mouths that not only do they not hear it, they don’t smell it either. You cannot imagine the satisfaction that brings me! Another tidbit a newbie to the gym might not know is that it is always wise to cool down and catch your breath before going to the restroom. It is creepy hearing heavy breathing while at the urinal or in a stall. Finally, a lesson I learned that made going to the gym easier was that the gym was not just a place for sculpted people to show off their bodies; actually, fluffy dad and granddad bods are the lifeblood of a gym. In today’s world of Krispy Kreme donuts, large five dollar pizzas, and six pound double burgers, there are not enough pretty people to populate all the gyms, so without us portly folks most gyms would quickly go out of business.
Oh, there is one other thing I have learned about going to the gym – SMILE, if your wife thinks you enjoy working out, it makes life at home easier. Besides, anytime you come out of a gym still breathing that is reason enough to smile and celebrate.
©Jack Linton, PhD January 23, 2016