On the schoolyard field of battle known as gym class, I made the geeks look good. I could neither throw nor catch, run nor jump, tackle nor save; I always came out of dodgeball with head trauma.
Those years left scars. I got picked last when teams were selected, and the Napoleonic gym teacher held me personally responsible for it taking him eight years to finish a phys ed degree.
In university, I met a woman light years out of my league. I also met pizza, bacon cheeseburgers and beer. It was the “freshman 15” factored by three.
Yet my girlfriend continued to love me, regardless of the added adiposity. Still, I wished to minimize the chances of her saying no when I handed her a modest-sized, sparkly rock and asked her to put up with me forevermore. It was time to stop being a doughnut-scarfing couch potato and get my uncoordinated and overweight butt in shape.
Like you’re supposed to, I started exercising and eating right. Also like you’re supposed to, I hated it. Wait. I mean, one day I was leaving the gym, having slogged through another session on the iron-stair-maiden-torture-climber when one of the trainers asked me, “Did you have a good workout?”
“Define ‘good.’” I said.
He looked amused. “I’ll take that as a ‘No.’”
“I hate that machine.”
“Then why do it? Why not try something else?”
“I’m open to suggestions.”
When he mentioned weight lifting, the dweeb in me laughed aloud, until I realized the idea beat the stairway to nowhere, so I made an investment in my love life by hiring him to learn how to not drop dumbbells on my toe.
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After the initial weight lifting sessions, I had an epiphany: I didn’t hate it.
I felt like Tom Hanks in Cast Away, when he struggled to create fire from the smallest of embers. Like Tom, I had an ember to work with. I took that infinitesimal spark of “didn’t hate it” and, with considerable time and effort, nurtured it into a small flame. With added learning and practice, the flame grew to a bonfire.
Weight lifting became my thing. It became my thing because I slowly transformed from not hating it to liking it to The-Bridges-of-Madison-County loving it. (My mother made me watch that movie. Anything she says about me crying is a lie.)
Learning to love weight lifting was the first step in becoming fit because once it became ingrained into my lifestyle, I began tasting the fruit and vegetable rainbow instead of the Skittles one. I even attempted running. And I hated it, and I quit.
Then I tried running again, and I hated it, and I quit.
Then I tried again, and I hated it, and I did not quit. And one day I was running through horrific weather conditions with sideways precipitation while U2 was blaring on my iPod telling me it's a beautiful day, and I thought: It sure is.
My fitness regimen was no longer about securing the hand in marriage of the most amazing woman I’d ever met. It was about having fun while running through abysmally frigid temperatures with lungs rasping like a chain smoker breathing flesh-eating bacteria. It was about enjoying repeatedly lifting heavy things up and putting them back down. It was about pedaling my bicycle far and fast to get lost on purpose.
Oh, and she said yes.
My wife may not like the occasional feelings of abandonment she has when I ditch her with the kids to take off for a run or a bike ride, and she certainly doesn’t care for the way I smell afterward, but I do believe she appreciates the end result of my fitness efforts.
Body for wife, indeed.