My chiropractor said he was really proud of me when I told him I had started a 21-day fitness program. I suspect in the back of his mind he was really thinking, "Yes sir, that will keep this guy coming back every week!"

But the truth be told, I'm feeling pretty good after 10 days of the program at Steel Fitness in Bethlehem even though my arms are so tight and hurting that I'm typing this using a pencil held in my teeth. Answering the phone has also been somewhat of a challenge. I can either use the speakerphone or try talking with my face pressed against the desk and the phone earpiece just sort of leaning against my head.

But let me go back and give you a little history. My fellow East Penn Publishing editor Deb Galbraith and I are doing this little experiment as sort of a challenge - to see who can lose more weight. I predict the winner will actually be the person who is able to complete the program.

After last Tuesday's ab session with personal trainer John Stefanowicz, I got an e-mail from Deb: "Everyone bone in my body aches." So I just had to find out how many bones we have. The answer: 206. Thinking that muscles (or the lack of them) may also have something to do with our shared pain, I found out that we have either 650 or 850 muscles, depending on whom you ask. So you can appreciate all the discomfort one might feel when all those bones and muscles are aching.

Steel Fitness sales manager Christine Dorwood told us that by the end of the program we would be feeling better and have much more energy. The energy bit may already be true, but it's hard to express all that energy when it hurts to move various parts of your body.

The 21-day program requires that we participants visit the gym three times a week and take at least one class each week. The visits for me include some cardio work on the treadmill or bikes or the eliptical - a strange machine that seems to replicate cross country skiing. Your arms and legs are all moving in different directions at the same time. I can hardly wait to try out that machine, perhaps later today. I'm thinking my next column will be dictated from St. Luke's.

My visits to the gym also include upper and lower body workouts. Trainer Pat McFerren warned me not to do both upper and lower on the same day. Doing upper on one day and lower on another spreads out the pain more evenly. I did both upper and lower on Tuesday just to prove her wrong. That is why I am typing this column using a pencil clenched between my teeth.

For my class, I choose Pilates, which sounds like a really nice drink you might get at Starbucks.

When I asked "What are Pilates?" Pat quickly corrected me. "What is Pilates?" she said and she is right.

Pilates is a physical fitness system developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates in Germany based on aerobics and yoga and some notes from Dick Cheney's interrogation manual. Pilates' method uses the mind to control the muscles. But in my case the mind keeps on calling the muscles, but there's nobody home. I like the idea behind Pilates, however, because you really work the stomach muscles, if you have some. Mine have all retired and moved to Florida, and I doubt that I can persuade them to come back. I wonder if you can have a stomach muscle transplant?

I tried to do everything Pat asked the class to do. I suppose it helps to be somewhat coordinated. It gets a little frustrating when your body just won't cooperate, but there are small successes and they keep you going. I did find one part of the Pilates class where I excelled.

"Lay flat and let your body melt into the floor," Pat said ending the session. Man, was I ever good at that!

The photo with this column shows me after my first Pilates class. I sweat a lot. In fact I had quite a pool of water surrounding me when the class was finished. Small boats had begun sailing, and I think I spotted at least one great white shark fin.

My second Pilates class was much better in some respects. I could actually do some of the exercises I could not do week 1. And when I came out of the exercise room completely drenched with sweat, people waiting to enter the room were amazed. "Wow, look at him," one said as I walked by. I just smiled. "I sweat a lot," I replied.

I think I'm going to win this editor challenge. Not only did I record a greater weight loss in our first weigh-in, I sense that Deb is already trying to get out of the program. She says she's cracked several ribs a poor attempt at gaining sympathy.

Writer's note: Join me again next week when I reveal who won the editors' weight-loss challenge.