Columns

2014.01.15 Riding the Beast to health

on . Posted in By The Way

For years I have desired some good indoor exercise, something besides running up and down the stairs and repeatedly skipping down the hallway and back. I needed something to do in rainy or really cold weather or when I don't have a lot of time. I've wanted some sort of machine to jump on.

I thought about an exercise bike. I thought about converting one of the kids' old bikes in the garage into an exercise bike. My father travels a few miles every day on his and it's always embarrassing to think that my 90-year-old father gets in more exercise than I do. 

There's bigger equipment, too. Big and heavy and expensive and a little noisy.

None of the equipment ever happened because Colleen informed me that it would have to go in the garage or the basement, and neither are too conducive to exercise. The garage in the summer with all the flies and bats? The chilly, dirty basement in the winter? So I would return to the stairs and our occasional walks to the track.

Imagine my surprise on Christmas morning when that one big box in the hallway was finally opened. Colleen forgot it was out there. When someone mentioned it, she said it was mine. Inside was the wondrous Gazelle.

It took an hour or so to put it together, but I finally was able step onto the foot platforms that are each attached to a cable, grabbed the handlebars and started swinging my feet. Just incredible. Leg exercise. Some hip rotation. Upper body work. A heart pumper.  A new era in exercise was about to begin. 

The Gazelle Edge is what I refer to as the poor man's elliptical trainer. It's fairly lightweight, it doesn't take up a lot of space, it only costs about a hundred bucks and it is amazingly quiet. I could do this thing in the room next to a sleeping wife and she would not threaten my health.

The Gazelle comes with its own threat: "Failure to read and follow the safety instructions...may result in serious injury or death. Keep children away." Apparently the company has had some problems in the past.

I figured the Gazelle was some recent, slick invention, but my massage therapist, Allison, destroyed that image. She thinks my running-the-stairs routine might not be good for my back, so I excitedly wrote to her about the Gazelle. Her response:

"When the Gazelle first came out, it was an infomercial thing sold by Tony Little, this totally crazy little muscle man with a pony tail. Every time you say Gazelle he pops in my head."

An infomercial thing? Oh no! And now I own one. And love it. What's next—a Veg-O-Matic? A Torso Ball? A Turbie Twist or a Watanabe Pillow?

Mr. Google took me to InfomercialHell.com and there I met Tony Little and immediately felt embarrassed to think that Tony and I share our love for the Beast. I can't call it a Gazelle anymore.

"Hey!" Tony says to actress Darla Haun, "Did you know the Gazelle can help your love life?"

"No, I didn't know that, how?" Darla responds. I think I should trust Darla because she's done a dozen infomercials, from Peel-Away-the-Pounds to the Shape-n-Tone Ab Belt. She knows this stuff.

Tony never answers Darla's question directly, but he soon climbs onto the Beast right behind her so they have become one exercising unit swinging back and forth. Maybe that's his answer.

The Beast also comes with an instructional DVD led by Sharon Money Twombly—the fitness instructor with the oddest name—but Tony has already spoiled it because now I always think about climbing onto the back of the Beast with Ms. Twombly and exercising together as one unit.

Sharon is a tough taskmaster and Colleen and I both know that we have done some serious work after traveling 20 minutes with her. But there's much more to do. Tony sends his Gazelle into such hyper-action that I expect it to gallop off across the African savannah.

I can pant out my praise of the Beast for anyone who wants to listen, but I haven't yet told the most amazing fact: Almost three weeks have passed since Christmas and the Beast still lives in our living room. Maybe I won't be banished to the garage after all.

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