800 Pounds of Trouble

I've never been good at sports. I was always winded when running, and always had a stitch in my side which coaches told me to “be a man” and ignore. When I was 25 a birth defect was discovered in my intestines which required surgery, and I've since wondered if those childhood pangs were early warning signs. I'm a couch potato at heart and lazy to the core, so I would always give in and collapse on the field rather than push myself. I actually failed gym in sixth grade and spent a good portion of seventh grade in a special ed class which included a girl with MS, a kid with Tourette's, a kid who was extremely violent, and another who was there because his only language was Spanish. Seinfeld had some great stand-up material regarding what it was like to leave a civilized classroom setting and suddenly be in The Lord of the Flies, and going from advanced academic classes to that gym class was definitely an exaggerated illustration of that situation. I guess someone had to be ”Piggy” though.

I was fortunate to have two friends on my block a few years younger than me who would push me to get away from my NES as often as possible and actually play basketball or football or baseball with them. I was terrible and often the object of jokes, but still was grateful to be included on some weird masochistic level. By the time I reached college they tired of me as is the natural progression of any long-term friendship, and eventually stopped inviting me to join them. Thus were the beginnings of my current Costanzian physique. My metabolism hadn't quite slowed down that much though, and one summer job even saw me slim down to a record 150 pounds. 30-40 pounds and nearly a decade later, I can't help but be nostalgic for those days. I lead a sedentary lifestyle. I sit in front of a computer for eight or more hours at work, then come home and put in more time in front of the television or my own computer. I play in several bands on weekends during the warmer months of the year, so I at least get in some walking. Fortunately, nearly two years ago when our company added a gym facility, my friends Rey and Susan convinced me to join with them. In addition to being lazy I'm oddly stubborn, so it took quite a bit of force to move this immovable object. It helped that I wasn't really liking what I was seeing in the mirror, and so I was convinced.

It's great to have the gym downstairs. It's easy at the end of the day to make a slight detour instead of hastening to the parking lot, and convenient enough for me to fight my laziness. The first year I was a member I was persuaded by my friend Harry, who's extremely athletic and a frequent marathon runner, to enter a competition the gym was holding. I was leery given my past history with sports and competition, but decided to go against my old instincts. The progress of teams of two was measured metaphorically in floors. Running a half hour on a treadmill would earn a floor. Lifting weights was worth a floor. Taking a class was worth a floor. The object was to be the first team to climb the equivalent of the Empire State Building and not only did we make it, but we actually won and got three months free membership out of it. The rumors of the spoils that athletic victors would receive were greatly exaggerated, and our victory was received with either anger or mockery for taking the game so seriously by the other players. I didn't care; it was a personal victory. I had actually WON something athletic, and in the course of the competition had even ran in a three-and-a-half mile race, finishing in just over half an hour. It wasn't a very impressive time compared to the other participants', but given the twelve minute wheezing mile I used to run in high school, it was definitely another personal victory.

Harry's convinced me to join forces in yet another competition which uses a football field as a metaphor for progress, and though my gym performance has waned over the last few months due to some health problems, “Fitball” has been enough incentive to get me back into a good routine. Earlier tonight I met with a personal trainer and learned some new exercises for my arms and my abdomen. My abs are definitely my weakest point and as she tossed a basketball at me while I did crunches, I definitely felt it. It'd be nice if all it took to get in shape was to cue a musical montage of accelerated scenes fastforwarding my progress like in Rocky. The way my brain is wired, I'm definitely going to look back on my progress and remember it that way. Until then, I'll just keep pushing myself, one day at a time.


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