Lifting Evokes Old Memories

Today was the first time this year (or perhaps since we moved to Queens) that Andy and I managed to work out at the Astoria Sports Complex three times in one week. This may be a pathetic thing to be proud of, but going together to the gym each night is tough, especially when we have to fend off food coma from overstuffing ourselves at dinner, the temptations of wine and beer, and new episodes of House or a show on Bravo. And the fact that our gym isn’t the most pleasant of places – our $200 a year membership gives us access to rooms lighted in neon red and dim fluorescent bulbs as well as dated equipment, some that seem older than the gym itself (which recently had its 25th anniversary). But we’ve grown used to it, and even appreciated the recent replacement of the free weight bars that used to leave rust residue on our palms.

Andy and I take our pull-ups seriously. Before diving into the day’s designated muscle group, we always do three sets of pull-ups. I taunt Andy each time because I can eke out two to three more reps than him each set (I’m at 15 right now). In just six months, we’ve gone from barely doing five each set to easily doing a dozen – a feat we’ve proudly acknowledged to each other. Today, however, the pull-ups felt harder than usual. It must have been our soreness and the fact that it was the first time we were doing pull-ups more than twice in a week. By the time we moved on to the bench press, we were already tired. We pushed ourselves through our creative sets of bench press (10 reps of barbell and 10 reps of dumbbells per set, using 135 and 50, respectively – yeah, it’s light), we moved on to high pulls with a cable wire to work our traps. At that point, we both remarked to each other that this was probably the most we had worked out together since the summer of 2003, when Andy, Warren, Reggie, and I used to frequent the New York Sports Club in Rahway each night to lift for at least two hours.

“Remember when we did five chest exercises in one night and like four other exercises along with it?” I reminisced. Andy shook his head and recalled how much more we used to lift on each rep. We both agreed that that summer was the peak of our physical fitness.

“I remember when we drove out to Hidden Park afterwards on some nights and ran suicides for fun,” I said.

“Oh man, that was so stupid. Why did we force ourselves to do suicides?” Andy wondered.

We remembered how dark it got at the park since it had no lights, and yet, under the glow of the moon, we would run suicides and even play a game of free throws, each miss warranting another sprint. What difference four years makes. We used to be smoke-free, drank less, and took very good care of our bodies. An age of innocence, we both thought.

There was a time, I tell myself, when I used to run a 4.5 40-yard dash and even scored four touchdowns in one high school football game. I sound like Al Bundy in Married with Children. There was a time when running was a daily thing, and a set of squats at the gym didn’t leave me disabled for the next four days. I’m still young, and if I really wanted to, I could probably will myself back into shape. But the desire for such physical fitness isn’t there anymore. I’m content with keeping myself slim enough to keep my pants and not be too self-conscious about my stomach. I don’t think I’ll stop munching on the cheeses or straddling the moderation line once a week with the wine. I like going for the beer at 6PM each evening. There are numerous vices, but sometimes, I feel like the real vice is denying myself certain pleasures for the sake of vanity (sometimes justified as “health”). And then there are times like tonight, when I wished I was back at Hidden Park with my buddies happily running suicides and wishing we could stay outside in the summer night, sweaty, tired, and extremely fit.

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