I have spent the majority of my life in and out of the gym, meaning, I have worked out (exercised) to some extent since I was in 7th grade. At that age, it was part of the physical education requirement and part in parcel with playing football. I always engaged in lifting weights at age 13 the way most adolescents did – begrudgingly. Most of us weren’t trying to get chiseled abs (yet) or bulging biceps (yet), we did it because the coach made us.
As I got older, I contracted the “vanity bug” and worked out because I noticed that the opposite sex took notice when your arms or pectoral muscles were larger than other dudes. Was this a good reason to work out? No, but it gave me a reason to half-assedly visit the weight room once or twice a week.
I got hooked on the protein shakes because I read somewhere that if you wanted bigger biceps and pecs (which were the only muscles I was remotely interested in growing), you needed to consume as much protein as possible, upwards of 1.5 times your own body weight. So I drank these horrible tasting shakes, thick with chunks of powder that never quite dissolved despite 5 minutes on high in the blender. This gave me the foulest smelling farts you could imagine. Something like roadkill mixed with rotten eggs and the foulest of body odor.
This was a passing fad, though, like most of my exercise regiments, and I would go through periods of months and sometimes years where I would not even get my heart rate raised beyond normal rest. I called this my exercise hibernation and convinced myself that my body needed this time off to recuperate (like I was some overworked athlete).
Fast forward from age 13 to 33, and I still sporadically engage in periods of dedicated work-outs, where I visit the gym and run and lift weights and grunt and sweat. Several things have changed in the twenty years since I caught the “vanity bug" though. To wit;
I am more interested in slimming down than bulking up. In fact, I used to want to put on 20 pounds of muscle. Now I just want to stay at a consistent weight and not get a beer gut, which I see most men my age starting to grow (most of them are also losing hair by this age which is unavoidable).
I am more concerned with the actual health benefits of a healthy lifestyle, which means I focus on eating the right protein, limited transfat, and the other engineered foodstuffs that do little more than make us feel “not hungry”.
I ran my first half marathon a few months ago which required me to run several miles a day and avoid adding body weight that I would have to carry for 13 miles. I started drinking water like it was. . .well, water. We’re talking 2-3 liters a day, I cut out sodas, etc. I cared less about my biceps and my triceps and glutes and pecs, but still would lift weights a few times a month. I finished my first half-marathon under my target time of 2 hours and felt really good about where I was health wise.
But like every other time in my life, I’ve entered another (much needed?) period of hibernation and haven’t seen the inside of a gym in three or four weeks. I haven’t run more than three miles since the 11/15/09 half marathon.
But after watching an episode of MTV’s enlightening (and entertaining) program “Jersey Shore”, I have realized that I need to revisit the vainglorious days of my youth and hit the gym and tanning salons with reckless abandon. I will wail on my underdeveloped pecs and chisel my midsection, and grow my arms. I will learn how to street fight and pump said fists and DJ and dance and drink a lot of alcohol (I think I've got that one under control).
For every ounce of muscle I gain, ten-to twenty IQ points will be deducted from my modest intelligence. I will invest in tubs of hair gel and purchase three or four Ed Hardy t-shirts.
Yes, I can feel it now. The beast is waking from its slumber. . .
- Exercise (the demons)