Craig Shoemaker


The Wrong Fit


As a frequent traveler and enthusiastic diner, one would think my immediate inquiry upon checking into a hotel would be to ask about their workout facilities. Most people I work with rank it as the highest priority in required amenities.

Not me.

I used to joke in my comedy routine that I “work out once a year…January 2nd, when I join a new club.”

As with most humor, there’s much truth in this. I’ve signed up for countless fitness clubs, usually after a well-intentioned New Year’s Resolution, and I swear every time it will be a regular commitment, only to fade away and never be seen on their elliptical device again.

Doing waaaaay too much the first day out only encourages poor follow-through. I can’t go back because my muscles need to recover from too much strain. I’m a Philly guy – we don’t ease into anything! I still think I’m in the high school workout room, competing with my buddies to see who can pump the most reps at the highest resistance. How quickly I forget that I’m a middle-aged man who recently pulled a hamstring playing a video game.

After my “orientation” my muscles are so sore I can hardly lift the membership ID from my pocket to flash the front desk greeters. My seemingly shortened arms struggle like a T rex trying scratch its butt.

I don’t know what the hell is wrong with my brain when it comes to proving myself in these workout centers, but I go full out and over-do it, trying to impress the club’s trainer whom had just been assigned to me five minutes before. If it’s a good-looking woman, I go even further, with crazed conviction, knowing she will stroke my ego with a “you are amazing for not having worked out in so long” comment. I wait for it with quiet confidence.

Don’t have to tell me she says it to everybody. I know it. But with me I sense she really means it. (Please keep quiet here and allow me to remain in my world of denial.)

I’ll bust cranial vessels before I set the weight-lifting machines to the upper third of the weight stack. I make lots of guttural grunting noises, which never fail to make female trainers uncomfortable. I’m sure they’d like to encourage me to save some of the moans for the privacy of my bedroom, but the embarrassment is magnified I slip the weights to that loud crashing sound.

Better I crash some steal than pumping a puny 40 pounds from the bench! I’ll be damned if I will be labeled a beginner or, worse, an old man. Hopefully, I’m still decades away from Jazzercize.

One reason I don’t like traditional working out is that I’m goal oriented, and looking buff doesn’t rank high on my list. I’m happily married to a woman who appreciates my “natural” body. She’s earthy and eco friendly and enjoys me being, shall we say, organic.

For me, girls have always been the best motivation for self-improvement, but now that I have a life partner who cares little for what’s on the outside, I’m less driven to focus on my appearance. She prefers thoughtful introspection over bodily inspection, which suits me just fine. Being behind in my meditation ain’t as easy to spot as when my moobs go up a cup size.

When I was single, however, I had a clear agenda – attracting chicks, and body development took me to some alternative places. I dabbled in Pilates, modern dance and spinning – all because I knew the classes were filled with pretty potential paramours.

These trends were not my kind of exercise. I need a score and a winner, and don’t tell me the victory is in the process!

As usual, my phony choices had consequences. One time I heard about this yoga studio in Santa Monica that was loaded with the most beautiful women in L.A. I was given this intel by a good looking female friend, and know that wherever one cutie goes, more will follow. The opposite it true too, where if you have a large lady telling you where she eats, you can bet there will be more hippos at that watering hole.

So, I bought a shiny new mat and met “we’re just friends” Jennifer at the hip and popular studio for my first yoga class.

My body has always been flexible, so I figured this would be a piece of rice cake. A dude who has varsity letters in 3 sports could certainly keep up with a class of girls, and guys who are a coupla hormones short of being one, right? Bending and breathing for an hour. How difficult could it be when one of the featured moves is called “child’s pose?”

My first mistake was deciding to try this for the first time in front of a room full of beauties. If I were a teen virgin, I would not want my initial foray into the go-zone to be with a super model. I’d want to be an experienced and elite lover so she would be driven to come back for more, so the same theory applies when I’m trying to impress in a 5000 year-old mind & body discipline. Three minutes and done will not cut it here.

The second mistakewas not properly vetting the class. Foolishly, I went with the most popular, rather than finding a teacher that taught to my neophyte level.

I entered the room with confidence, placing my mat down in a lined up fashion, three feet from the surrounding classmates. I like plenty of room in whatever activity I am taking part in, but this place was a Tokyo studio walkup apartment, whereas I’m used to an A-frame Swiss Chalet with high ceilings.

This place had no air conditioning either. This shoe prefers something open toed, to a size 12 being jammed into a petite lady’s desert boot. Feeling toasty and claustrophobic, I went to open the window to bring in some fresh air, which resulted in an unexpected drop in temp – a cold stare from the room. About ten tight bodies, whose outfits resembled a thin layer of cotton paint, admonished me with a posture I had not expected from a band of Buddha-likes.

Hey, drop the ‘tude, Weeping Willow. Just pray for me…

Apparently, this particular practice of “Bikrham” calls for still atmosphere, sealed windows and temperatures hovering around 110 degrees. Welcome to Dante’s inferno. I know I came for the hotties, but this is ridiculous.

The teacher was a calm and soft-spoken man in his mid forties, and I could visibly see he held rock star status by the flirty look on the girl’s faces. If I could only be his roady, I’d be happy with his cast-offs. If I begin to describe his firm body, it will sound like I’m an author of a romance novel. As me and my old friends say, “I’m not gay, but if I was…”

He began with a simple move of “downward facing dog,” which I’ve pretty much done or been many times in the past. I’m off to a good start.

Then began a series of moves and phrases that were foreign to me. As I recall, there was something that sounded like “ashtanga” or “chatarunga.” I wish they could just keep it in simple terms like, “ok get in that push up position,” but they have to complicate it by using words from ancient Sanskrit.

Freezing on the mid-pushup position appeared easy to me at first. I have done countless pushups in my life where I tally my amount, but in this case I’m doing a half a one and counting the seconds till it’s over. Damn, this is tough stuff! Every moment I held a pose I thought about nothing but pain. It never occurred to me to search within myself for true accomplishment.

Never, and I mean never, have I sweated as much or with such volume as I did on that day. The perspiration rivaled Charlie Sheen taking a paternity test. It literally poured from me as if someone pulled the locks on a dam. Here is the worst part – the noise it made splattering on my mat was a disturbance to the class. You know that sound you hear at the bottom of a rainspout during a storm? Add garlic smell emanating from my pores and trembling arms to the liquid pounding their ears endured, and we have a sensory trifecta that repulsed the entire room.

I wanted the ladies to notice me, but not like this! We are only 10 minutes in on 90 minutes of advanced maneuvers, and I am being seen all right. I’ve never been shushed for sweat noise before! I don’t think this activity usually calls for a spotter, but I needed help in this case, and the teacher gave up even trying to improve my technique. He went through the room, adjusting protruding rear ends, and left me to suffer the consequences of my shallow agenda.

That was the end of my yoga career, and I don’t think I’ve seen Jennifer since. Now I just golf, where there are only two or three witnesses to my failure, plenty of fresh air with fellow player bodies and outfits that make me look like Adonis.

And I’m sure they say the same thing about ME!

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