A few weeks ago, I decided it was time to get fit and lose approximately six hundred pounds. Despite encouraging reports that the world’s fattest man had become engaged to be married1, I reckoned that a fitter, thinner me would enjoy improved confidence and quality of life.
Displaying a level of both fiscal responsibility and pragmatism that most gym-belonging humans never reach, I quit the gym a year ago because I never went. Not eager to pay the exorbitant fee required to sign up yet again, I recalled that my apartment building has a fitness room. In advance of my first workout, I went down to see what kind of equipment was there.
To my dismay, I found a graveyard of broken equipment that would look very much at home in Miss Havisham’s decaying mansion. There was a Nautilus weight machine with a broken cable and a missing pull-down bar. There was a stationary bike that worked in the sense that the pedals turned, but the electronics were ripped out. There was a step machine with steps that sank straight to the floor and exhaled with a “thoooop” as soon as you stepped on them. There was a trampoline that was intact, but rather inadvisable for use in a room with an eight-foot ceiling. And there was a treadmill that sort of worked. The treadmill runs, but that’s a very generous description. The destroyed plastic overlay makes the control panel nearly impossible to read, the machine has a habit of shutting off by itself when you raise the speed past 3.5 mph, and it also arbitrarily raises the incline by as much as 15 degrees in a matter of seconds entirely on a whim.
I briefly considered living out my remaining years as a fat man, reasoning that at this rate at least there wouldn’t be many of them. I also toyed with the idea of performing an exorcism on the treadmill. But as always, we find our redemption in the movies.
I had recently watched one of the gems of American cinema, Rocky IV. As you surely recall, this is the one where Apollo Creed is beaten to death in the ring by a steroid-gobbling Russian meathead, prompting Rocky to travel to the Soviet Union to train and then avenge his fallen friend by fighting the commie cyborg in Moscow.2 In an attempt to prevent Rocky from properly preparing for the fight, his Russian hosts put him up in a log cabin in the middle of Siberia with no modern amenities or training facilities. However, in a stirring montage to the strains of a Survivor song that is not “Eye Of The Tiger”3, Rocky trains with what is available to him. He chops wood, rolls logs, runs in the snow and pulls a donkey cart. The clear implication is that Rocky has been toughened by his experience and is better prepared for the bout than his Soviet counterpart, who is shown in very antiseptic environments getting shot up with needles and working out amid enough technological machinery to launch a Space Shuttle.
Of course, this leads to Rocky not only winning the fight but getting an arena full of commies, soldiers and KGB stooges to chant his name, much to the consternation of an actor portraying Mikhail Gorbachev. I decided that much like Rocky, I would use the sad state of the fitness room as motivation. No fancy chichi gym with plasma TVs and safe, operational equipment for me! I’m getting down in the muck and slugging it out with both my flabby body and that broken down crap!
It’s been three weeks. The stationary bike is somewhat usable but frustrating. I’ve managed to work around the treadmill’s quirks to a degree. I’ve even added “Gonna Fly Now” to my workout mix.
But on the whole, I’d rather pull a donkey cart.
1. Where does he even meet girls? Honestly. Unless his wang is the fattest one in the world too, I don’t get it.
2. If Rocky had only realized that this was no fearsome warrior, but merely Dolph Lundgren, I imagine a lot of this nonsense could have been avoided.
3. I didn’t know there were any others, either.