There was a time when I had a typical living room.
It had a couch, loveseat, end tables, floor lamp, book cases, and a TV.
Now there are three weight benches, more free weights and barbells than Big 5 Sporting Goods has in stock these days, and all sorts of things that would have made the folks running the Spanish Inquisition envious.
I was careful not to include simple household objects as some fitness gurus suggest if you don’t have free weights and a bench or else can’t afford to spend a mortgage payment or two on some high tech exercise device with video screens that help you channel your inner Walter Mitty — or exercise-syncing as if you are Vanilla Ice — by showing you sprinting up Mt. Everest.
That’s because class exercise instructors such as Margy Nelson have conditioned me to cringe at the sight of a stackable chair or wince in pain when I see a common household towel.
You haven’t enjoyed true embarrassment — or pain — until you’ve done 25 crunches while planting your rear on a chair seat sideways. Nor will doing arm extensions with weights ever come as close to replicating the aches or the shaking your arms that stretching a common towel like a rubber band will do.
Rest assured I do have a few knick-knacks in my living room gym that I’m sure in some way violate the Geneva Convention.
Topping the list is my latest toy that deceivingly looks like a black and gray basketball — a 10-pound medicine ball.
I can only imagine the pain it could bring if my grandson Ryan were to pass it to me as hard as he could.
Back when Ryan was 8 and we were playing a game of hoops at Woodward Park I told him to try and pass the basketball harder next time.
He did and I wasn’t looking and ended up getting a severely jammed finger.
Ryan — like any concerned kid that thought grandpa was prehistoric — was worried that he had hurt me.
Me — like any self-respecting 50-year-old guy at the time — lied through my teeth as I was doubled over in pain.
If Ryan did that today with a medicine ball he wouldn’t ask me such a question. He’d be calling 9-1-1.
As if a medicine ball wasn’t enough, I’ve tossed kettlebells and weighted bars into the mix of barbells, dumbbells just in case I get bored in my quest to become more buff than Don Knotts.
Given I refine the word klutz; of course I have a Bosu balance trainer for laughs. The best way to describe a Bosu is that it looks like one of those iconic Staples “Easy Buttons” on steroids. Now imagine how awkward it would be to plant your toes on the Easy Button to do push-ups.
Forget the fact I have a hard enough time doing pushups on stable surfaces.
And to re-enforce the fact I’ve known since spectacularly bombing the Presidential Fitness Test in seventh grade that I’m not apt at pushups, I also have one of those inflatable big gym balls that I routinely roll off trying to do for what passes for pushups.
I’m not as bad as I make it sound but I’m not as good as I should be for all the time I invest in working out.
Years ago in my 30s back when Jane Fonda was becoming rich off the fat of the land, I was a Jazzercise fanatic. I know Judi Sheppard Misset founded Jazzercise but I lump them together for being charlatans of sorts as both claimed their aerobics routines would give women bodies like theirs.
They weren’t completely lying as the money they made off of students via franchise fees paid for their tummy tucks.
I’m not really digressing because that is about the time I learned the exercise industry can be a racket.
For example, I was convinced by the likes of Misset that men doing aerobics needed specially designed men’s aerobic shoes or else I’d hurt my feet. The only thing I ended up hurting was my pocketbook.
They cost $110 — $10 more than the women instructor’s shoes and $50 more than a regular women’s aerobics shoe.
Given I was taking an average of six classes a week — what, you thought I might do something involving trying to hurt my body in moderation? — I’d go through a pair a month.
Finally I wised up and bought cross-training shoes that worked surprisingly better with all of the kicking and jumping I did.
By the time I ended up in Manteca and was able to give Joann Tilton a scare or two in one of her aerobics classes, I was known to be a bit wild with my kicking and jumping.
I discovered with Jazzercise that just because I couldn’t bench press a bus or clap my hands between finger-tip pushups didn’t mean I was completely out of shape.
Once in a while a woman would bring their boyfriend. Rarely could they last half a class and even rarer would they ever show up again.
Before the start of one 90-minute class that included a 20 minute warm-up and a 20-minute cool down, there was a buffed guy in his early 20s who showed up in a World Gym tank top to join his girlfriend. Did I mention he was loudly telling no one in particular that this was going to be a piece of cake?
About halfway into the 10-minute warm-up Donna Shaw who was instructing the class motioned Reynaldo Maldonado and myself to the edge of the stage where she asked us to check on the guy she had seen go into the men’s bathroom while looking like he was having a bit of trouble.
We found the guy kneeling on the floor doubled over after having puked.
I kind of felt sorry for him but it did make me realize that even if I can never even have a one pack — likely an impossible goal for me even if I tried to use steroids — it didn’t mean I was out of shape.
Until the pandemic hit I was splitting my workouts between home and three gyms — California Fitness, Manteca InShape, and Tracy InShape.
In the nearly 30 years I have been going to gyms I have never worked out on a machine or even picked up a weight unless it was in a group exercise class.
I’m looking forward to the day I can resume making a fool of myself in front of people. Doing it at home is a bit dangerous as my Dalmatians think I want to rough house.
The pandemic didn’t inspire me to convert my front room into a workout room but I have added more pain inducing and ego crushing exercise implements.
Arnold Schwarzenegger clearly isn’t my interior designer given I have “girlie man” weights — my dumbbells top out at 30 pounds — and I have a physique that still looks more like a before picture that those after pictures that look like they’ve been photo-shopped.
A friend who happened to see my front room last week for the first time thinks it’s a tad strange that just over a quarter of my floor space — keep in mind I have a 960-square-foot house – is devoted to workout equipment.
But then he looked at my four-bicycle stand minus two bicycles.
“That’s right,” he said, “you were the guy that used to have a spare bedroom with five bicycles in it and enough cycling jerseys to outfit a peloton.”
Guilty as charged.