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Adventures in Pain (part 1) (repost)

Published September 10, 2011 - 2 Comments
[Originally posted Sep 11, 2008]

Few people probably remember (or have even read) an email that I sent out years ago, regarding my initial attempt at physical fitness enlightenment… aka my first gym membership. After years of extensive therapy, I thought that I had pushed those memories to the far reaches of my mind, never to be drudged up again… until, that is, a friend of mine wanted to let me know that he’d kept every email of interest since the dawn of time, that was sent from any of my various accounts. Well now.. wasn’t THAT a shocker! I read through some of those stories. I laughed. I cried. OK, maybe I just cringed. But there was one in particular that caught my eye. A tale of a wayward young man, who wandered haphazardly into a dungeon disguised under the pretense of a “fitness centre” .. or a “gym” for the common-folk. So horrible was this initial adventure that it was doomed to conclude on a sour note. No, there would be no happy ending. No princess to save. No pot of gold. Only an unlovely lass, named Helga… and her three troll sisters.

Fast forward many moons, and several added pounds, to present day. The world is a different place. The troll sisters no longer wander the lands, in search of desperate men to run through their “circuit training” trials, only to feast on their exhausted souls. No. Today, the world is a safer place. A kinder, gentler fitness centre exists. A place of serenity and …

Oh what am I smoking??

It’s hell! Pure hell, I tell you!

Today was Day #2 of Operation Tummy Tuck. I awoke at an appropriate time, and went straight to the gym. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Do not stop for an Egg McMuffin. Upon arrival I strode, with confidence oozing from every step, to the front desk and flashed my member’s pass code.


Identity validated. Authorization granted. Have an incredible workout, Agent Steve.

I looked at the woman behind the desk. No one I recognized.

“Could I have a towel, please?”

I was a pro.

She checked the computer to make sure that I was a member of the Golden Towel Club. Oh yes. For the low low rate of $100/year, I could have as many towels as I could handle. I could wrap myself in towels and streak through the premises. Atleast until Security arrived. Yes, this towel had officially cost me $50 by this point, and I would enjoy its soft touch immensely.

As I proceeded to the changing room, I noticed that the sweet young lady who had laughed so easily during my registration process (was she laughing with me, or at me? Hmmm..) was at her desk in a side office. I stopped in to say hello, and reminded her to have my emergency contact information handy. You can never be too prepared. Which reminds me, I should probably get that updated. I used my (ex) wife as my emergency contact. But she’s still the beneficiary of my life insurance policy. Hmmm… is that wise? What are the chances that she will get mysteriously cut-off when that fateful call comes that the hospital requires her immediate approval to perform some life-saving procedure? Maybe I should just have said “911” for my emergency contact number. Something to think about.

I told her that I hoped that she was happy. Thanks to their ridiculous rules, I had been forced to throw out all my belly shirts. The image was too much for her. She laughed, and wished me luck. I’m surprised that she didn’t remind me of the “zero liability” clause that I signed upon registration, but it no doubt went through her mind”.

I wanted to start slow. The treadmill would be a perfect warm up. I set my iPod to play the latest download of TWiT. (If you don’t know what that is, congratulations. You’re not a geek. If you DO know.. well, I’m sorry). I DO have a gym-playlist with some upbeat tracks to motivate me, but today I wanted to get caught up on the tech-babble. I entered the information into the treadmill computer. Program? Manual. Weight? 210. Well.. on a good day. Begin.

And you know what? I’m not as completely out of shape as I thought that I might be. Oh, don’t get me wrong! I’m not going to be appearing in any fireman calendars any time soon! But I was actually able to hold my own on that treadmill. Well… atleast until it started to move. No, seriously.. I did a 10 minute warm-up walk, gradually increasing the speed until I was forced to jog along at a pace normally reserved for retired greyhounds. (there’s your plug, Mum!) Then I settled in nicely, and let the good times roll.

Oh yes. I’m sure that the image of me huffing and puffing on that treadmill was a sight to behold.

After 20 mins, I did a nice proper cool down and stumbled awkwardly around the gym, trying to catch my breath. Would that emergency contact information be required? Was that darkness surrounding me? No, I’d live to fight another day. Time to shower, and leave.

But wait! Today is a day off. There’s nothing for me to do. Why run off so quickly? Surely the sculpted bodies that I see around me were not formed in “20 Minute Workouts”. I looked upon rows of unfamiliar machines. What device could I master next? And then I saw it. A row of elliptical machines, staring back at me defiantly. (Are they still called elliptical machines if the have don’t have the arms that move back and forth? I tried them once upon a time, and discovered that I am horribly uncoordinated, and it’s amazing that I can walk upright at all. Never again. I’ll stick to their little brother, with stationary arms)

I mounted the beast and started to pedal, push my feet forward, whatever they call it on those things. I opted to start with a nice simple forest-walk. I’m not sure what mythical forest they base their programming on, but I quickly dropped back to a flat, desert-like, walk before my legs fell off. The program is set to go for 20 mins. At 5 mins, I noticed that my natural “glistening” was now a full out “sweating like a pig”. At 10 mins, I noticed that sweat was literally dripping from my arms, and making tiny splashes on the equipment. At 15 mins, I began to pray for a swift end, and decided that the next 5 mins of my life would be better spent elsewhere. That was it. I stopped. I quit. Up went the white flag. Surrender. And, as if to mock me, the machine flashed my progress bar repeatedly. 162 calories burnt. WHAT?? That’s what… half a piece of bread? What about the puddles of sweat? They’re worth more than that! If the elliptical machine was capable of laughing, I have no doubt that it would have sounded very much like the wicked witch… or maybe the flying monkeys.

After an uneventful shower (now, who would expect otherwise?) and the realization that I had once again forgotten to pack a pair of clean socks (when am I going to learn?), I left the changing room, and limped toward the exit. I made a last minute decision to stop at the office again, planning something witty, charming, or just downright dumb, to say.

And much to my dismay, a rock-hard, chiseled-bodied, young man sat there, talking with the woman I had intended to charm. In an instant, I envisioned him bench pressing me, before throwing me through a wall, and then it hit me… what the hell was I thinking? She works in here all day, surrounded by these perfect specimens of manhood. What was I going to offer her? A cheeseburger? C’mon. Get with the program. I crumpled my pride, and threw it in the garbage as I continued to limp toward the door.

As I exited the building, I looked up at the beautiful blue sky, and started to talk to the clouds. I’m sure that anyone within earshot probably thought I was crazy. Who argues with clouds? OK, I do.

I got into my car, put U2’s Joshua Tree in the CD player, and called it quits for the day.