June 1998
s m u g
smoking jacket
by Jack Smith

A New Man

I can describe my current fitness level on a Spice Girl scale of somewhere between Sporty Spice and the lesser known, Gregg Allman Spice. Which is to say it is improved. My lack of regular exercise in over 10 years combined with my love of Reese cups had betrayed me and left me with a bit of a tummy. Ok, I'm understating - um - lying. I appeared to be 5 months pregnant. Even scarier is that I could feel "it" kicking. The nightmares of the baby alien living inside me and feeding on rapidly accumulating Reese cups and Italian Sausages made me visibly jittery. I felt like shit all the time. I was in a bad way. It was established by a relative that I have a fat face. And now it was time to get my body back to normal.

My friends, even the non-depressed one, look at me with more than a hint of cynicism when I "get into" things. There was my Henry Kissinger phase, my Super Doppler fascination, and the six month period in 1994 when I caught the poodle breeding bug. So, no one believed me when I explained that I was changing my sedentary lifestyle. But one day I got tired of being soft and weak and after arriving home from work, serviced my mountain bike, strapped myself to the pedals and hit the street.

It was easy enough to get started but hard to maintain my breakneck pace of 45 minutes per day on the bike. Just seeing all the rollerblading girls in sportsbras at the lakefront isn't enough motivation when your legs are burning with each rpm. So, I looked for additional inspiration to keep me going. I settled on my old favorites, vanity and fear.

Nobody likes to be referred to as Tubby. An ex girlfriend nicknamed me "El Gordo," which after using Alta Vista's Translation page I found either means "Bearer of Glad Tidings" or "The Fat One." Either way, it was a considerable blow to my self esteem. Granted I did gain 20 pounds after moving to Wisconsin, the heart of the heart attack belt and I was no longer the heavy metal thin that the girls with mall bangs love so much. But I didn't need to be reminded of it. Reality was more powerful than my self-delusion and I could no longer block it out. A healthy dose of vanity was what I needed. So, I began looking at myself in a full length mirror in the morning and saying motivational phrases like, "Goddammit, look at that hot ass," "Look at you losing all that weight. You're practically miniscule.", and "Hi, there, poolboy. It looks awfully hot out there. Would you like to come in for a nice cool glass of ice water and some show tunes?"

Fear can push you harder than vanity. It's gotten Bill Gates and David Letterman where they are and I'm convinced that it's the main driving force propelling me forward toward my goal of getting fit. I'm over 30 and ever year I wait to start working out means that I'll won't be ready for dating 18 year olds when middle aged crazy hits in another two or so months. All I have to do is imagine myself in another 5 years sitting on the couch watching Days of Our Lives and eating Ding Dongs covered in bedsores wondering if I'll ever get be able to fit into a coach class seat. That little fantasy always ends with me showing up in the Guiness Book of World Records and being lowered into my grave in a piano box.

There are a few lessons about cycling in particular that I learned very quickly. After the first week of riding, I felt like I'd been traded for a carton of Marlboros in D Block at Riker's. So, I went out and bought myself a pair of padded cycling pants and now my boys are as happy as clams. The other lesson I learned was don't read Sarte if you want to have a happy life. These are all minor though compared to getting back my body back to a normal shape.

I haven't actually weighed myself since I started. You may think this is weird of someone as vain and fearful as me but I didn't want to be tied to my weight. Vanity aside, I figured the major benefits would reveal themselves over time. My size 36 waists fitting easier than they ever have is just a bonus. It's more important that I've noticed a marked increase in my energy level, I'm breathing easier, and, goddammit, my ass is looking really hot.




and such
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