Pumping Iron Redux

The plan was simply to age gracefully.

Pick up some grey in the beard, cement the paunch, get some laugh lines and join a rec league softball team. Drink less beer and more Scotch, eat earlier and get to bed at a Christian time. Find the right lady, sock away a couple of bucks for a rainy day and get a decent dog/truck/lawn mower. Go fishing regularly and write a book or two. Become an elder statesman for the other bartenders and watch less television.

Get old with a smile on my face. Try and put a couple extra rings into my tree trunk and enjoy both looking forward as well as back.

But to do that, I needed to address my health. Dying at 43 from a massive stroke or heart attack is an unacceptable death whereas being mauled by a bear or drowning rescuing nuns and puppies from a bus landing in a river was a hero’s death. I don’t worry about my own mortality, I am much too vain for that. I’m much more concerned with picking up some sort of terminal disease that my lady friend uses against me in my hospice bed.

In order to avoid the constant nagging of why I developed gout and the doctors have to amputate my leg, I decided to join a gym. Back to 24-Hour Fitness in Sugarhouse. Now for those not familiar with this gym, it is a big corporate facility next to a liquor store and a city park that people like to drink said liquor. Looking out the big windows facing the park, you can see folks share a bottle of rotgut while I am trying to run on a treadmill.

That’s what I call motivation.

I started back up in earnest last week but today I had my first personal training session. I met with a young lady named Jessi who has too much energy for me or a chipmunk on speed. She is a yoga instructor turned personal trainer so that means she’s fitter than you and me. Guarantee it. We talked about my fitness goals and I mouth breathed an answer about not wanting to keel over from a massive coronary in December.

I’ve never looked good with my shirt off but what 40 year old is taking off his shirt outside of the shower or bedroom? But I do have a fantasy that I get a second job working as a nude model for an art class. After the students sketch and draw my curvy, Ruben-esque body for an hour, I take my robe and throw it over my shoulder not even bothering to secure the front. As the students collect their drawing utensils, I look at them with my hairy gut and say, “You’re welcome.”

Jessi had other plans. Her game plan was to have me do a bunch of exercises using equipment reserved for gymnasts and bondage aficionados. We went to a heavily mirrored portion of the gym that could show off my butt crack in 360-degrees as she strapped me into a couple of long ropes. As she effortlessly showed how to do a pushup like a Chinese acrobat, I nearly fell on my face. She demonstrated how to do a rowing motion and I merely paddled my little dingy. We did some crunches and things called dips which made me hungry.

Working out is hard.

What I was surprised by was her emphasis on stretching. I’ve always considered stretching to be reserved for Europeans and drug offenders but she was adamant that we needed to stretch out the knots in my body that put tension in my body. I told her that I needed this tension at all times to be both witty and ready for bear attacks. She didn’t laugh. Laying on the ground, I contorted my body into a pretzel and slide across a piece of foam rubber, Spanish Inquisition style. After digging into my muscles, I confessed to every sin and begged for a quick death but Jessi wouldn’t relent. She insisted that we get those knots out.

Back and forth, every motion a study in torture. I always wonder how I would hold up during an interrogation and the reality is that I would collapse like a house of cards. I have little to no pain tolerance unless said pain is directly attributed to eating hot wings.

However, somewhere through it all, I could feel better. Having a body riddled with pain is not a way to age gracefully. It’s a sucker’s path. I don’t think she is going to be able to eliminate my gut but maybe make it easier for me to walk to the pizza parlor for deep dish and beers. Maybe with a little better conditioning, I can polish off the bottle of Scotch and be able to go fishing with a little less pain. I saw the benefits of what Jessi was teaching in that I would have more energy to destroy my body later.

That’s my sort of motivation.

I used to write a blog called the Tomato Can Chronicles. It was a daily diary about working out at a boxing gym. I would post my weight, what I did during the class and a couple of observations. Well, I am not going to be doing that mostly because there aren’t enough numbers on the computer to enter my weight. But I do like the idea of sharing workout experiences.

I didn’t hire Jessi but I would recommend her to anyone looking to start a strong workout regime. I am going to continue going back to the gym, do some cardio and lift some weights. I don’t want to look good with my shirt off but I would like to have those old man forearms. I guess I’ll be doing a lot of forearm work.

Ben Raskin bartends at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. Check out the podcast, TribSports Radio, on iTunes. He’s a lot of man to love.

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