In Shape

Bowflex, for whatever reason, advertised their home workout machine on Nickelodeon and thus imprinted itself on my childhood. I think it looks more like the torture machine from 'The Princess Bride', don't you?

Two thirds of my beefy roommates made it their New Year’s Resolution to get in shape this year, primarily by doing the mega-intense P90X workout routine, which, over the course of 90 days of rigorous calisthenics, weight training, yoga, and sweatbands, promises to turn even a contemporary Alec Baldwin into an Alec Baldwin circa 1992.

As a result of this, I will routinely wake up in the morning to the sound of fat men grunting and jumping around in my living room, accompanied by the shouted encouragement of the buff trainer in the video du jour. If I walk out of my room at just the right time, I can look down the hall and see my roommates’ asses rising and falling in time with the video’s royalty-free synth pop music as they do push ups.

It’s moments like these that we remember forever.

My approach to exercise has always been that I’ll start doing it when I need to do it – namely, when I start gaining weight. The idea, then, is to keep myself from gaining weight by trying to get a good walk in every once in a while, or maybe taking the stairs in the journalism school instead of using the elevator (which is primarily intended for handicapped students anyway, lucky bastards). As much as I hate undergoing physical activity, I know that it’s in the interests of avoiding future physical activity, so I cowboy up and do it.

Around New Year’s, I started to toy with the idea of getting ‘in shape’ in 2011. Of course, I’ve already got a shape – sort of a circle on top of a rectangle on top of two narrower rectangles – but I realized that it probably couldn’t hurt me to get into a more flattering shape. Maybe my torso could be more like a triangle, and my rectangle legs could be somehow meatier (in a good way).

And when better than now, after all? As a University of Oregon student I get free access to the Rec Center with all its exercise equipment and locker rooms and everything else that goes along with physical fitness. In four years the only time I’ve gone to the Rec Center was to drop something off with one of my friends who worked there.

The entire time I was in the building I felt the same sort of uncomfortable exclusion as I do whenever I’m in a church. At a church or a gym, everybody is reaffirming their faith, be it in God or their body. The only difference is that there are far more people I’d want to see naked in a gym than in a church.

And to me, that’s a difficult world to break into – not necessarily the world of spending time with people you’d want to see naked, although that is difficult, but the Cliff Bar eating, brightly colored Spandex wearing world of the gym.

I can imagine myself going to the Rec Center for the first time – walking in and awkwardly looking for a weight machine like the new kid looking for a table in the cafeteria. All eyes would be on me - Check out the new guy! - as I sat down at a sweatstained but unoccupied machine and started lifting whatever pitiful amount of weight I could manage.

And then, after a few minutes, some beefcake type in a Trailblazers workout shirt would come over, pull out one of his ear buds (in my nightmares he’s always listening to Kanye West, the international music of the douches) and say, ‘Hey, buddy, you’re actually doing that wrong.’

He would proceed, in such a goddamn friendly way, to show me the proper way to work out, pat me on the back, and stride off into the daylight as I wallowed in the contempt and pity of the rest of the gym.

The point is, I feel as though going to the gym is the recipe for a huge Classic Truman Capps Moment, and I’m trying as hard as I can to avoid those. Unsuccessfully.

In lieu of subjecting myself to that kind of embarrassment, I’ve resolved to start eating better for now, and then, once I get to California this summer, get a gym membership and start swimming regularly.*

*I picked swimming both because it supposedly exercises every part of your body at once, which is good for me because I’m lazy, and more importantly because Don Draper started doing it on Mad Men and it’s arguably the only thing he does that’s good for your health.

Because, you see, Los Angeles is basically one huge gym. Everyone works out. At work this summer, people asked me what gym I went to in the same way that regular people ask each other what their favorite color is. Also, it’s probably good networking, and it however marginally increases the chance that I’ll bump into Christina Hendricks. Because like all major celebrities, Christina Hendricks works out at a 24 Hour Fitness in North Hollywood.

I don’t know why I feel as though I’d be any safer from the helpful gym douchebags in Los Angeles – a city renowned worldwide for its vain douchebag population – than I would be in Eugene. Maybe it’s because in LA, I’d have the anonymity of the big city to protect me.

If somebody came up and publicly displayed my ignorance of fitness to the entire gym, I could just cancel my membership there and start anew elsewhere. I like to think I’d pick up all the essentials before I ran out of gyms in the San Fernando Valley.

What’s more likely is that working out in six months seems like a comfortable and friendly idea because it’s six months away. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it, six months from now. In the meantime, I’m walking the two miles to and from my house several times a week and I haven’t had a Philly Cheeseteak in God knows how long.

Which, I suppose, puts me ahead of the entire State of Texas. So there’s that.

Truman Capps comprehends that to truly get into shape, you have to both exercise AND eat right, but he refuses to acknowledge this fact.