Each March 19th, over many, many years the graceful avian miracle takes place when the swallows return to the Mission San Juan Capistrano after a long flight from Goya, Argentina. Their ability to accomplish this arduous journey, relying on instinct, the sun’s relationship to earth, and an understanding of weather that human’s likely will never grasp, is a beautiful thing. This week, on an admittedly lesser scale, we will witness yet another miracle, the return of the Resolutionists to the gymnasium. The beauty of the swallows, having defied nature to accomplish what can be described as a magnificent occurrence is replaced by the humorous antics of folks who have just ended a year on a glutinous holiday orgy of food. They know what must be done, so they are in the gym on the 2d day of January (The 1st day is reserved for prayer that their misery from alcohol poisoning be replaced with the sweet relief of death.) It is time to act on the mightiest resolution of all. Go to the gym, get in shape and lose the weight that has resulted in wardrobe replacement, yet again, this last year. Let’s have a look.
I am a dedicated gym rat. No, I have no desire to look like Charles Atlas, my goals being far more modest. I work to keep arthritis at bay, maintain reasonable strength for a an old guy, and be able to bend over to pick something up and actually stand back up without moaning and cursing. My friends are the charts that provide reasonable, age adjusted goals, where I work in the upper 25% of males my age. The gym became a necessity when my lifestyle changed dramatically, with fishing, hunting, farming, lawn work, carpentry, rolling stock maintenance, wood cutting, etc. being replaced with flying, motorcycling, RVing, lazy float fishing and an occasional fly fishing excursion to one of our terrific trout venues. I actually love the gym and enjoy the folks who share this experience on a regular basis. Folks become addicted to this lifestyle, but it takes awhile to get “over the hump” and develop this appreciation. Through much of the year, you interact with people who share your commitment to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This interaction alone is refreshing. This being said, around the 2d of January, our little world is interrupted by the Resolutionists, who will mingle about, providing comic relief to the rats and other Resolutionists as they dig in to remake their bodies, with great expectations, but little understanding of the commitment that is necessary.
My first observation concerns gym apparel. I often comment on the exceedingly pleasing visual experience of Lycra and/or spandex on the finely toned bodies of the ladies who have worked really hard to do justice to these synthetics. At nearly 70, your appreciation only deepens as you watch these ladies burn an elliptical up or hop on a stair stepper and climb the equivalent of the Empire State Building in a single session with all the gusto of a New York City fireman attacking a fire in a high rise. Leering is off limits in the gym, but an occasional glimpse of these ladies at work is plenty of incentive for old folks like me to stay an extra half hour on the recumbent bike! Gym rat guys don’t wear Lycra, unless you are a Resolutionist and Santa left some of this stuff under the tree for your debut on January 2d. Lycra, an ill fitting pair of gym shorts and brand new Nike super shoes are dead giveaways that a spectacle is about to occur. Ladies do not escape this faux-pas, as the marvelous, previously mentioned miracle fabrics cannot work body transforming miracles. There is nothing quite as disconcerting as seeing an elephant with his tail tucked between his legs….if you get my point.
Secondly, the resistance machines in modern gyms are far more sophisticated than just a few years ago. They have evolved to the point where a single device is designed to work a particular muscle group, in some cases a single muscle, and form is important. It is tongue biting humorous to watch a Resolutionist walk up to a device, climb on and give ‘er a go. I am convinced these devices alone have discouraged many Resolutionists after just a day at the gym who have added as much weight as they could possibly move and, using terrible form, awakened the next morning with muscles screaming for relief. Resolutionists tend to be a little older and would do well to schedule a session or two with an exercise coach who will steer you away from practices guaranteed to cause abandonment of well intentioned goals in short order. A session or two, with much too heavy resistance, will tempt even the most ardent Resolutionist to consider the slow walk to the locker room where he or she will consider hanging themselves from a shower head with their Lycra tights! Savvy gym rats know to work different muscle groups on alternating days. Resolutionists make it a point to start with device one and work their way around the gym giving every machine a try. This would kill even Charles Atlas. Finally, while discussing devices, it should be noted that free weights are still an excellent strategy for strength conditioning or sculpting. It is important to note that you CANNOT, in all likelihood, pick up where you left off in your senior year of high school. These attempts often result in audible, profane expletives from Resolutionists who hop into the weight room and go to work after having lifted little more than a bite of prime rib in the preceding year. The picture below is of the latest stair step machine in our gym. This little jewel takes NO prisoners……..believe me!
A final note. The first few weeks of the Resolutionist period is permeated with the smells of the season. If you love the smell of Ben-Gay or today’s popular miracle creams and sprays, Icy-Hot and/ or Freeze, you are going to love this time of the year. Every device has the lingering scent of camphor permeating the air around it, a reminder of the good intentions of those who have lapsed in conditioning for years. These good folks, whether motivated by an honest PCP, family member or genuine desire to take better care of themselves, are trying to make it “over the hump” and join the ranks of the committed. The kindest gesture on behalf of the rats is the offer of guidance relative to the use of a machine as you walk by, but this must be done carefully. After all, these folks have been taking care of themselves all of their lives, and often resent any help with something as basic as physical conditioning. I, rather than offer advice on a device, usually just mention the name of a conditioning coach that is affiliated with the gym with the admonishment that it will be the best 50 bucks they will spend during the Resolutionist period.
Back to attire, I have, from experience, seen denim withstand horrible forces in auto accidents without tearing. Denim has nothing on Lycra and Spandex………..
See you at the gym……….