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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

8 Minutes to Hell

I have run as many as eight miles at a time.

I have voluntarily taken part in training regimens which involved thick-necked trainers (still not sure if they were male or female) thrusting me into machines whose use should probably be cause for Congressional hearings on torture.

None of that compares to the ache and shame that comes from finding an eighteen-year old DVD that sounds innocuous enough.  It was called 8 Minute Abs. Thanks to about a decade of considering a walk to the Dairy Queen for the large Blizzard as exercise I found out it could be considered as 8 Minutes to Hell.

"Why don't you try this?" my wife said. She found it in a bargain bin at Wal-mart a few years back and had it sitting under the Frankie Avalon-Annette Funicello classic "Back to the Beach" in our entertainment center.

I had convinced myself I was on a program. I would run something along the lines of a mile and then walk for probably a couple miles and every once in a while I would do some ab exercise I saw LL Cool J do on Conan. I did not think it through that that was not the only exercise the Cool James that Ladies Love did.

I thought to myself, "I'm a man." What could this silver disc intended for housewives do for someone as masculine as I? How challenging could this be?

Of course these questions came from a person who was never aware he was putting on weight until seeing family pictures where his neck had become his most prominent feature. I did not look like the "Before" picture on Weight Watchers but I could have been used as the second or third picture on the five step program.

Now the DVD is in the player. Sporting the "Mid-life Crisis Workout Uniform" of shorts that are supposed to be baggy but aren't and a faded St. Louis Cardinals t-shirt, I am now ready to hit "Play" on the remote.

The music begins and it sounds like a MUZAK version of the Pointer Sisters classic "Automatic" (look it up). The video fades up to three people in tank tops sitting in what appears to be a vacant lot.  Speaking of vacant that describes the woman in the video who, of course, is blonde and has pasted the kind of smile on her face that would give a forty year old man the impression that she would be his if he bought her a Zima and tried his one dance move to impress her. (Obviously, it has been a while since I was in the single world.)

The two men have the same smiles and are wearing pants tight enough that you can actually see freckles through the material. They certainly are pleased to be laying on mats in a field!

"Hey, Gang!" Our leader seems welcoming enough and I envision 90's housewives taking time out from watching "Young & the Restless" and eating Ho Hos to do a few sit-ups. I think that a man such as myself should cruise through this.

Mr. Tanktop on the DVD has a bubblyness that seems limitless. The only other man I ever described as 'bubbly' was wearing an ascot so this is new ground.

The clock on the screen begins and Tanktop tells me that the movements are "safe and effective and fun" so again I know this will be a snap.

He starts with The Basic Crunch. I lay back and do this nice easy starter and in my mind I mock the women who paid for this supposed workout. I can almost see them in their elastic-banded sweatpants struggling to lean up for forty-five seconds. "Piece of cake," I think. Too many pieces of cake are part of why I am trying this.

Next comes the Right Oblique Crunch. Tanktop says, "This works the 'Love Handles', remember those?" I do not recall anyone really wanting to use anything of that nature for any positive purpose so I am not sure why the term is used. He talks about feeling it tighten up but I am feeling more of a folding sensation. Still, I feel confident that I will make it to the next step.

That of course is the Left Oblique Crunch. In trying to raise up, I realized that while I am left-handed in some things and right-handed in others I am definitely not 'left-obliqued'!  This should not hurt.  I am moving like three inches and feeling like a small ferret is biting me under the rib cage.

Still, it's only eight minutes.  I am home free. Of course then I notice that I am not even to the halfway point as the stellar mid-nineties t.v. graphics show.

Continuing to lay on my back the next step is Toe Touches. Tanktop tells me to raise my legs up and touch the bottom of my feet.  After stretching and straining and beginning to wish him dead,  I hear Tanktop admit that touching the bottom of my feet is physically impossible which makes me hate him... yes I hate him just a little bit more. He keeps telling me I am doing great and I think I may be lightheaded enough to forget that this was recorded during the first term of the Clinton administration so odds are he does not really mean it.

At this moment I am aware that the blood that normally goes to my brain is now locked in my pelvic tilt.

Next he says, "Hands placed under the buttocks" which is not that much fun when and it is time for the Reverse Crunch. It is a maneuver that brings back memories of every enchilada I have ever eaten. It is an exercise that is not as painful as the others but it is also a maneuver that makes me glad that I am alone.  There is no way to avoid the type of sound-smell combo that would drive you out of any exercise class.

Thankfully, I am allowed to remove my hands from under my buttocks for the Right Side Crunch. This looks simple and easy (as Tanktop keeps mentioning) and I notice that my belly button is maneuvering first six inches to the right and then four inches to the left. My body is officially a Jell-o Jigglers commercial. I can start to feel pain in areas I am not actually supposed to be exercising.

Following the Right Side Crunch they bring us the Left Side Crunch. I wonder how it is possible that even though I never exercise the muscles on the Right or the Left, I am this much weaker on the left.  Three times I lift my elbow across my body and I notice that even though Tanktop never stops talking he is still doing three crunches for every one I do. The only thing drowning out my groaning in pain is the sound of the shame in the back of my head.

Up next is the Push Through. This implies that all I am doing is a simple move of leaning upward with my hands extending downward for a simple crunch. I am not proud that I had the thought that since it had been more than a decade since the DVD was made that I kind of hoped that one or more of the people on the video could possibly be dead.

It's time to put my hands under my buttocks again and I do not have the courage to look at the clock. I assume that this is all some cruel joke that the Eight Minutes is really using some offshoot of the Metric System and that it really translates to three hours and forty-five minutes in American time. I am supposed to extend my legs straight upward to work my lower abdomen. I start to think that after this maneuver that any discussion my wife and I have of more children will be moot.

I do look and see that I have one minute and fifteen seconds to go. It is an incredibly simply Alternating Curl. I just need to raise my right elbow to my left knee and left elbow to my right knee again and again. I think back to the person of my youth who could play three sets of tennis, mow the lawn and then play a baseball game that night.

The me of today hates that guy! Again, why does this hurt my right side a little while my left side is ready to secede from the union?

Finally, in what appears to be a move used to fill the final 30 seconds comes the Curl. It is basically something where you lay your head on the ground then lift it and look at your feet (if you can see them.) Again, there is no way this should be considered exercise. There also is no way that this should hurt. It does though. I start panicking that this somehow is just the warmup to the real workout and that this will be the end for me.

I envision the paramedics arriving to try and save me and seeing the condition I am in and the freeze frame on the t.v. that says "8 Minute Abs" and they just put a blanket over me because there is no hope for this guy. Actually, as we approach the final five seconds Tanktop throws a curveball and says, "Now hold it," expecting me to keep my head up until the end. I fear that I will not be able to speak because I have not done a neck exercise, since....EVER!

Make this stop!  Tanktop says, "Release," and tells his little helpers Good Job and tells me he will see me in 24 hours.

I think to my self that this is what the Geneva convention was set up to avoid. Dick Cheney would think this was over the top. I try and come up with reasons that this DVD was part of an elaborate plot to make us all feel insecure because no human could possibly handle this supposedly "low impact" workout.

Actually, what it did was make me think that I just needed to make one less trip to Arby's every month.  Thank you Tanktop and the Tanktop-ettes!

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