Working Out is Hard to Do

Guy measuring his belly fat

On my list of the most difficult challenges I have ever faced, getting back in shape after an eight-month hiatus from the gym would rank way up there. I wouldn't say it's the hardest thing I've ever done—that would be ridiculous. Second hardest, though?

My motivation came after a fateful trip to Chipotle. While eating a delicious steak burrito, made especially for me in a magical kitchen where happiness and sunshine are bundled into every bite, a piece of steak rolled down my white shirt. Sitting in the restaurant, wallowing in self-pity, I realized that I was not upset about the now very apparent stain on my shirt, but the loss of a tiny morsel of food. Then and there I decided that the gym and I had to become reacquainted. I would go the following day, fearing that running the same day as eating at Chipotle might cause my heart to explode.

Except for giving up fast food, heavy beers, and my reluctance to get out of bed before noon, I was willing to do anything. Rather than alter my diet and turn my back on the late night pizzas and cookies that have always treated me so well, I decided that going to the gym would be the easiest point of attack. It seemed so simple. Plenty of people do it, some even without crying, so why not me?

I had gained 30 pounds since starting college, and looking back now, I know exactly what to blame: beer. My great love. I set up a schedule; I would go every Tuesday and Thursday after class when I had hours of free time, along with weekends. I knew this plan would cut into my naptime but sacrifices must be made. On Tuesday, I quickly found that the last thing I wanted to do after a grueling hour of class was torture myself at the gym. I wasn't training for a marathon, after all. Working out could wait. Thursday rolled around, but as anybody over 21 or with a fake ID knows, Thursday is a day that demands going out and celebrating the eve of the weekend. I couldn't risk being too tired for the night by heading to the rec center. Besides, if I went out and drank too much, there was always the very real possibility I'd throw up anyway, making working out that day completely irrelevant.

On Saturday morning I woke up with cheese still caked to my hands from a drunken feast of nachos I managed to devour moments before passing out. I decided to go to the gym after reflecting on what I did the previous night and making all the appropriate apologies. But, by 1:30 it was clear I wouldn't be going any time soon, so might as well put in a movie. Turns out The Dark Knight is a little longer than I remembered and infinitely more enjoyable with a few beers. By the time it was all over, I was four beers deep and it was dangerously close to becoming happy hour. Working out would have to wait.

At about 10 a.m., light from the east window stabbed my eyes and I instantly regretted going to that last party. Clearly I would not be leaving the house on Sunday either.

Before I knew it, a week had gone by, and the most amount of exercise I had gotten was when I left my water downstairs and had to go back and get it. Student housing really needs to be equipped with escalators these days; it's barbaric how they make us live.

After many attempts to get out of it, I finally arrived at the gym, and instantly felt like leaving. No amount of Lady Gaga would make running enjoyable. Once on the track, however, I felt at ease. I couldn't believe this was what I had been agonizing over. I took off strong, easily overtaking my peers. With each new person I passed, I became more certain this had all been a big work up to nothing—then I finished my first lap.

After a mere quarter of a mile, each step became a battle. Those bastards I had so easily passed moments before were now passing me, glancing with pity as they did. I felt like the rhino from Jumanji that could never keep up with the herd. Panting louder with each step, I wondered if it was normal to sweat so much after half a mile. As the liquid poured down, I wasn't sure if I was crying or sweating anymore. Should have brought a headband. After what felt like hours, I finished my mile, still holding on to some small shreds of self-respect. Keeping my composure, I slowly walked toward the water fountain and set up camp there for a couple of minutes.

After the initial shock of the run wore off, my feet decided to punish me for making them work. It felt as if I had been running on hot coals, my feet throbbing with each passing second. I knew the first time back would be trouble, but this was terrible. I had gained 30 pounds since starting college, and looking back now, I know exactly what to blame: beer. My great love. She has turned against me over the years. Hangovers kept me indoors and exercise-free, which was only exacerbated by my deep love of drunken eating. After a few beers my body rises above feelings of being full and becomes a remorseless monster that wings and pizza can never satisfy. My years of drinking have helped me hold alcohol rather well, but at what cost? Should I sacrifice abs to last longer at parties? Through the rest of my workout I cursed beer's name. It wasn't my fault, it was my sweet, sweet beer's. After an especially tiresome experience in the weight room and nearly collapsing in public, I made my way home in defeat.

Tending to my wounded pride at home, I came to the realization that if I stopped drinking for even a month, I'd probably lose weight immediately. Drinking vodka and water at the bars wouldn't be that emasculating. I decided this had to happen, but, as usual, the idea didn't last.

The next morning I was greeted by the lovely workout-induced hangover. Each step produced a soreness I hadn't felt in months. Slowly making my way downstairs, I figured now wasn't the best time to turn my back on my deer friend beer. I have come to love my partying lifestyle; it's who I am. I would attempt to get the best of both worlds: drink, but with the knowledge that the next day, no matter the headache and aversion to moving, I would get to the gym.

Naturally, that wasn't the case. But, on the days when I woke up feeling capable of moving, I was able to wander over to the gym, and surprisingly, it wasn't as painful. I still had the same thoughts of collapsing and soreness the next day, but it was less debilitating. By the third visit, I didn't even feel like crying. It wasn't until my fifth trip that I felt back in the swing of things. Naptime is practically nonexistent and I unfortunately have to get out of my pajamas each Sunday to head to the gym, but in the end it's worth it to know that when I strike out with a girl at the bar, it isn't because I'm fat, it's for a number of other reasons that would take too long to name.

C'mon, one more:

you are a fat redneck and your professors probably think you are an alcoholic

Ah, the classic struggle of a college man.

Once active in highschool with athletic practice now the after school activity has turned into bar laps and workin' on "shots." After too long of a beer-induced lapse from everything, the return to the gym is indeed painful.

Tempting though it may be to give up at times, just remember that it pays off - a motivated body is a hot body, a healthy body, and in general a major step up from the slob plopped on the couch with the 4th beer in hand, the other resting on their expanding waistline.

Great article !haha this rings true for me. I have not worked out in over a year. I am a borderline " fat redneck".

Evelyn Liu's picture

Working out IS hard to do! Especially when you stop. Except I don't have a beer problem. My problem's more closely associated with I-don't-fucking-want-to. Still, though, clocking in 6km a week isn't bad, right?

Joe Welsch's picture

I wouldnt say its a beer problem, more a beer handicap. And 6km sounds just fine to me, thats probably a case of beer you're running off each week.

6k in one week...that's more like 2 beers.

Brian Jones's picture

Good article; very nicely-written.