Recently, I suffered the humiliation of looking at myself in a store’s dressing room mirror. I was even fully clad. This horrifying encounter brought to mind a tale I wrote a few years ago about defeating the battle of the bulge:
Feel the Burn
The potency of interval training is nothing new. Many athletes have been straining through interval sessions once or twice a week along with their regular workout for years. But what researchers have been looking at recently is whether humans … can increase endurance with only a few minutes of strenuous exercise, instead of hours? Could it be that most of us are spending more time than we need to trying to get fit? … There’s a catch, though. Those six minutes, if they’re to be effective, must hurt.
Can You Get Fit in Six Minutes a Week? The New York Times
While at work, boxing 18,000 blue plastic cats, my mind drifted. Fitness is very important to me. It’s such a challenge balancing career and home life with a daily exercise routine. In recent years I’ve fallen behind on exercise, as I’ve doubled my love for Pub Mix.
If I could master interval training sessions six minutes a week — a mere seventy-two seconds a day — and the end result is a body comparable to a swimsuit model’s rather than it’s current compliment, the Liberty Bell, this could surely renew interest in the intimacy department with Tulip, my inamorata of four sizzling months and 6 ¾ tepid years. Last night while spooning, I delicately removed her earplug and cooed, “Are we ever going to do it again or what?” Her response to this love call: a deep groan reminiscent of a dying antelope. Once again I failed to reignite her ardor. There’s no question about it, I am a woman who must get fit in six minutes a week!
Once I achieve a maximum level of physical perfection in six minutes a week, could the principle of interval training apply to other avenues of my life? At this moment, I am specifically thinking about how it could pertain to boxing 17,983 blue plastic cats. Might there be a high-octane approach to fulfilling one’s employment obligations? If my forty-hour workweek were reduced to six minutes a week, I would have so much more time to pursue my life’s goals. I would even have time to recall what my life’s goals once were.
With my life’s goals re-established, I could next focus on travel. Every year Tulip and I visit the same places — her sister, Iris, in spring; brother, Thorn, in summer; my Uncle Cuthbert for Thanksgiving; and our sole brush with celebrity, the prairie dog-whisperer, Agnes Dunk, over the holidays. The monotony of this routine is stifling. We owe it to our faltering union to see more of the world. Tulip is averse to any travel above 96th Street or below 14th, but if it were possible to cross the pond and absorb the cultural magnificence of the great cities of Europe in ten hours or less, I’m certain she would be on board to do so in a heartbeat. A warp-speed tour of the western world would pave the way for a journey east. Who could possibly resist absorbing the glory of the Great Wall of China in nineteen minutes (or less)?
Then, there is the matter of nourishment and this patriotic habit I’ve acquired of consuming more calories than I expend. If I could both reduce and satisfy all of my food-related urges in fifty-one seconds a day, that would gift me with an additional eighteen hours a week, seventy-eight hours a month, or 936 hours per annum. That’s the equivalent of thirty-nine days in a calendar year. With so much extra time, I could achieve so much more. I could locate lost socks, read the classics, or develop a reality TV series about … time saving! It could strike such a chord with the viewing masses; there could be spin-offs of this series worldwide. As the mastermind, my name would join the pantheon of other legendary female media pioneers – Diane Sawyer, Rachel Maddow, Snooki.
Foolish me, I’m getting so ahead of myself! Now that I’ve completed boxing 129 blue plastic cats, and my work day has drawn to a close, I’m blithely heading to the fitness center for my first seventy-two second interval training session with Adolf, my trainer. He is a buff young man with a shaved head reminiscent of a potato. It would be so nice to indulge in a piping hot plate of French fries right now. Before I can say, “Pass the ketchup,” he straps me into an exercise cycle, and is maniacally cracking a whip as I pump the pedals with the ferocity of a world-class competitor on performance enhancing drugs. Within seconds, I am a cycling dynamo. Within seconds after that, I’m crying blood and screaming in agony for my mother. In fact, I’m certain that this pounding-pulsating sensation raging throughout my entire being must be comparable to suffering a massive stroke, a severe heart attack, and stage four cancer simultaneously.
Even though I am exerting myself as if possessed, the seventy-two seconds begin moving in slow motion. Reality reconfigures. I am no longer in the fitness center. I am standing in a shadowy tunnel where a light is shining in the distance and I am hearing voices from my past. I hear my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Glank, calling out to me, “Come here right now, you ornery brat!” She was run over by a bus in 2007 at age 93, confirming the old maxim that the good die young.
I hear our downstairs neighbor, Ira, crooning The Way You Look Tonight. He is still off-key and as three sheets to the wind as on that night his liver imploded. I conclude that alcohol is served in the afterlife. Comforting.
Who’s this shadowy figure? My nana! She’s wearing her orthopedic shoes and that dress in the print that reminds me of lentils. With her hands on her rotund hips, she bellows, “You eat too much crap and you watch way too much TV! No fella will ever marry you!”
Just as I’m about to engage in defensive discourse with my ancestor, the training session is over. I fall off the bike, but before smacking into the floor, Adolf catches me. He declares proudly, “You did great! Look, no vomit for me to clean anywhere. Tomorrow, we do swimming, yah?” My exact response to his suggestion eludes me, but I recall the word Nazi figuring prominently.
I return home thoroughly discombobulated. I am unsure if I reached my sanctum sanctorum via taxi, the number two train, or ambulance, but I do know I am standing in my living room, albeit on my hands and knees.
Tulip is reclining on the couch in either a seductive pose or she’s hooked up to an IV. My vision is askew and I cannot tell if she is clad in a mint green body suit and our couch is flesh colored, or she is naked and the couch remains mint green. This is just too much information for me to process in my state of distress.
I crawl into our bedroom. She follows me. While lying on the floor, I pull off my clothes as best as I can. My Quisp cereal tee shirt is bundled atop my head keffiyeh-style.
Tulip is towering over me. I now have a lucid read on her state of attire. She is not wearing a single stitch, nary a throw pillow. She looks at me in a come-hither way I have not seen in eons. I mutter, “Don’t even think it,” and anemically tug the comforter off the bed. Before it puddles onto me, she draws closer and asks, “Wow, are those abs?” As I fade into a coma, I make a mental note to pack my swimsuit for tomorrow’s session — and a few Red Bulls for afterward.