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The jungle of the gym

Published April 05. 2014 09:00AM

Brisk walking is my favorite form of exercise.

It probably doesn't use all of the required muscle groups to constitute a total workout. But walking and antique highwheel riding are the only modes of exercise I enjoy.

The best form of exercise, I figure, is the one you like to do. That's the one you'll stay with.

But I tend to have an open mind. So I once tried joining a gym.

Unless you're a jock or ex-jock, joining a gym can be quite an experience, especially for those of us semi-elderly.

My mouth fell open when I saw the place. Strange looking contraptions of iron, steel, springs and pulleys. It reminded me of construction cranes in that public television documentary of how they built the Panama Canal.

Daunting, for sure. My first reaction was, "They expect me to work with this stuff?"

Inspecting it up close, each piece of black-and-white apparatus looked like something from the dungeon of a Lon Chaney movie. Or worse, the Spanish Inquisition.

But I was motivated. Someone had told me weeks earlier that I reminded him of Jackie Gleason. I wasn't sure if he meant my humor or my size. But I wasn't taking any chances. Time for self-improvement.

That was my real motivation to sign up for the house of horrors. In any case, I walked through the place with a sense of trepidation and intimidation. Everyone there looked disgustingly healthy with testosterone-inflated muscles.

Going up to the desk, I passed six clones of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

They stared as if I were lost, as if I'd entered the wrong building. They probably figured I was looking for the geriatric section of Rite Aid.

Luckily, I was greeted by a pleasant trainer. Any newbie can count on the trainer to be a friend.

The first thing he'll do is decide how much weight you can lift. Beginners need beginner-level weights.

I wanted to start with paper clips. Instead, I began by bench-pressing 55 pounds. Surprisingly easy, I thought. Then I noticed the guy next to me pressing 250.

Worse yet, I learned some even press 400 pounds and more. Sheesh! I believe that'd be the equivalent of 658 blueberry pies. I don't know math, but I do know blueberry pies.

Naturally, I became unnerved. I needed a Hershey bar to calm down.

Afterward, they showed me how to do curls using some type of small barbells or dumbbells. By that time it was apparent that I was the only dumbbell in the room. The only curls I really understand are cheese curls. Done plenty of those.

Still, I hung in and graduated to the pecdec machine and an assortment of other self-torture equipment.

All of it was a novel experience, right down to the music.

Gyms attract young people. Young folks are into loud, noisy rap. So take your own CDs. And be prepared to turn up the volume on Perry Como and the Best of Pat Boone.

The exercise session lasted one hour and produced 72 hours of soreness. Heck, I don't need more soreness. I already have enough of that simply from effects of aging.

When all was said and done, I opted to be a gym class dropout.

Of course, I'm probably in the minority. Gyms are very popular. A gym is a great place if that's your thing. In that case, go for it. Whatever floats your boat. There's no question a gym is worthwhile. Just not my bag.

I'd rather walk a few miles, absorb my surroundings and immerse myself in thought. I'm still slightly plump and it bothers me. But if I watch my diet, I'd probably be OK. I'm not interested in being Schwarzenegger.

Maybe what I need is an old fogey's gym where all us Jackie Gleasons can work out together.

And one day somebody will open such a place.

But until then, it's an agonizing weight.

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