Here's To Public Humiliation And A Healthy New Year

I was having difficulty coming up with a topic for this week's column, so I sent an e-mail to my editor and asked to have the week off.

He answered, "You're so dramatic," and suggested I write about Elvis Presley, who had a birthday Jan 8.

Mr. Editor Man tries to be helpful.

But, I'm not going with the King of Rock 'n' Roll.  Let's give credit to Janus, a mythical king of early Rome.

In 153 B.C., he was placed at the head of the Roman calendar.

Having two faces, Janus could look back on past events and forward to the future.  He became the ancient symbol for resolutions, the god of beginnings and the guardian of doors and entrances.  The first month of the year is named after him.

Even Elvis can't top that.

In the spirit of resolution and new beginnings, I have joined the YMCA (Young Men's Christian Association/You May Croak Accidentally).  Apparently, it was not an original idea, as half of Mansfield showed up with me.

I guess when you're in Rome, you do as the Romans do.

The basis of the workout regimen is one of public humiliation, a great motivator for losing weight and getting healthy.

I started off in the locker room, where naked women prance about uninhibited.  I'm not sure I will ever get used to this.

Sure, I'm an adult and I've seen bare bodies, but it's just plain odd to sit behind someone in church for 10 years, and then suddenly see her nude on a wooden bench watching Regis and Kelly on an overhead T.V.

In the workout area, men and women are strewn together, vying for the same equipment.  Joggers and walkers circle above, on a track destined for nowhere.

You see all shapes and sizes, every level of fitness, suck in your gut and wonder where you fall in the lineup.

At first it feels like you've unintentionally walked out into the street in your underwear.  You climb on an elliptical or a treadmill, turn on your music and try to remain anonymous.  Once you feel a bit braver, you can set up an appointment to have a staff member introduce you to the weight circuit.

I was assigned to a woman named Jane.  She took me from machine to machine, and programmed into the computer all the settings required to give me the best workout.  The amount of weight is determined by a scientific formula.  They want you somewhere between grimace and groan.

The leg press was the worst.  Jane had me wedge myself in, my knees on my chest, my abdomen in my face.  I mumbled past the fat roll, "This can't be right."

She said, "Push with your legs, you'll be able to breathe again."

Jane is smart.  I like her.

The weight circuit is linked to a computer, so your progress can be tracked and recorded.  As an added bonus, your instructor can leave you notes.

I'd worked out two days when Jane sent me the message, "You're doing great."

I wrote back, "Thanks, and hey, did you know today is Elvis Presley's birthday?"

I've been at the YMCA for a week now, and I'm starting to feel more comfortable.  I've seen my pediatrician in shorts and my dentist in Spandex.  I've jiggled and perspired with people I"ll never meet.  And, it's all OK.

What I"ve come to realize is that we're all in the same boat.  We're a roomful of beautiful souls, stuck in a variety of molds, all looking forward to a healthier future.  I want to join hands with these people, surround the weight circuit and sing Kum Bah Yah.

And my editor says I'm dramatic.

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