Sunday, December 22, 2013


As a kid, I loathed exercise; in fact, I loathed anything that distracted me from what was really important in life: Nickelodeon and potato chips. This aversion towards physical activity seems to run in the family. My dad, a non-native English speaker who alters certain words based on his opinions of them, calls it “exercide,” as if any physical activity amounts to some kind of taboo, large-scale slaughter.

Several months ago, I began waging exercide against my muscles. This is essentially an experiment to see whether or not vegans can grow muscle in the first place, and as of this writing, I’d still lose an arm-wrestling competition with the branch of a willow: a meat-eating willow, that is.

A full-body workout is what the experts recommend. Therefore - ever the diligent disciple - I spend time stretching and straining each muscle group on every exercise machine.

Sometimes I wonder if these machines are gendered. Take the "Hip Abduction" machine, for example: a machine whose name sounds like a most bootylicious alien kidnapping. On the instructional sticker, there is a stock animation of a woman with an impossible, feline musculature, in several stages of squeezing her legs together. Her butt is highlighted in a pain-colored red.

Is the Hip Abduction machine targeted towards women? If so, am I upsetting some unspoken rule by mounting it? I could swear I've caught a look of disapproval in the eyes of my male gym peers. Who knows what they mutter under their breath, between tense grunts, with sweat streaming down their breast-sized pectorals and through their short shorts.

Gauche moments further abound whenever I board that great conveyor belt of physical fitness – the treadmill. My mp3 player always seems to select the wrong song. Somehow, the synthesized, blood-pumping percussion of New Order always gets bypassed for that one Janis Joplin song about pediatric depression, shaking my will to breathe, let alone develop the perfect physique.

Once, while lunging forward on the treadmill and attempting to skip the track, the damned thing jumped out of my hand like an electronic frog. Impulsively, stupidly, I reached down towards the moving surface to grab it and lost my balance. The fellow striding next to me was frozen with alarm by the impending disaster. Yet, miracles do happen: by running to regain an upright posture and jumping onto the side-rails, disaster was averted.

What rare luck! Face and mp3 player intact, I bought a lottery ticket that day. I stuffed it in my back pocket - firm muscle underneath thanks to that Hip Abduction machine - and haven't seen it since.

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