by Terry Hargrove
Everything starts somewhere. For us, getting in shape started with bread pudding.
“I don’t think it’s normal to eat that much bread pudding,” I said. “I wonder if anybody else celebrates International Bread Pudding Day?”
“I’m still not convinced that holiday exists,” said Nancy, “But it is winter in Connecticut, and you need your winter fat.”
“Har, har. My feet are cold. Do I have socks on? I don’t think I can move.”
And I didn’t move for hours. I sat there like a gorged tick. Later that evening, I was able to push myself upright and stagger to bed. I’m lying. I staggered to the refrigerator for a few more bites of bread pudding. Hey, IBP day only comes once a year. The next morning everything had changed.
“I know the family dinner is supposed to be about food,” I said, “but what I did yesterday was just wrong. No one person should eat that much food. Now, my comfy pants are no longer that comfy. I’m going to have to buy bigger ones. Or maybe it’s time that we…did something.”
“It wouldn’t hurt any of us to start eating healthier,” said Nancy. “And you need to cut back on the iced tea. All that caffeine can’t be good for you. I suppose we could get back on the treadmill.”
Ah, yes. The treadmill that is in the basement… somewhere. We hide Christmas presents on it.
“I don’t think the treadmill is the answer,” I said. “Healthy eating is part of it, but I think we need weight training. You know. A gym membership.”
Nancy stared at me for a long time. “I don’t know,” she said. “The problem with a gym membership is that you have to use it. And the problem with using a gym is that the gym is already filled with people who have been using it for years. I’m not sure I want people to see me before I get into shape.”
“So the trick is to get in shape and then enjoy the gym,” I said. That made perfect sense to me.
“I have to find five scales,” said Nancy. “To chart my progress.”
“Why five?” I asked. “Are you going to get an average?”
“No,” she laughed. “Have you never been on a diet? I need five scales so I can always refer to the one that says I’ve lost the most.”
“I’ve never been on a diet,” I said. “Maybe I’ll just drop the tea.”
Nancy looked at me in a funny way, as if she was trying to decipher something, then ignored it. We decided to get in shape. The most important step is admitting you have a problem, in my case a ponderous, pasty problem that would take months if not years to remove. But once it was fixed, I could boldly walk into any gym and lift some weights and scoff at the overweight and unsculpted.
But we didn’t have any weights. We didn’t have dumbbells or barbells or kettle bells or cowbells or any other kind of bell people work out with. Fortunately, I found an exercise DVD that didn’t use weights. Instead, you worked out with a weighted ball. The ball was the size of a shot putt, only weighing 2 pounds. I told Nancy I would order the ball for her, but I would find my own exercise ball, or substitute two cans of green beans. I found a ball that weighed 5 pounds and thought, this is what I’ll use. Still, I felt kind of silly. How much good could a 5-pound ball do for me?
When the DVD came in, I stood before the TV confidently holding my 5-pound weighted ball. We hit the play button and we worked out with Mitch…Somebody. The first 4 minutes were all about stretching, so by the time the actual exercises began, I was already winded.
“We have a short workout today,” sang smiling Mitch Somebody. “Only 10 minutes, so let’s get started.”
“Is somebody knocking at the door?” asked Nancy.
“No, that was my shoulder popping,” I said. “And my knee.”
Let me say something about weighted ball training. A 5-pound ball might not be better for you than a 2-pound ball, but the 5-pound ball hurts more when you drop it on your foot, which I did, twice. Halfway into the workout, I was afraid I was having a stroke. Nancy was behind me puffing and wheezing. Joey sat on the sofa watching.
“Is this supposed to be fun, daddy?” he asked. “Because you keep saying bad words and mama looks all funny.”
“This… pant… is how… pant… grown-ups have fun,” I wheezed.
“Are we done yet?” begged Nancy. “Because I see a light.”
“Don’t go into the light,” I replied. “I think we have 3 minutes to go.”
Finally, the 10 minute workout was over. Mitch was smiling, and oh, how I hated him. I collapsed into a puddle of my own sweat. Nancy passed out on the sofa. Eventually, we were able to stand under our own power, and we climbed the steps on our hands and knees and fell into the most comfortable sleep either of us had had in a long, long time. I dreamed of Mitch Somebody and the workout ball all night long. The next morning we were both so stiff and sore, we moved like zombies. I think it was obvious that Mitch Somebody and his magical exercise ball was not a good match for us.
“I’m thinking we should clear off the treadmill and give it a second chance,” I said.
“What are you saying?” asked Nancy.
“I think what I’m saying is I have no desire to participate in the Marquis de Mitch exercise program anymore,” I said. “I sneezed this morning and almost passed out from the pain. And I think I broke two of my toes.”
“It’ll get better,” said Nancy. “We can’t quit this yet. We just started. We’re going to do it again tonight. We’re going to do the first 10 minute program every night for five nights.”
“Five nights, huh,” I said. “OK. Then maybe we can send it back and get a refund.”
“No,” corrected Nancy. ”Then we will do the second 10 minute workout as well. Then we’ll add the sculpted tummy workout. A 30-minute workout with a weighted ball seven times week will certainly be good for both of us.”
That was January. It is now March, and I am proud to say that we continue to use the Mitch Somebody workout routine 5 to 6 times per week. Is it working? Well, I don’t pop and wheeze like I used to. But I did retire the 5-pound weighted ball. The two cans of green beans work just fine, and don’t sting nearly as bad when I drop them on my feet.