“Excuse me,” I said to the lithe twenty-something after she uncoiled out of her improbable yoga pose.
“Yes?” the girl said, her creep detection radar blasting enough wattage to boil my blood away.
“Are you using this box for your workout?”
“Oh, no I’m not. Sorry.” After removing her keys, phone, earbuds, towel, water bottle, and workout gloves she said, “It’s all yours.”
“Thanks,” I said, picking it up. “Take care.”
Marching to the other end of the gym I set the box, which was about three feet high, on the floor and launched into my routine; prison squats, walking lunges and then I jumped onto the box ten times. One minute breather. Repeat. After four sets I was sweating bullets.
After a long hiatus from physical fitness I’ve returned to the gym. When I started two months ago I could barely go twenty minutes on the elliptical machine. Now I’m doing some plyometrics, HIIT training and throwing the iron around. My wife tells me my clothes are fitting better and my blood pressure’s dropped – but I’ve got a long way to go.
Walking to the squat rack, I put 130 pounds on the 45 pound bar, slipped under it, set up my feet and did twelve reps. Racking the bar, I stepped back and shook my head. When I was forty I could do so much more
“Ah, question.” I heard a voice say behind me.
Turning around, I saw the voice belonged to a well-muscled twentyish male with 3% body fat. He had headphones in his ears and was busy texting furiously.
Letting my oxygen levels return to normal, I just looked at the guy. When he realized he wasn’t getting a response, he looked up.
“Yes?” I said,
“How long are you going to be?” he said, looking kind of offended.
“Ah,” I said, “Five sets at least.”
Returning to his gizmo, he said, “I’ll wait.”
Watching as Nature Boy made a big show of dropping his gym bag and gallon jug of Gatorade next to the rack, I could read the expression on his face. Hurry up old man.
Oh well. When I was his age I probably thought the same thing about the geezers at my old gym. Sliding back under the bar, I banged out ten reps. Then I walked over to water fountain by the reception desk to refill my water bottle. When I returned the guy shot me a look. Ignoring him, I figured my rest period had elapsed and banged out ten more reps. This time it was much harder. After a few more sets I was finished. Time for deadlifts. Joy.
“You want me to strip the bar?” I asked Nature Boy.
“No thanks,” he said, waving me away. Let someone in real shape workout.
Moving over to the deadlift area, I put the same amount I squatted onto the bar and got going. Next to me, a chiseled girl barely out of her teenage years was performing the same exercise with more weight. “Jesus Christ,” I thought to myself. Somehow, I managed to keep my ego in check and resisted the urge to put more weight on. Focus on form. Work the muscle. Don’t get hurt.
After my second set I looked over at Nature Boy. He had turned the squat rack into a personal circus and was performing some kind of super set – pullups, squats, shoulder presses, hanging knee raises and pushups while barely breaking a sweat. That kind of shit would kill me. After finishing my sad deadlifts I walked over to the leg press machine and loaded three plates on each side. 270 pounds. When I was younger I’d load the sled to capacity. Done with my leg torture, I went over the Air Dyne bike and did twenty minutes of interval training – going all out for thirty seconds and then chilling for one minute. When I was done I was sucking wind. They don’t call it Satan’s Tricycle for nothing.
Guzzling water, I looked at the hardbodies around me singing the body electric. There was a time in my life when I thought “physical culture” people were superficial and narcissistic. When I told a friend this, he pointed to my gut and said, “You could do with a little narcissism yourself.”
After Buster died I packed on weight. Eating has always been a way to soothe myself. But once the scale registered an all-time high, I realized the damage I was inflicting on my body. My blood pressure was creeping up, my back hurt, my knees ached, I was having foot problems and my energy level was in the toilet. And, when you hit fifty, you become very aware of people in their seventies. You start comparing the healthy ones to the rickety heaps in wheelchairs. I understand some people have no control over the afflictions they get in old age but, as my doctor said during my annual physical, how you fare in seventies depends in large part on what you do in your forties and fifties. “Sustainable lifestyle changes,” the doctor said, “Turn it around while you still have time.” I don’t want to be a broken down old man.
Now, when I see people like Nature Boy or the deadlifting teenager, I don’t get aggravated. I understand part of their physical prowess and attractiveness is due in large part to their youth. But there are people my age and older who come to this gym and look amazing. They’re working with what they’ve got. And when you factor in work, school and child care schedules, finding time for a workout needs commitment. Now, no matter what their age, when I see someone with a nice body I admire the hard work they’ve put into it. It took me a while to realize this, but my antipathy towards the fitness class was because I was angry at myself. As Whitman wrote, “Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves?” And, as a younger but much wiser kid once told me, “Looking good is just a by-product of taking care of yourself.”
But let’s face it, eye candy is part and parcel of the gym experience. It can be a motivator. Sometimes being “surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough.” Besides, it’s much easier to go an extra fifteen minutes on the treadmill when the girl jogging in front of you has a world class derriere. Oink? Perhaps. But, with all due respect to the wise kid, I’m not just sweating and grunting in this gym for my health. I also want the girl on the treadmill behind me to be admiring my ass. Not bad for an old guy. Move over George Clooney.
Time to stop concealing myself.
I’ve been wondering why my blood pressure’s been on the high side, and despite getting my Apple Watch to congratulate me nearly every day for hitting my 30-minute exercise goal by walking the dogs, I probably need to face facts and get back to some more real exercise. After all, that’s why I made the insurance company buy me this nice new exercise bike! I’ve used it several times, but need to use it at least a couple times a week. Thanks for the poke, Steve!
What is this garbage? I was looking for amusing stories about SERVING and being a server plus all the hilarious stories to share frustration. Now it has zero to do with that and health and wellness stories. Good for you but start a health blog!!! This is for Waiters!
I stopped waiting tables in 2008 after my book Waiter Rant was published. You can find plenty of servers’ stories in there or explore the dynamics of tippping in my followup book, Keep The Change. Available at fine booksellers everywhere.
If you explore the archives from 2004- 2009, there’s lots of waiter stories as well.
Nowdays, I just write what I enjoy writing about – or when I have something on my mind. I’ve been very fortunate to have faithful readers who’ve been with me for the entire 15 years!
Amen to that!
Wow, people get so upset over trivial things. I’ve enjoyed your page immensely from the time I started reading it and when I have down time, I always come back and am pleasantly surprised at the new content. You live your life sir! I for one, enjoy all the new stories about your life’s progression. Anyone else can (as my grandmother would say) go cack!
“How dare you not offer me the FREE entertainment that I deserve! How dare you write on YOUR blog about things that interest YOU! Don’t you know I am forced to stay and read what… what? I am not forced to stay? What do you mean I can browse any of the 1.305.572.929 unique other sites? No, YOU should give me what I want!”
Sarcasm aside, wow… that guy sounds exactly like one of your worst customers, Steve. Arrogant, entitled, all around bossy.
I have a slightly different view. I’m more impressed with the people at my gym who, like me, are probably never going to be either Nature Boy nor the old guy with the nice ass.
I’m impressed with the people who aren’t in shape yet, and who may never be in great shape, but who are out there every week putting in the work, doing the best they can. Some of them have lives filled with unimaginable stressors that rob them of time and sleep. Some of them may have a lifetime of injuries that leave their spine or their joints on fire when they overdo it. Some of them just have a hard time with moderation in various areas in their lives.
Working out will never come easy to some of us, and some of us will *never* be the old guy with nice ass or the woman you want to watch on the treadmill. Some of us will never be the older people who “look amazing.” But we’re out there every day or every week, putting in the work, just trying to be better tomorrow than we are today, all the while knowing that the vicissitudes of life and metabolism mean that we may never reap the reward of anyone else’s admiration.
If you ask me (and I realize that you didn’t) that kind of perseverance is pretty damn admirable all by itself.
When I was 15, I started training gymnastics (as a hobby), later I moved to parkour. I was never able to lift much in the gym, but I was agile as a cat, completely in control of my body. One elbow injury, and five programming years later, I can barely turn my head without pain in the neck and back. I’ve never trained for the looks, and no one should. Finding a purpose on why you train is what motivates you. For me, it’s that cat feeling I’ve had long ago.
Amazing!! Keep sharing 🙂
Good for you. And you know, it’s not just for you that you work out.
I’ve been out of the gym for some time. I’m 63 and holding together, but I’ve got to get back there. I sleep better when I lift, and lately I don’t sleep so well. Okay, I do 60 push-ups a day and climb a hill or two — that latter part comes with my job — but I’ve got the long haul to think about, and not just for me. I’m the younger in my marriage — by nine years. And my wife has has physical mobility problems and other issues. She’s independent, but not in all ways. I’ve got to stay strong for her; I’ve got to be there for her as long as she lives. I’m never going to be ask strong as those kids again, but I’ve got to be strong enough. I worry about this.
That said, everything’s relative. I saw an 80-something-year-old woman do a dumbbell deadlift with a a sixty-pound weight. She weighed maybe 120. I have massive respect for her; more massive than any of those muscle-bulging, strong-sinewed youth.