By Don Rizzo
Okay people… the holidays and the excuses are over. It’s January. Time to shed the blubber and flex the flab. Lurking inside you, just a pushup away from revealing itself to the world, is a buff, sculpted, Greek statue-like body. Okay, okay, so maybe being able to see your shoe tops without bending over is your ultimate fitness fantasy. Gotta start somewhere.
With those thoughts in mind, I resolutely headed for the gym the first week into the New Year. After all, what could be so difficult about doing a few jumping jacks, pumping a little iron, and miraculously returning my body. to its 18-year-old perfection?
Found the place. Things are going well. I burst through the door with a manly swagger. O! M! G!
An entire continent of torture devices confronted me, disappearing off into the distance as far as the eye could see. Was this a gym or an interrogation nightmare from the KGB? Trapezes, hanging bars, monster bar bells, bizarre machines with enough handles and levers to send a commercial. pilot into a tailspin.
I pivoted quickly, trying to do a 180 out of there.
“Hi, and welcome to the gym!” Apparently, an iron vice had grabbed me by the shoulder. Unable to shake it off and bolt to the door, I turned and was confronted by a twenty-something bundle of wiry muscle. Too embarrassing to run now. Besides, no way could I loosen his grip.
“Hi,” I muttered weakly. I felt like Mr. Magoo in a face-off with Michelangelo’s David.
After a spirited sales pitch I was intimidated into signing up. “Let’s get right at it,” Adonis says, his eyes glinting like a psychopath sizing up his next victim.
But guess what? Turns out he is a pretty gentle guy. Respectful of my aging, mushy body. Patient. Nice. And he had some wonderful little pain inducers I had never thought of. For example, holding all your weight up on one elbow as you rest on your side. How easy is that? Give it a try. In 15 seconds your whole body is vibrating. Good for “the core” he says. Turns out the guy is obsessed with “the core.” I didn’t even know I had a core. Turns out an apple has nothing on me.
So, anyway, I recommend using a trainer to get you over the “I despise every minute of this” hurdle. If you sign up for five or ten sessions, then you have a commitment. You either show up for your session or admit that you’re a pathetic loser who can’t take it. I don’t know about the ladies, but that logic works for most men.
A few sessions went by, and I was actually getting more comfy about the whole thing. If nothing else, I could strut around feeling superior to those undisciplined beer bellies in the outside world who didn’t have my iron will and rapidly firming abs.
The only other adjustment problem that plagued me centers on the clientele at the gym. Categories seem to emerge. Most noticeable are the iron-bodied twenty-somethings; guys in Stanley Kowalski muscle shirts with rippling biceps and an in-your-face strut; the women in skintight body outfits that are totally distracting. At the other end of the spectrum are the chubbies—panting men and women in baggy warm-ups looking totally lost. You usually see them once or twice and they disappear. That’s because they either graduate to another group—or they opt out.
I religiously avoid eye contact with the extreme groups. I’m in the middle group. Middle-aged to advanced age, looking to stay in some kind of reasonable shape, recognizing we’re never going to be a rippling pile of percolating protein. We slink in, do our thing unobtrusively, and slide back into the world of the anonymous milling about the malls. But, believe it or not, two good things have resulted for me. I have actually reached the point where I enjoy my workouts—and they make me feel really good mentally and physically. Great result for a small sacrifice. As I read somewhere there are positive addictions and negative addictions. Positive addictions feel terrible while you’re doing them and have a great result. Negative addictions feel great while you’re doing them and have a terrible result. Take your choice.
Don Rizzo is a Roswell resident who wasted promising career possibilities, opting to spend his time cranking out press releases and inane advertising copy. He is continuing that trajectory in retirement—he now keeps busy playing mediocre golf and hiding in his man-cave to avoid vacuuming and yard work.
Don’s book, Confessions of a Grumpy Old Man—How to make a mess of your life in 80 short years is available at Blurb, and Amazon. It’s a great read. —Ed.