Volume 81, Number 12 | August 18 - 24, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Notebook

No more excuses: This time I’m getting into shape

By Chris Sherman

My doctor tells me my cholesterol numbers are creeping up.

“But doctor, what can I do?” I ask innocently, as if I never saw a single episode of “Dr. Oz.”

He looks me straight in the eye. “Diet and exercise. Diet and exercise.”

Does he have to say it twice?

All the way home, I beat myself up mercilessly with the guilty stick my mother lent me.

“You’re not taking care of yourself the way you should,” I chastise myself for one full city block. “You need a plan to get back on track.” I wait for the light to change. “Diet and exercise. Diet and exercise.” I say this out loud. This is the beauty of New York: I’m standing on the corner of W. 10th and Hudson talking to myself, and no one notices.

The diet part will be easy. I already eat fairly well, but I could work on potion control. (I once ate an entire rotisserie chicken, directly out of the foil-lined bag, while watching “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.”) Yes, I will work on portion control.

But when am I going to exercise? I’m up at 5:30 a.m. every morning to get ready for my job teaching eighth graders how to read and write against their will. By the time I get home, I’m either too tired or I have very important things to take care of — very important. I have to go to the post office/bank/supermarket/library/other outside venue of your choice. I have to make the bed/unload the dishwasher/fold the laundry/other household chore of your choice. I’m hungry; I have to eat. I’m tired; I have to nap. I have to move my bowels; I have to — other bodily function of your choice. In fact I am convinced that all those who do exercise regularly have round-the-clock maid service, a cook, a personal assistant and an ironclad colon.

As I continue to walk from the doctor’s office, I seek comfort by reminding myself that I did not choose this after-work life of errands and chores; it is God’s will. It was predestined from the beginning of time that I should have a husband and children and an aging mother and father and a house to take care of. This is why I cannot live the normal exercising life like the majority of other people — all who happen to live in studio apartments and have no surviving relatives. In other words, it is not my fault that I am not exercising. I have been chosen, again, by God, to carry this cross of household responsibility. (Is carrying a cross considered exercise?)

As I round the corner of Charles and Washington, I have it figured out. If I am ever going to break the wake up — go to work — do chores — eat dinner — eat a snack — eat another snack — go to bed cycle, it is imperative that I do not go home after work. I will join the gym near my school. No matter how tired I feel after a day of teaching, I will not go home. Not going home will be the first step to a successful exercise regimen.

I remember I’ve had this fantasy before, that I would actually walk in, slap my money down and head for the lockers. But this scenario lasted about as long as a Greenwich Village parking spot on a Saturday night. Day after day, I would pass the gym right by and get on the train. I was always “too tired.” I didn’t feel like changing. It was too cold. It was too hot. And stop me if you heard this one — I was just “too damn tired!” Days and weeks would go by. To make myself feel better, I would tell myself that I would do an exercise tape when I got home. This, to date, has never happened.

As I turn my key in the lock, a miracle occurs. I suddenly, and with biblical force, feel ready to make the commitment to exercise. As soon as school starts in September, I’m enlisting. No more excuses. I will simply pass the gym and be sucked in like a vacuum. I will psych myself up for the pain, the strain, the sweat. And in six months I will go back to my doctor and he will be proud of me, and the entire office staff will stand around the scale as I am being weighed and cheer. And there will be cake, but I will not eat any. There will be slaps on my bony back and everyone will ask, “How did you do it?” And I will look them straight in the eye and say, “Diet and exercise — diet and exercise.”

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