Things have a way of working out. Unless it involves me and the gym

The only way I'll do push-ups.
Sort of like doing a workout with Dolly Parton.
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 last 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 — 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.

Jim leaned forward on the desk, dressed in his usual sweatpants and T-shirt lightly stained with perspiration after a 50-minute aerobics workout that trimmed 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.”

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. “I know, but I’ll make up for it at lunch. Ha ha!”

I regretted saying that before the “ch” in “lunch” left my mouth; it was like telling your priest that you were going to stop admiring your 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.”

“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!

Removing my jacket, I hung it on the rack and stretched a bit before climbing onto the butterfly machine: a torture device that, coincidentally, can also develop your pectorals.
I set the weight at what I’d been using eight weeks ago.

How much muscle could’ve been lost in a mere couple of months?

Well, enough that I needed to lighten the load by 10 pounds, it seemed, so I made the adjustment — and a discovery.

Eyes darting, I quickly unhitched another 10 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; then on a nice, round number.


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 in a row of machines that led to me. As he approached, I could almost hear him say “…and this 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.

So this was my penance, I thought as I stumbled from the machine and pulled my jacket from the rack, sleeve-first.

However, my real penance didn’t come until the next morning — when I reached for the alarm and woke the family with my screaming.


(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation and a member of the writing team at Long Awkward Pause. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, or Barnes & Noble.)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

45 thoughts on “Things have a way of working out. Unless it involves me and the gym”

  1. Ha! Now that was really funny. Well played, indeed.

    If it makes you feel better, sometimes I am compelled to make up elaborate tales to explain my injuries. You get little sympathy if you can’t walk the next day…. because you went bowling. I actually hurt myself fighting real, live dragons. They were big ones, too. 😉

  2. At least you still go occasionally – more than I can say. Ha! You would have laughed Ned when my wife and I were discussing attending a gym on a regular basis. Our 14 year old wandered into the kitchen where we were talking and listened while he was examining the contents of the fridge. He turned to us and said: “Bit late for that, don’t you think?”

      1. I got even – I filled all his beloved yogurt single-serving containers with red jello and he thought he had struck it rich – until he popped the top off one and discovered what was in it. 😀

  3. The gym’s owner set you up for that, and you didn’t even notice! Had he been kind, he would have given you the third degree, to which you could have responded at length, until finally looking at your watch and saying, “Holy s**t, where’d the time go! Gotta run!”

  4. Yep! That would be me… Only calf muscles and you walk like a stiff… You can’t walk because you over did the calf raises because you got distracted by some guy straining to impress a crowd of spectators who were newbies and getting a tour… 😁

  5. Aaah yea you sinned indeed! But you are not the only one by far and at least you sucked it up and went back. I started a new routine a month ago, but instead of losing weight I actually gained weight. The reason being that I was doing Pilates, and Pilates should be accompanied with cardio. I just did Pilates and no cardio. So not only was I not able to lose weight but I actually gained some 😦

      1. Ned, believe me I would love to agree with you on that. But in my case, it is actual flab covering my newly built abs. Thanks to all the post workout gorging. Thanks for the post 🙂

  6. This is exactly why I go walking instead of the gym. A. you can go as far as you want and depending on how hard you push yourself, still get a great workout. B. when you DO go to the gym you can honestly admit, “Oh, I’ve simply been training outdoors for awhile now”, <~~ Always impressive, C. scenery changes so it never gets boring and d. When your exhausted, sore, and moaning that you can't take another step, you realize your ass HAS to get yourself back home on your own cuz no one is going to come pick you up, but you have great bragging rights! 🙂 Woot! There it is! 🙂

  7. I am soooooooo out of shape. But I started taking a Jazzercize class again this week. It is amazing how dancing a little bit could make me so darn sore! I am going to stick with it though! I don’t want to be an old woman all bent over because I didn’t stay strong.
    Good luck with the workouts! 😛

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