Apparently, not getting to the gym adds 10 pounds of guilt to everything

image Forgive me for I have sinned; it’s been nearly two months since my last workout.

That was my thought as I entered the gym this week, ready to pay my penance in the company of those who’d kept the faith in my absence. I had my moves planned: enter quickly, cut left and directly into the weight room, bypassing the front desk and the gym’s owner to avoid a possible “confessional” situation.

But of course I couldn’t be that lucky.

“Hey there, Ned!”

I stopped in mid-stride, so close to the pivot that would’ve carried me to freedom. “Hey, Jim,” I said, smiling meekly. Apologetically.

Pathetically, really.

Jim leaned forward on the desk, dressed in his usual sweatpants and T-shirt lightly stained with perspiration after leading a 50-minute aerobics workout that helped trim his ballooning body fat from .08 down to .05. He looked at me and folded his hands together on the desktop, as if ready to pray for me.

“Haven’t seen you for a while,” he said.

My stomach growled, more out of nervousness than hunger, but I played it off in my favor. “Gosh, I’ve just been so busy lately. I didn’t even have time to eat [my second Egg McMuffin] this morning.”

“Well, that’s not good. You definitely need to eat,” he said, eyeing me.

I turned toward him, eliminating the view of my profile. “Don’t worry, I’ll make up for it at lunch. Haha.” I regretted saying that before the “ch” in “lunch” left my mouth; it was like telling your priest you’re going to avoid coveting thy neighbor’s wife by subscribing to Playboy. Mercifully, he overlooked my remark, satisfied with the fact that one of his flock had returned.

“Well, it’s just good to see you back, Ned.”

“Thanks,” I said, and stood there a moment.

Jim smiled, then sat down and reached for the phone.

That was it? No harangue? No guilt trip? No “Looks like you made it back just in time?”

This was going to be easier than I thought!

The truth is, I had no one but myself to blame for not getting to the gym. And this time there would be no frittering away my time walking around with a towel over my shoulder pretending to look for my water bottle. Nor would I splash water on my face, then stand close enough to someone in better shape so we look like workout partners.

Removing my jacket, I hung it on the rack and stretched a bit before climbing onto the butterfly machine — a torture device used in medieval times that, coincidentally, can also develop your pectorals. I set the weight at what I’d been using eight weeks ago. Seriously, how much muscle could’ve been lost in a mere couple of months?

Enough that I needed to lighten the load by 10 pounds, it seemed. So I made the adjustment along with an unsettling discovery; eyes darting, I quickly unhitched another 5 pounds, covering the move with a stretch and a yawn.

Twenty reps should about do it, I thought, bringing my arms together and sending my chest muscles into quivering shock. The fifth rep caused me to re-evaluate my lofty goal and settle on 15 reps.

Then on a nice, round number: Ten. No sense in overdoing it my first day back.

Just then, a fitness instructor entered with a small entourage of the newly baptized. “This is for strengthening and shaping your thighs,” he said, pointing to the first machine in a row that led toward me. As he approached, I could almost hear him say “…and over here is where out-of-shape people sit and rest while pretending to work out.”

While he explained the chin-up machine next to me, I slipped the weight up another 20 pounds and heaved my arms together, teeth clenched tightly and the glare of my reddened face reflecting amber off the cream-colored walls. My hope was that they’d move on quickly, allowing me to keep my dignity with the illusion of my obvious devotion to fitness. Instead, the group hovered there as the instructor explained what I was doing, the intricacies of pectoral development, its importance in relation to posture, the difference between shaping muscle and toning it, why you shouldn’t bang the weights, and how often they change out the cables and grease the pulleys.

Around rep 14, they began to look uncomfortable, as if they feared being in the direct path of my exploding head. The instructor ushered them to the next machine, glancing over his shoulder at me, a look of concern on his face as he began explaining the benefit of sit-ups.

I brought the weights down with a light “clang” and collapsed.

Imploded, really.

And so it went with every piece of workout equipment and free weight in my circuit, as well as the button on the water fountain, which apparently someone had tightened while I was away. Exhausted and humiliated after my workout, I pulled my jacket from the rack sleeves-first and thought to myself, “So THIS was my penance…”

Of course, my real penance didn’t come until the next morning, when I reached for the alarm and woke everyone with my hollering.

(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available in paperback or eBook from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble or request your signed copy from Port Hole Publications.)

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61 thoughts on “Apparently, not getting to the gym adds 10 pounds of guilt to everything

  1. Is that you doing a face plant on the red ball? LMAO!!! Don’t give up Ned…getting back into fitness is always tough. You should be able to hit your alarm without screaming by about thursday!

    • Fortunately, it hasn’t gotten that bad yet. Maybe if I’d been away another week. I really need one of those alarms you can throw across the room, though…

  2. I had to take two months off of running due to two consecutive injuries. I was SO embarrassed when I started back up and couldn’t run a mile without feeling like I was dying.

    I feel your pain. I purposely ran on streets where I knew I wouldn’t have to face anyone I knew.

  3. My gym has a whirlpool, which means you can go into it directly, or after a stroll up and down the machines, and look like you’ve done a full workout. At least until you get out and everyone sees your gut, but you can get pretty good at covering the distance to the locker room holding it in pretty quickly.

  4. So…if you can avoid coveting your neighbor’s wife with a subscription to Playboy, then you should also be able to get exercise through a subscription to Runners World.

  5. This was hilarious, Ned. I’m still laughing — my eyes are watering. 😀

    “As he approached, I could almost hear him say “…and over here is where out-of-shape people sit and rest while pretending to work out.”

    STOP! My side hurts.

  6. I know the guilt…. I think I need to get a hot trainer like my husband cos he has not missed a single session since 2012 when he ‘found’ Nirvana. Yep. That’s a her name. Apparently you work harder too when you have a hot trainer cos you don’t want to look like a pussy. Hope your muscles are recovering…..

  7. Anyone who’s joined a gym has been there, Ned. I once overworked my calves so badly that I had to walk on my toes for a week. Every time I tiptoed into a store, people looked at me with pity and threw extra change into the Salvation Army bucket.

  8. Hey, do they – whoever ‘they’ are – know how much strength it takes to slide down a pole?? How about how much physical effort it takes to repel a wooden lion? And, what about the kind of workout one gets from hoisting around a ten gallon cowboy hat? Hit the guilt back Ned, hit it hard. And, give it a shot for me too.

  9. Ha!! Every line of this post deserves a comment. Or at least a hand cuff and a trip to the county jail. This is all so real to virtually everyone. I have missed my workouts for 3 weeks now and I know it’s going to hurt so bad when I start back up that I think I’ll just leave it until I’m re-born. Hopefully as a Possum. Or a stupid cat. Twenty hours sleep a day is all the workout I need.

  10. I fully admit to being that person who studies everyone who walks in to the aerobics room and makes snap judgements, snickers at those with bad gym fashion sense then neurotically wonders what others are thinking of her. I’ll never understand the girl running on the treadmill with her hair hanging loose and makeup perfectly applied. What is that about? Maybe she is trying the channel a Baywatch Babe slow motion running on the beach?

  11. In my very best Father Robert voice, “Welcome back, my son”

    I went to the box today for the first time since surgery a month ago. Let’s just say there was zigging when there should have been zagging and a LOT of mid work-out check-ins from my husband…are you SURE you should be doing this?

    Still trying to figure out why I married a younger man…

  12. You see, this is why I don’t like the gym: Everyone can see you, which I guess is fine if you have the body of David Hasselhoff when he was still 30 and a face that’s not David Hasselhoff (following this logic, you’re already halfway to running down a beach and looking in shape and ready to save distressed demsels)…I applaud you for going to the gym, even though your most famous exercise in gymnastics is probably a 7 second youtube video of you sliding down a pole;) (That’s meant to be a compliment, despite the sarcasm.)
    I just stay away from the gym completely. I try to commit myself to 50 push ups a day (well, 2 x 25), in the privacy of my own bedroom, where no one can see me. On the downside, after doing my round of push ups, I go downstairs and people wonder why the hell I look so exhausted from spending time alone in my bedroom:S

No one is watching, I swear...

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