Growing up, I was always a pretty active kid. That may be in large part due to the fact that riding your bike and climbing trees and shit was pretty much all that was going down vis-a-vis entertainment at that time as I was born in the 70's and concepts such as cell phones, expanded cable, and the internet were as futuristic as anything I saw on 'Buck Rogers' each Friday night.*
*I still "heart" you, Gil Gerard.
By the time I got to junior high and high school everyone was getting into the whole team sport/athletic/circle jerk thing and while I was nothing if not
a whore for attention athletically-minded, I did not see how slogging through the mud on some shitty soccer field or pounding down a basketball court sweating like David Duke at a Black Panthers rally in pursuit of fitness was worth the price of frizzy hair and unflattering uniforms. I know, I know, team sports build character and forge friendships and, blah, blah, blah. . . but even at a tender age I was about as socially active as an agoraphobe at a Hands Across America rally and the only esprit d'corps I was interested in was sold at the Valley River mall.
I actually owned this dress. Judge not, lest ye be judged.
But while I would have been content to spend my days in my room listening to Rick Springfield and imagining him holding me "in his arms late, late at night" while I drank Tab and snacked on Smurfberry Crunch, my parents were
delusional concerned enough to believe that social interaction and physical activity might be a more productive choice. So, I was forced to choose a sport of some ilk. As I was a princess from my larval stage, I of course chose the "pretty" sports of gymnastics and dance which segued swimmingly into a rather lengthy career as a cheerleader.
Our mascot was the Axemen. As in large, shifty-eyed men with axes. I feel this speaks well to my latent homocidal tendencies
I think my father was a bit dismayed to not have a child he could cheer on from the bleachers but in truth I know my mother was actually quite relieved as she enjoys being outside about as much as Howie Mandel enjoys a full-body massage.*
*My mother can't even watch "Survivor" without throwing up in her mouth a little. If I'd forced her to crouch down in a duck blind with the rain pissing all over her while watching me go all Tonya Harding on some chick with a lacrosse stick she would have killed me in my sleep.
Although I know my mom would have supported me whole-heartedly regardless of my choices regarding athleticism, I also know that if given the option she would choose watching her daughter perform a flawless side aerial in a flippy skirt and sparkly Bonne Belle lip gloss over scraping mud and dog shit off of sweaty shin guards any day. I feel like I did her a solid.
Now that I am technically an adult, I continue to find myself struggling to find my niche in the world of fitness. While I would love to prance before throngs of people with my glossy ponytail bouncing in tempo with my gravity-defying straddle jumps, sadly there is very little call for 42-year-old cheerleaders whose joints pop like an M-18 in a North Portland parking lot every time they bend over. And as I apparently still have the social skills of Boo Radley on NyQuil, team sports are out; so rather than exercise any restraint over the myriad lifestyle choices that have me careening headlong into a lifetime of Type 2 Diabetes, I am forced to exercise at the gym.
Usually when I work out, I confine myself to the cardio area where I can plug in my earbuds and treadmill/elliptical/stairclimb in relative solitude.*
*Of course, 90% of the time I'm not actually listening to music; I just wear earbuds so people won't speak to me. I'm an asshole.
But lately, my usual cardio routine hasn't been enough. Don't get me wrong, for the first time in my life I'm not trying to lose weight; I've grown to love the fact that I'm more of a Scarlett Johansson than a Cameron Diaz and I have every intention of keeping the curves that God (and Dr. Timothy Connall)* gave me.
*A.k.a. the man who delivered my second set of "twins". The man is an artist. Me love you long time, Dr. C.
That being said, I am sadly at the age where I no longer put on lean muscle overnight and have begun to notice that my upper arms continue to wave goodbye long after I have ceased to do so. My friend Kelly is my go-to gal for all things fitness related but I was loathe to ask her advice as I knew exactly what she was going to tell me. You see, I am of a firm belief that all unfortunate realities will simply disappear if you ignore them long enough, and this situation was no different. But eventually the day came when I caught sight of my ass in the dressing room at H&M and noticed it was going down faster than a Kardashian at the Essence Awards and I knew I could avoid it no longer. It was time to start. . .((shudder)). . . weight training.
For me, weight training involves everything in life I despise: physical exertion, lingering pain, and touching things that have come in contact with more DNA than an episode of CSI: Miami. But I put those angsty feelings aside and allowed Kelly to run me through a circuit of resistance exercises at her local health club.*
*One would think that I would learn from prior athletic endeavors with Kelly (see here and here). One would be sadly mistaken. Apparently I'm not that bright.
When I walked into the weight room it was obvious that I stood out worse than Heidi Klum in downtown Bejing. Within seconds I found myself surrounded by freakishly muscular men wearing skin-tight sleeveless tees, thick leather weight belts, and enough Axe body spray to choke a Ukrainian whore. There was no possible way this was going to end well.
After determining that I had the upper-body strength of a toddler with M.S., Kelly decided to start me out on some light free weights. We made our way toward the weight rack and were instantly confronted with a wall of grunting man flesh blocking access like a chunk of fecal matter in the gym's sigmoid colon. I get it, you're interval training and you need to keep that ol' heart rate up but for the love of Jillian Michaels you probably won't drop out of your target heart rate of you drag your sweaty ass about three feet to the left so someone else can get in a rep or two. After waiting the better part of an hour behind some troglodyte while he pondered the contents of the weight rack like he was Meryl Streep deciding which kid to send up the river in "Sophie's Choice" we admitted defeat and headed over to the stationary equipment.
First of all let me simply state that the myriad sanitizing stations places strategically around the room were apparently a mere suggestion as the last time I witnessed so many bodily fluids on display there was a money shot involved. Rather than risk contracting the syph from the leg extension machine, I rubbed it down like a ten-dollar whore and got down to business. Not five reps went by before a rather large man bearing more than a passing resemblance to Fabio asked if he could "work in".*
*Basically, if he could power out a few reps before I continued. As I am both a giver and a lazy son of a bitch, I willingly accommodated him.
Unfortunately, unoccupied equipment was not to be found. Every last machine was taken by at least two men; one actively lifting and the other one hunched over him, grabbing at sundry body parts and grunting encouragement. It was like watching a German "alle Schwanze" snuff film; both repugnant, and yet oddly compelling. After about twenty minutes of this I gave up and returned to the solitude of my treadmill. I may never have arms like Courteney Cox, but if I can't wrestle a zombie to the ground during the Apocolypse, at least I can outrun him.
Feel the burn.