Marty Hits The Gym (And The Gym Hits Back)

The jocks in the student lounge were flexing their biceps for each other, because that’s what jocks do for fun. “Hey Marty,” one of them said with a snicker as I passed, “why don’t you flex your arms?”

To understand the absurdity of this request, imagine a pencil. Now imagine human arms the width of that pencil. These are my arms.

But I flexed anyway, always happy to provide a laugh.

“Jeez,” the jock said. “If you worked out a little bit, you could actually build some muscle.”

I had never lifted weights before. I played a lot of soccer in my day (third grade), but hadn’t kept up with physical fitness since I hit puberty. If it were true that I could build muscle, however, I might finally have a chance with the lady folk, so I scheduled an appointment with a personal trainer named Rob.

The gym was intimidating. Inside, dozens of bulked-up monsters lifted what looked like hundreds of pounds with their fingertips, and these were just the handicapped senior citizens. Rob approached with forearms the size of my automobile.

“Do you want to work your triceps, biceps, pectorals, or latissimus dorsi?” Rob asked, his voice disturbingly similar to Darth Vader’s.

“Um . . .” I said. “Which one of those is my butt?”

Although Rob didn’t seem to comprehend that I had told a joke, he proceeded to lead me through a warmup on the treadmill.

“How long do I have to do this?” I asked.

“Not long,” Rob said. “Just an hour or so.”

After not long (which felt like very long), Rob took me to the weight room and demonstrated how to use the machines. He sat me in one called the “preacher curl” that works the biceps. I clenched my teeth, groaned as if my stomach were reacting negatively to Mexican food, lifted with all of my might, and then heard something—I’m guessing it was a bone of some kind—snap.

“Dude,” Rob said, “I think you just dislocated your elbow.”

Even though going to the gym was hardly a pleasant experience, Rob explained that there is no gain with no pain. And it’s true. My arms no longer look like pencils—they look like splinters.