Despite warnings from my father that purchasing a high-end elliptical trainer was like paying a whole lot of money for a poorly designed coat rack, I bought one anyway.
Not really for me—I get bored with staring at the wall while running. Actually, I get bored while running and, more generally, while exercising. But I was trying to be generous to someone I cared about and who claimed to be invigorated by such things. I rationalized it—not unreasonably—by ending her gym membership, from which fees had been piling up, given that the gym’s sole desirable amenity was a high-end elliptical trainer.
Also I thought: Hey, maybe I will use it too.
In another couple of years, the thing will have paid for itself in cancelled gym fees. Then, presumably, I’ll sell it for a few hundred bucks and use the proceeds to build an actual coat closet in the enormous area it takes up. Because it turns out that my father was right and, in the rare instance the elliptical is used, it’s annoying to schlep all the winter coats that now inhabit it over to the sofa. A few days might then go by before the sofa is in demand, at which point there is nowhere convenient to move the coats to, except, of course, back to the elliptical machine.
Usually, I need the sofa as a place to sit while I watch a movie. The very best movies, I have decided, are insane Kung fu movies. These movies have everything. Except for sex. Kung fu movies never have sex. But that’s OK because sex in movies always makes me laugh with the fake hotness and glistening, oiled bodies under tinted lights. Also, in place of incredibly hot movie sex, Kung fu movies have more realistic stuff, like people who fly, catch arrows with their bare hands and can kill you just by quivering their palms in front of your chest for a moment. Also, I’ve noticed that, except for greedy shopkeepers and lazy son-in-laws, all the people in Kung fu movies are very fit and athletic. They are forever somersaulting onto rooftops, leaping from tree to tree and beating up whole monasteries full of wayward Shaolin monks whose delusional meditations have led them to believe that Plum Flower Fist might actually beat Dragon Technique. Fools.
But while watching the amazing athleticism required to give followers of the Plum Flower Fist the thumping they so richly deserve, it’s hard not to notice the expensive piece of exercise equipment lurking in the corner. Even shrouded as it is in a thick layer of coats. What has saved me from too much guilt is that there is no expensive exercise equipment at all in Kung fu movies.
Don’t get me wrong—there’s lots of working out and training that goes into catching arrows and killing with a quivering palm, but it all involves simple, vigorous activity in the great outdoors or, sometimes, punching a dummy made from sticks. A lot of times, some wizened old Kung fu master will kick huge boulders at his young apprentice who is tasked with balancing multiple cups of tea or practicing calligraphy, or both, while ducking certain death. This will get you fit in a hurry. As far as I know, however, these are not features you can buy with modern exercise equipment. It turns out it’s a tough fitness regimen to arrange at all. No one responded to my Facebook invitation to form a boulder-kicking, tea balancing, workout club. I had some initial interest on Craigslist, but then it turned kind of creepy.
What I decided was that maybe a few, simple exercises that relied only on my own body and one other thing, usually the floor, might be worth a shot. I’ve seen this used effectively in Kung fu movies when someone has to prepare for a big battle. Usually, the situation is that a daring lone wolf, who has tried to leave behind a life of violence, is called upon one last time to face down a horde of powerful foes in the name of honor. It seemed similar to going to work, so I tried doing it each morning. No one has kicked any boulders at me yet, so I haven’t learned to do flips or amazing Wushu spinning exercises. Instead, I settled on sit-ups and pushups.
Strangely, it worked. With a bit of diligence, I lost about 15 pounds over three months and started to feel better than I ever had. Well, better than I ever had since I was about 26, anyway. Now I laugh in the faces of people who told me I would need to alter my bacon and bourbon diet in order to lose weight. Sometimes I think about teaching them a lesson, the way Dragon Technique takes Plum Flower Fist to school. Unless they’re good-looking.
I’ve been told that I need more aerobic activity. Because I haven’t found anyone to teach me how to leap from tree to tree or catch arrows, I’ve been thinking of trying out incredibly hot movie sex. If I got some tinted lights, maybe I could even find a way to work in the elliptical machine.