Gym Rat


I was a studious child who wanted only to be left alone to read and draw. This was not allowed in my family, so I was made to go out on the streets with my athletic cousins to play stickball, punchball and other games playable with small, pink rubber spheres on the Brooklyn streets. I was talentless a these sports. I could neither catch, throw nor hit and was always the next to last one picked for a side. At school, I dreaded gym class. I couldn't do any of the athletic tasks they had there and resented being asked. So far so normal for the typical dough-soft intellectual.

After school, with few spasmodic exceptions, exercise and I never met. One of these was the military: I actually got into great shape in the army, and it took many years as a pastry-eating bureaucrat to ruin that body.

By late middle age I was fifty pounds overweight and I had devastating back pains.well on the road to a Vicodin addiction, I decided to give physical therapy a shot. An attractive young woman made me do things I didn't want to do and after all the sessions my health insurance would pay for, she gave me papers illustrating the exercises I was supposed to do at home. I did not do these. 

The back pain returned. I didn't want to take dope anymore. I found myself avoiding the mirror in the bathroom. And then, for reasons I still can't quite comprehend I decided to start my PT exercise program and start using the stationary bike and the rowing machine I owned that heretofore had been mere objets d'art.  I stopped eating like a fat guy and lost forty pounds, which after five years remains off. The back pain vanished, never to return. One sadness here: if you're fat in middle age, even if you come to weigh what you weighed at 22, you will never look like you looked then, because the expanded flesh doesn't shrink away again; it just sort of hangs there on your belly. I have learned to live with this. 

Then I got a note from my insurance company saying that they would spring for a gym membership. I had once tried a gym, but I went so infrequently that the cost per calories burned was ridiculous. A free gym is somehow different. I love going to a free gym. I bought some sessions with a trainer to learn all the gym stuff I had always disdained, and now I am mildly addicted to violent exercise.

I go to a small, friendly neighborhood gym called Ranier Fitness & Training. I try to go every other day for about 45 minutes. On the days I don't go I put ten miles on the bike or do my old PT core building things. A couple of years into this, I have actual muscles, and a tiny hint of definition, which I didn't think was possible for septuagenarians, but apparently the body responds.  I still look like crap, of course, but somewhat tighter crap.  

Exercising makes you gain weight by slowing your metabolism and making you hungry, so I am now living on a tiny fraction of what I used to eat; plus, muscle weighs more than fat, so actually getting to my 'ideal' weight will have to wait until after I am dead. Meanwhile, I am amazed by how good I feel and, especially, that I don't regard going to the gym as a nuisance. It shows that one can actually change habits late in life, and also that all the boring advice telling you that diet and exercise are the keys to good health turns out to be true. It's never too late. And free!

Also free are my two big weight-loss and get in shape secrets, although I could earn millions by writing a book and being on TV in a leotard. One is when you get out of bed, put on gym clothes and don't take them off until you do the exercises. The other is become even more of a pain in the ass about eating than you already are. Find a menu that works for you and eat nothing else, and it helps if you eat exactly the same meals every day. The point is to get sick of food. Good luck!