Friday, January 16, 2009

July 2008

This represents another salvo in my continuing battle to embarrass myself enough so that I finally get into shape.

July 2008

This morning I did something to my back. By ‘something’, I mean that it hurts and by ‘did’ I mean that no one in my house has any sympathy. Many years ago, when I still laboured under the delusion that fitness (translation: looking good with my top off) was a goal that I could achieve, I walked into Argos and bought weights (the purchase being step 1 in my relentlessly upward trajectory towards being ripped, cut, pumped and indeed, corrugated if possible). It was quite some time ago, so I can’t be absolutely certain, but I’m fairly certain that I may have used them at least once, maybe even twice, before they were hidden away in my own personal Pit of Shameful Diversions, otherwise known as the back of the wardrobe. Incidentally, I plan someday to write a retelling of The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, only this time a group of offensively prissy children will find themselves in a magical world populated with rusty gym equipment, rollerblades and people in Xworx jeans.

But the thing about products promising some form of personal improvement that I have bought is this: they tend to hang around, like that guy at parties who everyone else thinks is someone else’s friend (until, after he’s drunk all the beer and destroyed the living room, you remember that he’s your friend). The weights, a guitar, innumerable books that I’m embarrassed to let people see I have not just bought, but read and reread, clothes that represent not just a different time but a whole other dimension; each of these and many more embarrassments greet me every day as I attempt to dress myself. The weights in particular hang around, as if to say: ‘Look at how unmotivated, shiftless and plain lazy you are, You can’t even lift me up off the ground. Loser’. I don’t know why I do this to myself. I’m already married with children and they are really all anyone needs to feel old and out of touch,

I thought I’d made my peace with self-improvement, then I entered the completely arbitrary milestone of my thirties a few months back. Suddenly I found myself reading the covers of magazines with titles like ‘Men’s Health’. I discovered that no longer could I pretend that I came from the same species as these monochrome adonises, even when squinting from behind frosted glass. I appealed to those who knew me best for sympathy in my hour of need: ‘You’ve got a fat belly, Daddy.’ The weights came out that evening.

The main problem, I have found, with working out, is that I have no idea how to do it. I’m a lot like a panda trying to read the newspaper when it comes to bodybuilding. Much of my understanding of the process has been gleaned from watching movies like Spider-Man. So it should come as no surprise that when I discovered this was a long and tedious process, my enthusiasm dipped down until it rated somewhere below banging my head against a door. If I had accepted my limitations this would be a very different column. Instead, I chose to hide them under a pile of newspapers for a month, then in a rush of energy brought on by yesterday’s hangover I chose to streamline my routine by getting rid of extraneous things, like stretching,

‘Shouldn’t you be warming up first?’ asked my wife. As a sportsman, I instinctively knew I was the best judge of what was good for me, so I ignored her. Later on, when I was complaining about the pain, she chose not to rub it in, which I think was more thoughtful than the three year old who demanded piggybacks. If I’ve learnt anything this month, then, it is that self-improvement is a reckless folly, which is exactly what I shall tell my children when they come to visit me in the hospital.

Eoin Cunningham.

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Welcome to my blog. I'm a freelance writer/journalist/researcher/editor. I write about education and ideas I've had for the Irish Times. I also research, write and edit for writers, publications and websites. Here I put things that tend not to fit anywhere else. Enjoy.

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