Heavy Lifting

Commentary: In Exile

There are two things I hate about writing this column.

The first is that I almost always end up writing it on a Sunday night. It’s due on Monday morning, and like most people, I tend to leave things until the last minute. Sunday nights are my least favorite night of the week, for obvious reasons. It’s the night you want to savor your last few hours of liberty before you’re stuck in front of a computer for the next five days, and here I am stuck in front of a computer.

Time really does fly. Last January, I watched with alarm as 2004 suddenly clicked into 2005 (as a friend of mine remarked shortly after the ball dropped, “How the fuck am I even alive in 2005?”). I made two New Year’s resolutions. One was to act less crazy while drunk, and the other was to get some exercise. Exercise is a classic resolution, so I decided to find out why it’s such a popular option.

I purchased some hand-weights. Dumbbells, as I believe they were called back when mustachioed strongmen in uni-suits used to lift them. The stores were well stocked with such fitness accessories, cashing in on the hapless public’s collective attempt at self-improvement. I purchased one 15-pound weight and one 20-pound weight and hobbled the three long blocks home. (The fact that carrying the weights for three blocks put me in a foul mood should have acted as a portent that the whole exercise thing was, like most resolutions, about to go nowhere).

The plan was to use them on Sunday nights. No iron man antics. Just a few reps. Break a sweat, as they say. Get that alleged “runner’s high” and make the weekend’s close a little less funereal. T-shirt weather was coming, and wouldn’t it be great to have a little triceps scenario happening when it got here.

I bought the weights rather than join the local gym because I thought I’d rather struggle to lift a 15-pound weight in the privacy of my living room rather than while facing a large, mirrored wall amongst creatine addicts. Also, I was worried that I wouldn’t know how to use the machines, and that some gym employee would have to come over and show me how I was using the elliptical nautilus contraption incorrectly and then remind me of the importance of stretching.

Years ago, I joined the Washington Sports Club on Connecticut Avenue just south of Dupont Circle. My friend Amanda had just gotten a job selling memberships there, and we were hoping it would make her look impressive to make a sale on her first day. I went about twice a week, mainly so I could watch CNN because I didn’t have cable at the time. Sometimes I would just stand there on the treadmill for half an hour and watch Anderson Cooper be all dreamy and well informed, and then shower and go home.

During this time, I was the sole gay resident of a group house in Columbia Heights and, unbeknownst to me, Washington Sports Club had activated a subscription to a men’s fitness magazine for me. It was free with my membership to the gym. The magazine started arriving at the house every month like clockwork, a big glossy book full of half-naked, oily muscle men, delivered through our mail slot with my name printed clearly on the sticker. I tried to explain to my housemates that I hadn’t ordered it, but I know what they were thinking. Washington Sports Club should check with people before they just sign you up for a subscription to a magazine like that. It’s embarrassing to have people think you jerk off to gym queens.

After three months at Washington Sport Club, exercising had already become tedious, and the teeny little muscles I had managed to eke out during the course of that time never even had a chance to make it out of the ICU. After several weeks of nonuse, they had atrophied into their usual, dormant state. Needless to say, I haven’t used the hand weights. They’re securely stored under the dresser where I can’t see them.

Now, with T-shirt weather mere days away, my arms still resemble the little lead pipe that comes with a game of Clue. Once again, I’ve left something important until the last minute.

Which brings me back to my original point. The second thing that I hate about writing this column is that it forces me to sit down and effectively re-evaluate my life on a biweekly basis. Nobody wants to have to do that. Most of us have uneventful lives and a brief look back at your week is just a reminder of that. What happened to me in the past fourteen days that was fascinating or noteworthy? Sometimes I can’t really think of anything.

One thing I can think of that pleases me, however, is that I didn’t spend several hours of my free time repeatedly lifting a heavy object for no reason whatsoever. T-shirt weather is specifically when I don’t want to sit in my house in a unisuit and work out. Exercise in the park? That’s not an activity. That’s a would-be-pleasant day in the park ruined. Another beanpole summer isn’t what I had in mind, but there’s lots of lying around to do, and I don’t want to leave it till the last minute.

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