In 50 years on this great Earth, my body had never ached so much as the day I decided to see a fitness trainer.
In my 25th year as a father, I need to live at least three more decades—long enough to not become a problem for my children. I also needed to figure out how to get rid of my man boobs.
For the better part of the past decade, my workout has entailed climbing onto my exercise bike while watching ESPN first thing in the morning. I work up enough of a sweat to require a shower, but not so much that it drips onto my sports page. And as I read, I also manage to drink my morning cup of coffee.
I was convinced this was enough—until one morning, I looked at my shirtless self in the bathroom mirror only to realize I might soon need to shop for a two-piece swimsuit.
I met with Nic DeCaire of Fusion Fitness in Newark, who talked about focusing on individual body parts rather than a full-body workout—“unless you want to be walking across a stage, flexing in little underwear things like bodybuilders do,” he said, smiling. Later that evening, my wife got an even bigger chuckle out of the inferred image.
Nic proposed that my goal be to “fatigue the chest muscles” by lifting. Assuming he didn’t mean my coffee cup, I was getting worn out just thinking about it.
My first exercise, cable crossovers, involved pulling weights on pulleys toward each other from a “get ready to hug a tree” pose, as Nic called it. I did these while looking in the mirror, and if I may say so, I looked much more impressive than I did at home in the bathroom. Of course, my man boobs were covered.
I was all business while lifting, so much so that Nic quipped, “You do know it is OK to smile, right?” I didn’t want to waste an ounce of energy smiling back.
After I hugged what seemed like a hundred trees, Nic had me sit down on an inclined bench, then handed me a 15-pound dumbbell. I figured that would be a piece of cake to lift. But then he passed me another. As I slowly moved through a typical dumbbell press routine, I could feel my muscles fatiguing like never before, at any age, in any situation.
Just when I thought we were done, Nic rolled out a big ball. Excitement set in as I thought maybe we were playing crab soccer like in gym class. After all, at my age, just standing up from the crab position would be considered a workout. But then Nic carried over the two dumbbells, and I started to feel like one—a very tired, very weak one.
He showed me how to do the same press exercise we did on the inclined bench while lying on the stability ball. I did, and it ripped the you-know-what out of not only my chest muscles, but my non-six-pack abs as well.
If I could have lifted my arms above my head, I would have waved a white flag. Instead, I asked Nic how often I should repeat this entire workout. “Four to five times a week,” he said. I was too tired to laugh.
As we wrapped up my first official training session, I told Nic that maybe in 10 years I’ll write another story and the weights will be much heavier.
He replied, grinning, “Ripped at 60!”
I finally cracked a smile. It was the only part of my body that wasn’t sore.
Since that workout I’ve purchased a stability ball and dumbbells. I’ve decided that, at 50, the key to any fitness program is finding activities you enjoy, are willing and able to do, then, like a famous commercial once preached, “Just do it.” So I’m mixing my new weight-lifting program with my morning bike and newspaper-reading routine.
Old habits die hard.