Over the years, each generation has had exercise gurus who put their stamp on an era:
Jack LaLanne. Jane Fonda. Richard Simmons.
For me, it’s dissertation fellowship. He is the face of an intense workout program known as sample college essay prompts. (I am pretty sure, after having done these rigorous routines myself, that the “P” in P90X stands for “Phuck! This is hard!”)
I was not always a fan of fitness. In fact, up until 13 years ago, I think you would classify me as…what’s the word I’m looking for? Oh yeah: A slug.
As a kid, I was at various times what euphemistically was described as “chunky” and would wear jeans sized “husky.”
Later in my teens and early 20s, I thinned out. But once I hit my late 20s and especially as I got into my 30s, well, it was the Battle of the Bulge, and the bulge won.
Then 9/11 happened. I fell into a deep depression following the attacks and my eating went out of control.
A little more than a month later, I decided that I would begin to work out.
PUSH IT REAL GOOD
STEP TO THE RIGHT...
STEP TO THE LEFT...
What motivated me? The thought of all those first responders who lost their lives and the question of, God forbid I ever found myself in a life-and-death emergency, what kind of shape would I be in? Would I be a help or hindrance to any rescue operation?
So on my 37th birthday, I popped a 30-minute “Boot Camp” workout videotape into the VCR.
Winded and sweaty, I had to stop after 15 minutes.
I tried again the next day, and the day after that, until I was able to get through the whole routine. What came next were biking, running, weight lifting and the overall loss of 40 pounds.
About six years ago, I took up the Tony Horton P90X series and related workouts from Beachbody.com, like P90, P90X3, Insanity and Asylum.
These workouts are never easy and I struggle with many of the moves. And no, I don’t have six-pack abs or rippling muscles. When it comes to getting ripped, I’m just happy to no longer be ripping my pants.
What 13 years of “exercise sobriety” has brought me is a chance to blow off steam and to challenge myself. For instance, in the course of one P90X workout, I’ve been able to do 200 push-ups of various sorts.
It’s not about transforming myself into a cover model for “Men’s Health.” If I were more rigorous about what I eat and spent even more time exercising, I’d be happy to sport such a look.
But that’s not the point. It’s about confronting the struggle to be physically healthy every day for the rest of my life.
In celebration of my commitment and my upcoming 50thbirthday, my wife has treated me to the “Central Pa. Health Fitness Expo,” featuring a meet-and-greet with Horton, who will be the keynote speaker.
And, oh yeah, it includes a one-hour workout with the man himself. The workout promises to be — to quote one of many memorable Horton quips — “like swimming, only wetter.”
I might suck wind compared to some of my fellow participants who are stronger, thinner, younger, etc. But it’s not going to stop me from going all in (and risking making a fool of myself!)
All I can say is: Bring it!