Tackle the Stair-Climber/Week in Review-Saturday, December 31st

There’s an event here in Chicago called “Hustle up the Hancock.” *  It’s where people run up the back stairways of the Hancock Building to the 94th floor or the 52nd floor, depending on whether you sign up for the “insanity” course or the “mentally deranged” course (you can decide which monicker belongs with which course).

I will not be doing this race.

It’s not that I’m against it.  I actually thought about signing up for it as an interesting post-generator for this blog.  Oh, and the race also raises money for a good cause, the Respiratory Health Association.  I guess I should have put that reason before the selfish reason…

The reason I won’t be running is because the race conveniently falls on my Pop’s 60th birthday and, although my parents live in Carolina and we can’t spend time with them, we’ll be observing the day by doing old people things like going to matinees, eating at IHOP, and complaining about our neighbor’s yard (which is harder than you might imagine because we live in a condo).

And while Rhonda and I are observing the day, my Pops will be running a half-marathon.

Seriously.

I don’t know what it is about parents of a certain age.  They all of a sudden decide that 13 miles sounds doable.  It’s actually, literally, quite inspiring.  Not quite inspiring enough for me to join him in running on that day, but inspiring none the less.

He called me the other day to tell me that he had tried “hot yoga”.  I’m not sure you ever want your Pops to call you and describe a sweaty, stretchy, 40 minute session.  But sometimes you get that call.  If/when you receive such a call, my suggestion is that you try to think about baseball instead.  It helped block out mental pictures.

He’s also trying to go primarily vegetarian, which I think is great.  I encourage it mostly because meat is too expensive.

I would be vegetarian if it wasn’t for the ultimate companion food: bacon.  Bacon goes well with everything.  Don’t believe me?  I’ve had it on corn, ice cream, cookies, waffles, dates, cheese, water chestnuts, bread, and a paper towel (I didn’t eat the paper towel).

Bacon is the chef’s dream; it saves every dish. If I were on Iron Chef, that’s what I’d use it to garnish every course offering. “For our next course it appears that Chef  Tim has made a deconstructed lasagna…with a side of bacon.”  Beat that, Bobby Flay!

My brother-in-law is also on a bit of a health kick.  He’s been working out, losing weight, and following what he calls a “hunter/gatherer diet.”  Apparently if it can’t be hunted or gathered, he won’t eat it.

This diet does not make sense to me.  I gather all sorts of crap from my pantry.  Applejacks.  Jelly.  Peanut butter.  Little Debbie Cream Pies.  I don’t see how he’s losing weight.

This is all to say that many other people will be starting off 2012 with new health goals, so perhaps it will be a year of health for many!  Which is great.  Unless they end up losing a ton more weight than me and enter body building contests (I’m looking at you, Pops).  In that case it will be embarrassing on many levels…

But, I started out this article mentioning the Hancock race because, while I think I would actually do the race (but cannot for the above reasons), I figured there was no reason I couldn’t do my own “mini-Hancock” last night.  It meant, though, that I had to get on that dreaded stair-climber again.

I hate that machine with the fire of a thousand suns.

One of the things that I hate most about it is that I can’t really figure out a way to put my book on there securely.  The gym I go to has only one “book adapter,” which slides over the machine dashboard like an ill-fitting tube sock, and when I finally located it I saw that it was being used by a Trixie who was simultaneously looking at People magazine and talking on her phone while elipticizing.  And I use the term “elipticizing” loosely because her heart was definitely not in it.   Apparently the machine has a “drowsy sloth” setting.

Crushing my urge to unplug her machine and break her phone (I really wanted that book adapter), I moved on upstairs to where the stair-climbers wait in rows (not unlike a firing squad) adaptorless, relegated to leaving my book wedged between two heart sensors, totally obscuring the clock on the machine.

Having the clock obscured is actually not so bad.  I can work out without concentrating on the time, which sometimes is as discouraging as if someone was standing next to you saying, “You’ve only been on here for 7 minutes?!  You look like crap for just 7 minutes…”

And when you yell back at the clock people start to stare.  Which makes your butt mad, because people are looking, and so it tortures you by working extra hard…

But I climbed on the machine, wedged in my book, and started climbing stairs.  30 minutes later Chapter 2 of my book was dingy yellow and my glasses were smudged.  My workout reading at the moment is a book about how microbiology, virology, and how we’re all going to die from rogue virus strains.  “Palin-viruses.”  I made up that term, but it seems to fit.

On a related note, I think there is a good probability that the world would be in serious jeopardy from the real Palin actually going rogue.   But enough about politics. I won’t mention my opinion on Palin again.  Stop asking!

But, in that time frame, I climbed 80 imaginary floors.  And, while I’m not sure how the machine calculates imaginary floors, I’m going to take its word for it.

When I limped off the stair-climber my shirt had magically changed from a dark grey to black, my shorts from emerald green to forest green, and my morale had changed from “optimistic” to “spent.” Sweat truly does change you.  Some people glisten.  I turn colors.

But that’s ok; I had a good workout.  And I’m pretty sure that Hustle up the Hancock 2013 will have a new participant.

Below is the week in review:

Cultural Health Update: Saw “A Christmas Story: The Musical” on Monday and “The Nutcracker” on Thursday

Dental Health Update: Regular flossing has begun.

Physical Health Update: Lifted-2 days.  Cardio-3 days.

Spiritual Health Update: Prayer/mediation 4 days.

Weight at beginning of week: 235.  Weight today: 233.

We’ll talk next year…

*This should not be confused with “Hussy at the Hancock” which is a premier dating service for Hancock residents.

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Son of a Nutcracker-Friday, December 30th

I finally did get that workout in last night.

I came home from the office around 5:15pm, and planned on heading straight to the gym after I grabbed a quick snack.  Rhonda beat me home (which rarely happens because her cells are like little children that need to be fed at all hours of the day).  We had theater plans at 8pm. Live theater.  Can’t beat that, and it’s rare on our budget and time frame. So when a parishioner gave me tickets to a rendition of The Nutcracker that he wrote, showcasing at the Chopin theater in the trendy Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago, I said “Let’s do this.”  Or something like that.  That’s not a direct quote.

In an interesting side-note, the Bucktown neighborhood hasn’t always been trendy.  When I first moved to Chicago, back when I was young and full of dreams (2003), Bucktown was what we lovingly called “stabby.”  As in, there was always a chance you could get stabbed there if you hung out there past a certain hour.

I’m happy to report that it’s much less stabby now, although we did see someone getting drunk behind a building and three people fighting over what I suspect was a 40 when we walked out of the theater.

So when I walked in, I threw down my stuff and headed straight to the fridge because I didn’t have much time.  I typically don’t like working out with too much in my stomach because I have a tendency to puke.  And although you’d think that a gym would be a pretty safe place to hurl, I’m convinced that the managers at my gym only know how to use a wet vac.  It’s all I see them with.  And I don’t want them to have to wet vac puke.  It would work but, I mean, a wet vac smells like hot plastic as it is, and vomit and heat don’t mix.  Let’s not chance it; it smells.

When I opened the fridge I saw what I desired: left over Christmas ham.  Excellent.  Two slices of that and a handful of peanuts, and I was ready go.  Packed my bag, grabbed my shoes, and yelled “I’m leaving!” to the woman sitting in the corner.

“Hold on a sec,” she says coming over to me.  A pre-lifting kiss.  She’s so supportive, and my heart swells.  Until she comes close.

“You smell like ham and peanuts,” she says, making a face that I thought only could be caused by indigestion.  Romantic as the day is long.  It’s really hot when your partner tells you that you smell like pork and nuts.  It’s nice to hear that you don’t smell kosher.

I settled for a kiss on the cheek and left.

Shoulders and back today.

Apparently you can work your back.  I have long imagined that my back was simply skin stretched over a fat pad, much like a killer whale but without a dorsal fin.  But apparently there is muscle there.  And groups of them.  And as I worked them I realized that I did know them; we’d met before just weeks earlier when I was putting up Christmas lights.  In my zealous love of Christmas, I decided to string them up in our front window.  As I was precariously perched, extending my arms upward in an oblation to Christmas, securing lights, the footstool slipped out from under me as I was straddling the stool and the window ledge.

A scream.  A twist.  In the blink of a Christmas light I was transformed from a healthy 31 year old into a 90 year old.

It hurt like the dickens.

Uhm, I should also explain the scream was from me, not from Rhonda.  She saw the whole thing happen and reacted like one might react to watching moths mating: grotesque interest, but not alarmed.

But this was my day to get those muscles back…into shape.  Lateral pulls, bent rows, medicine ball sit-ups, shoulder presses.  I did it all.  But first I started just as my brother had taught me: with a cardio warm-up.  And for some reason I thought that the stair-climber might be a good idea.

That machine is a machine of death. After only minute 2:30 I could see my pulse bulging out of my neck in my peripheral vision, bull frogging in what I can only imagine was an attractive mating call rivaled only by the pork and nuts aroma I was omitting.  5 minutes was plenty of time on that machine, and I gave it a small kick as I walked away, dripping with sweat.

Frankly, I would have felt perfectly fine walking back in the lockerroom then.  I looked like I had been working out at the gym for hours, with the half-moon sweat mark on my grey shirt as a badge of honor.  In reality it was a badge of shame.  No one should sweat that much in 5 minutes.  I blame genetics.  And the stair-climber.  And the jackhole who invented that machine.

I then started the weights, moving slowly from one group to another, making sure to alternate the muscle groups.  My favorite lifting today happened during the dead lift.  I can dead lift a lot.  Do not fear if you ever pass out in front of me; I can lift you.  I can’t carry you anywhere, but I’ll sure enough get you off the ground.  But only in reps of 15.  And I stop at 45, so you had better come to by then.

My worst?  The shoulder press.  Those things killed.  And without Critter to push me I was in danger of either dropping them by the third set or skipping the third set altogether.  In reality it wasn’t half as bad as the bench pressing on Tuesday.  I muscled through.

See what I did there?

Eh-hem, anyway, in reality the worst thing happened back when I was relaxing my muscles in the lockerroom.  Oh, and let me take this moment to say to the old guy drying his whole body with the air dryer: stop it.

That wasn’t it, though.

As I was sitting in the steam sauna relaxing with my ipod, two guys stepped in chatting.  After a minute or two, one tapped me on the arm.  Suspicious from the beginning.

“Can you turn down your music?  We’re trying to talk.”

Oh, so I’ll turn down my music so I can hear you and your overly manscaped buddy babble on about how your girlfriend is not supportive of your new tattoo, and how your father is 54 and now living in a studio in Buena Park due to a midlife crisis gone wrong?  As exciting as that conversation might seem to your over-sexed and under developed brain that is obviously jealous of your biceps in the size department, I’d rather listen to Simon and Garfunkel, thank you.

I mean, I can imagine you telling me to turn it down if I was flailing my arms to Aerosmith, synchronized with the drum beats in a way that made you concerned for your safety.  But it was Simon and Garfunkel, for heaven’s sake!  And I certainly never heard them write a song about tattoos or deadbeat dads.   They sing about important things: herbs, MILFs, and architecture.

But I understand.  It’s a public place.  So lets make a deal.  I’ll turn down my music, but then you can’t blow your nose into your hand anymore and fling it around like you’re Tinkerbell spreading pixy dust.  How’s that deal sound, Bruno?

Son-of-a-Nutcracker.

Luckily, I had to head out to make it to the theater on time.  So I turned the music up as I left, leaving them to ponder just what Simon was doing with Julio down by the schoolyard.  I had to get to the Nutcracker, because I’m cultured.

And that’s the lesson of the night, I guess.  Culture.  Go to the theater. It expands your mind and your cultural base.  Stick to your goals even if you have some missteps.  It shows you have culture.

And don’t blow snot rockets and expect people to do you favors.  Especially when all you want to do is talk about your tattoos.

That’s not cultured.

The show, by the way, was great.  Great writing, great acting, great nut-cracking.  Well worth the stabby potential (which, in reality, is minimal…unless you’re a 40. A 40 in that neighborhood will get killed).

Flossing (Not the Dance Move)-Thursday, December 29th

I overslept this morning and missed my scheduled workout with Critter.  This bodes well for the future…

But, lessons learned, right?  As my friend Maggie would put it “Pro Tip: If you want to wake up early, don’t go to bed at midnight.”  Thanks, Maggie, for that bit of wisdom.  From now on please stay on your own blog and don’t talk to me all slanty-lettered any more.

I will, by the way, be working out this evening to make up for it.  It will throw my schedule off, but we must not get discouraged.  No.  We must not lose hope.  Not this early in the game.  We must persevere, do the hard thing, make up for our losses, and choose life instead of apathy!

I suggest you copy and paste those last five sentences and print them out.  Paste them to your mirror or computer or the inside of your “special place” where you go to hide from the world when discouraged.  You’re welcome.

Now, back to the topic at hand: flossing.

I am what the world would call an “occasional flosser.”  As in, I never floss unless I’m a week out of a dental appointment.  In my world that counts as occasional.  If you have a different definition of that word, a different standard, then label me as you will.  But stop judging now, please.

Frankly, I used to not floss much because it hurt.  And I don’t like seeing blood in my spit.  It brings back memories from my karate days when I would bite my lip or the inside of my cheek.  Not because I was sparring or getting hit, but because I was so nervous about sparring or getting hit that I would chomp my teeth and bite the inside of my lip.

That, actually, turned into a bit of a blessing.  It would appear that I had already sparred because blood dripped from the corners of my mouth and occasionally my cheek would swell.  Obviously the definition of “winning.”

But last night, after I brushed my teeth, I creaked open that medicine cabinet and grabbed the dental floss.  Actually, it was “dental tape,” for those of you taking notes.  Even though I rarely floss…until now!…I’ve always preferred the tape to the floss.  The floss sometimes would shred in my teeth, causing me to have to use more floss to dig it out, which also might shred, and then the circle of torture is complete, my incisors as the victim.

When it was obvious that I was done brushing my teeth but still standing in front of the mirror, Rhonda, my lovingly supportive wife, said accusingly, “Are you flossing?”  She asked the question like someone might ask their husband, “Are you wearing knee-highs?” as if I was doing something absolutely absurd.  And it’s not that she doesn’t floss; she does.  It’s that she knows I don’t floss.  You don’t live with someone for six years and not pick up on the fact that their oral hygiene is less than ideal.

“Yes,” I replied.  “I can’t do this ‘year of health’ without actually practicing healthy habits.”  And thus I began flossing, just as my dental hygienist had taught me in grade school.  Down each side of the tooth, back and forth.  That particular visit, the one where she showed me how to floss, was uniquely traumatizing for me.  After cleaning my teeth she made a “tsk tsk” sound (I kid you not), brought out a mirror and made me hold it, while she showed me how to floss my teeth.

I wanted to scream at her, “I know how to floss, you patronizing sadist.  I just don’t do it!  There’s a difference between ignorance and inaction…”  But her hands were in my mouth, so all that came out was a muffled, “Oooahhmmmehem.”

But last night I flossed, and then I rinsed with mouthwash.  I actually like that stinging feeling that mouthwash gives a post-flossed mouth.  It’s painful enough to trick my brain into thinking I’ve done something sacrificial, when in reality I’ve just done something that should be done.  Period.

And not just for oral health, of course.  While the links between periodontal health and cardiac health have not been conclusively found, the idea that my mouth plaque could become my artery plaque is gross enough for me to start being proactive.  If you want a brief (and I mean brief) glimpse at this, check out this site complete with diagram of just how the bacteria in your mouth could become the bacteria in your heart, traveling the highways of your arteries to your certain doom.

And you know what, I flossed again this morning, too.  Booyah.

Elipticity. Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Today was a running day.

Actually, it was an eliptical day.  It’s not that I prefer one to the other, its just that, when I run inside, I like to make sure I’m not going to slip.  And for some reason, whether its how I put my feet down or how my foot strikes the treads, I sometimes slip on the treadmills at the gym.

Which really sucks because the treadmills have the tv’s.  I was forced to read a book.  Which isn’t all so bad because I love reading.  But the book ends up getting all sorts of crinkly as my sweat drips down on the pages. That book is then forever relegated to sit on my bookshelf after I’ve devoured it because, well, would you want to read a sweat-crinkled book?  I guess I could lie and say that I spilled coffee on it, but then I’d have to somehow make the pages smell like coffee instead of stank.  And that’s a lot of work.

I also hate it when my glasses get all gross and smudgy.  At this point you will undoubtedly say, “Well, wear contacts!” to which I will respond, “Get off it, creepo!”

Contacts freak me out because you have to touch your eye.  Eyes, in general, freak me out.  Again, another post will discuss all of this in depth as my psychologist doesn’t feel I’m ready to divulge this particular phobia yet.  Soon you will know the truth.  Soon.

But today was an eliptical day, with eliptical sweat.  I always find that my rear hurts more when I run on an eliptical than when I run on the treadmill or on the streets.  I’m not sure why that is.  I’m certain an exercise science major or an 8th grader currently in health class could enlighten me on this subject, but for now I’m going with the theory that it is because my butt doesn’t like the “up and down” motion because it draws attention, and so it pays me back in pain.

With the eliptical there also comes the awkward fact that, well, it’s not exactly a manly machine.  It looks like a mechanical version of the adapted push-up option that the PE teacher gave the girls in class, while us weak boys were forced to suffer through shaking arms on push-up number 9, collapsing in a fit of knees and elbows as our arms rebelled against that ungodly work.  I mean, really!?  These arms obviously weren’t meant to lift this body further than a couple inches, stop forcing it!

But that shame is put to the side as I climb on that strange machine that, if it came un-hinged, would take me galloping through the glass window in front of it into the street outside where I would be mowed down by a real runner just coming off the lakefront path, sweating real running sweat, not this pansy eliptical sweat.  I would be a gazelle on the autobahn; killed by an animal far superior in every way, including their ability to process heat.

And once again God would reaffirm that the world is out to get me.

One has time to dream such visions when you’re running on an eliptical.  The vertigo brought on by the up and down motion makes you light headed.  It’s truly when old women see visions and young women dream dreams.  I remember trying to use an eliptical on a cruise ship.  That nearly resulted in a different type of liquid dripping from my body.  I quickly headed to those showers and dry heaved.

After 2.3 miles, or 30 minutes (however you want to measure it), I was done for the night.  Not because I was exhausted, but because I was bored.  I had read a chapter of the book, now stained a nasty yellow never to be read again, and was ready to get going.  But,  I mark it as a success as I was chipping away at the gut.

I will run further, and faster, and for real in the future.  But for tonight, and for my aching muscles, I feel pretty good.

Tuesday, December 27th 2011-It Begins

So, today suspicions were confirmed: I am as weak as I thought I was.

I recently had this crazy idea that I need to be healthier.  Actually, the idea is not that crazy…and not that recent.  I’ve never been in great shape, except for this one summer where I was working as a camp counselor.  That summer I was inspired to get up at dawn (by cranky campers) and work out…and go to bed at dusk (because it was so dark I couldn’t see anything).  And in between dawn and dusk I kayaked, ran, played games, swam, hiked, biked, and ate three squares.

And, funny enough, I got fit.

Then I went back to school for my senior year of college to “Oohs” and “Aahs,” as people acknowledged my awesomely ripped body.  Well, actually, they just acknowledged that I had lost weight.  I was never ripped.  Ever.

There was a time when I thought I saw a “pack” in my abs.  It was an illusion, however.  Probably a piece of sausage stuck in my lower intestine.  Or perhaps a sleep depravity induced vision brought on by the fact that I was doing “8 Minute Abs” on those mornings up at camp; me and three other counselors doing crunches, bends, leg-ups, and all sorts of crazy things in the main lodge where the only working VCR was located.

Whatever it was, I was fit…but not ripped.  And definitely not as fit as I could have been.  I still ate junk food on the weekends.  My body was just over-burning so many calories that somehow it didn’t matter then.  Not to mention the fact that this was 10 years ago, which means that my  metabolism and energy have since, how shall we say, dwindled to the same proportions that this body has expanded.  I think I hear Taps playing.

I’m right around 230lbs today, depending on if I weigh myself before or after eating/going to the bathroom/sitting in a sauna.  I like to call it a “svelt 230”. Another delusion.  There’s no such thing as a svelt 230 unless you’re 6’9.  And although I have been known to measure at both 6’1 and 6’0 depending on the yardstick (or the addition of shoes), gaining 8-9 inches would be difficult.  Yet I haven’t ruled out leg-stretching instead of this whole “get healthy” thing…

This crazy idea began today, though.  That is, I started working out today.  As I woke up at 5:45am this morning, walked over to my dresser, and texted my younger brother, Critter, it began.

Yeah, you read that right, Critter.

No, my parents aren’t crazy hippies.  If that were the case my name wouldn’t be the wonderfully banal “Tim.” Actually, this whole endeavor might be more popular if my name were “Wolfsbane” or some other NPR-worthy name.  I’m utterly convinced people read and buy things because of the name of the author/artist/crack-head.  It’s the only way to account for Cher’s popularity.  Her name is so damn intriguing…

So, I text Critter, whose real name is Christopher, but who I only call “Christopher” if I’m calling his office or putting him as my next-of-kin-should-my-wife-die on legal paperwork, in which case he will become the proud owner of two cats, an eclectic 80’s CD collection, and a number of kitsch coffee mugs.  I swear he’s setting traps for my wife, he’s so excited about that possibility.

Me: “Are you up?”

Critter: “Sadly yes”

Me: “Ok, see you in a few”

Critter: “k”

And it began.  My road from weakness to…wherever this leads.

Critter, by the way, played High School football, also worked (and lost a ton of weight) at the same camp that was my Mecca for mastication management, and has been lifting weights since he was a freshman in High School.

In short: he knows what he’s doing.  And this is indicated by the fact that he carries a small booklet around with him at the gym, where he records things in a secret code that is only identifiable to him and other weight-lifters.  Some of the secrecy comes from the fact that he’s got terrible hand writing, but the majority of the secrecy comes from the fact that weight-lifters write in their own language.  Such nonsensical phrases like “Press to Max” and “Tri/Bi Extends” sound like they might be in a coffee journal or in the “Looking” section of LGBTQ magazine, respectively.

But, nope.  Following those nonsensical phrases is always a number: reps, poundage, vomit counts.  All sorts of things.

And, it should be noted, Critter’s numbers were always 50-100 units more than mine.  Literally.  The kid is a beast.

After some pleasantries in the locker room that included a discussion on how he should bring his own frickin’ lock because we both can’t fit in the tiny belly-button hole sized cubby that our gym optimistically labels a “locker,” we head out to the “smell area.”  I call it the “smell area” because gyms have a distinct smell.  It’s not necessarily unpleasant, although I doubt I’d want to douse it under my pits.  Because, actually, it smells like un-doused pits.  Not anyone’s pits in particular, but just pits in general.  Like in the Platonic sense: Pits.  The pit of the universe has been captured in gyms around the world.

We begin with a 5 minute warm-up on the eliptical machine.  At about minute 3:30 Critter turns to me and puts his finger to his neck.  Thinking this was the universal sign for choking, I tell him that I still have 2:30 left and the spit wad in his throat would have to wait.  Apparently in weight-lifter speak, however, this means “What’s your heart rate?”  at which point I mouthed, “Still beating.”

I then figured out the eliptical machines have sensors on it, and it indicated to me that my heart rate was 140.  That number made absolutely no sense to me having forgotten most of what I learned in High School health class (except that the dangling thing in your throat is called a uvula…can’t forget that for the life of me). But that number seemed to please Critter, and so I was pleased.  What I was not pleased by was the sweat moving slowly from my nether region and dripping down my leg.

Really?  At minute 3:30?  This will be a gross morning.

We then head upstairs for what Critter called “Warm-ups”.  I liked that he was ambitious with his terms, because I was pretty certain that I didn’t need a “warm-up,” but rather a doctor’s note to get me out of this gym class from hell.  And then I remembered that I needed to be healthier and got my butt in gear.  “Frog-kicks” and “Supermans” followed, and while I’ll spare you the details of these moves in this particular offering (I’ll provide full-detailed sketches later), lets just say that I feel like I need to apologize to the mat I was using due to the grinding.

It took us nearly 25 minutes before we actually lifted a weight.  Apparently to weight-lift well you have to prep your body for the onslaught of hell that will be coming.  You must put it through pergation, where it’s not really sure if it’s working hard or not, to prepare it for real pain.  This is necessary to numb some of your senses enough to keep going.

I looked at the weight bench with fear and trembling.  The bar across the holding-supports was probably more than I’d lifted intentionally in the past ten years.  My brother lovingly said, “Let’s start with 130lbs” at which point I crapped myself just a bit.

“Uhm, that’s a bit much, I think.  My arms look big…but really, no.”

And my hesitation turned into adamant protest when I laid down on that pleather cushion, reached up for that bar, gave the good ‘ole heave-ho to the horizontal beast above my head and it went absolutely nowhere.

I might as well have been pushing on a rock-face; this Sisyphean endeavor was about to come to a halt with a slipped disk or a popped blood vessel if I didn’t lower the weight.  And I hate popped blood vessels.  Especially in the eyeballs.  Actually, I hate eyeballs altogether, but that’s a neurosis for a different time.

So we lowered it to a much more manageable 90lbs, at which point my manliness quotient was also lowered.  Good thing there were only a few people at the gym in the early ass-crack of dawn.  But those two skinny Asians sure were lifting a lot, and I think I saw them snicker, laugh, and draw a picture of me with droopy arms in the foggy bathroom mirror.  I can’t be sure but…bastards.

After what seemed like an infinity of bench pressing, and the words, “No, seriously, I can’t do it anymore” we moved on to a different muscle group.  Triceps.

Before we go there, though, I should mention that Critter not only benched 155lbs, but he did it without my help for many many reps.  I cannot say the same for my 90lbs.  After showing me up so handily he patted my on the back as if to say, “You suck.”

Triceps, though, are my bread and butter of lifting.  It seems my triceps can handle a lot, and as we did these moves he called “tricep extends” from the “lunge position” I didn’t want it to end.  But it did.  I should note that my tricep lunge was completed with an unremarkable 15lb weight.  I. Am. Awesome.

And then to “flys” (20lbs), incline press (50lbs), tricep locks (60lbs) and tricep pull-downs (80lbs).  That morning we were the darlings of the gym, floating from one bench to another, the whole time saying, “Hmmmm, I feel bigger” as if we were doing voice-overs for some movie you only find in the basement section of respectable joints.

But I did feel bigger.  And better.  And hopefully this is a start.

I’m hoping this whole endeavor doesn’t just deal with physical health, though.  I want to become healthier in all sorts of ways, and as I sit at the Starbucks and write this piece I can’t help but chastise myself on the one hand and congratulate myself on the other.  Chastisement because I’ve probably had enough coffee for today, but congratulate myself because I didn’t put sugar in my coffee…this time.  Empty calories: you’ll get your chance later.

My post-workout meal was a cup of grape nuts with no-fat milk.  And a shower where my head was much more involved in the hair-washing portion than it usually is, as my arms didn’t really want to go above my shoulders, let alone scrub.

All-in-all, though, a good start to what I hope is a healthier 2012.