Something I wrote for a newspaper, for their Sunday magazine specifically. The published version is available online.
I wake up one morning to find that I’m having trouble getting into my jeans. I think the pants have shrunk somehow but the weighing machine disagrees, as does my double chin, so I decide on getting into shape. I go to the store that evening and buy some fitness tapes. I settle down with popcorn and watch them for hours every day, but in a week I end up gaining three pounds.
My physician recommends a more active approach, like getting on a treadmill, so I do. I’ve been on escalators and walkways before, I know how these things work. But when I turn it on, I fall off at the far end. Clearly a faulty model.
My wife suggests a more open environment, you know, fresh air and all that, so I put the treadmill out in the street. It’s gone the next day.
Technology is evidently unreliable so I’m forced to take up a more traditional approach. Jogging.
I wake up at six the next morning, put on a track suit and hit the road, face first. My legs are still asleep. A softer surface might help with the impacts. I drive over to the local park and start running at a steady pace, so steady in fact that I barely spill my coffee.
I feel great, euphoric, seconds fly by, as do other people. An elderly couple overtakes me and says hello but I can’t reply because my lungs are on fire. Suddenly, something snaps in my thigh and I pull over. It takes me forty five minutes to limp back to my car. Another fifty to get to work. It takes my boss two minutes to send me back home, saying I look like death.
I tell him he’s just not used to seeing me fit, it’s probably an afterglow from all the endorphins. But he isn’t having any of it.
The doctor tells me I’ve pulled a hamstring, it even hurts to walk so I turn to weights. I keep a couple of dumbbells under the desk at work to exercise my arms, but the first time I bend down to grab them, my back gives.
Now it hurts to stand up straight. The doctor suggests swimming but not one to quit, I decide to try another day of weights.
I have the dumbbells on top of the desk the next day. Feeling clever, I pick them up and start working out but after a while my arms go limp and the weights drop to the floor, taking me with them.
Swimming it is then.
At the pool I can barely get undressed, it hurts to do most things now. I somehow maneuver into my trunks and jump in at the deep end. It takes two people to get me out of the water and four more to resuscitate me. They tell me nothing is worth ending it all over, that I should just talk to someone. I want to tell them I’m trying to get fit but it hurts to speak as well.
Upon recovery, I book an evening of tennis with some friends. This is going to be my thing, I can feel it. Somebody serves to me, I swing the racket with all my might and the ball lands across the net, out of reach of my opponents, in an adjacent court.
Perhaps sports are not the answer. Perhaps I need professional assistance.
I join an aerobics class but I have to quit because I manage to break a toe on my first day and the injured woman is suing the club. I join a yoga class but the instructor asks me to leave because my screaming bothers the other customers. I think about karate but I’m not comfortable with the idea of paying someone to beat me up. I can’t think of anything else.
Maybe I should just buy new jeans?