May 12 2014 05:33 PM

Have you heard the one about the fat man who enters a gym?

sordid web 5-14

When a fat man walks into spin class for the first time, all commotion abruptly stops—like an American backpacker entering the local pub of a rural, English village with a persistent werewolf problem.

That's how it was when I got to spin class at the Peninsula YMCA, with everyone glaring at me, wondering if I was going to survive the thrashing and considering giving me tips on staying alive.

"Stay on the road, lad. Keep clear the moor."

While spin class is new to me, working out isn't. For most of my adult life, I've been going to gyms, with limited results. Typically, I'd start my session with 30 minutes on the stay-in-place bicycle thingy, pedaling ineffectually while making my Words with Friends moves. Then I'd walk around the gym, periodically lifting heavy iron things and putting them back down again. If I was feeling particularly energized, I might've even got on the dreadmill for some fat-man jogging, or "walking" as it's known to regular people.

Then one day, I decided to try some of these fitness classes the Y offers—you know, like strength conditioning, aqua aerobics, Pilates, TRX, boot camp, gut cut and/or the aforementioned spin class—where you have the privilege of being barked at by a drill sergeant in yoga pants as techno music blares and the toxic globules of sweat from a decade of bad eating cauterize your eyeballs. And so, morphing my gluttony for food into gluttony for punishment, I settled on boot camp, gut cut and spin.

Spin: From the moment I stepped into the torture chamber cycling room, I knew that spin class would try to kill me. These machines aren't the same as the gym bikes I was used to; they're high-tech, multi-functioning, all-metal, mass-murdering Terminators that will go back in time and murder you before you're born if they have to. The class is all about drills, of which there are two types: sprints and climbs. Climbs simulate cycling to the top of a mountain, which is accomplished by incrementally raising the resistance to its highest levels, standing up out of your seat, and steadily biking up, up, up (passing billy goats and some Sherpa along the way) until blood spurts from your eyes or they have to call an evac helicopter, whichever comes last.

Sprints are when you pedal super-fast—maintaining a certain amount of RPMs, for a certain amount of time, for a certain number of reps, leading to a certain number of embolisms.

The worst, however, are the sprint / climb combos, also known as "mountain lions," because it's like a normal mountain climb but with the occasional sprint, as if a cougar had suddenly appeared and began chasing you up the hill. It's during this drill that I've been known to tell the cougar, "Just take me already."

Gut cut: This is an ab workout I like to call "Murder by Crunches (one, two, three)," and it's proof that the YMCA is hunting me for sport. Indeed, these were no ordinary crunches. The instructor introduced a series of additional motions like kick outs, scissors, leg lifts, hip thrusts, bicycles, flutters and lumberjacks, which are performed by lying flat on your back, hands above your head, knees bent, feet flat on the floor and then slowly raising your mid-section while the instructor hacks at your abdomen with a felling axe.  

Boot camp: In the moments before my first boot camp was about to begin, I knew I was a dead man. There were all these bright-eyed, happy-healthy people who were stretching and running in place and champing at the bit to start the drills. I ask you, is there anything more disconcerting than a group of happy-healthy fitness types all awake and enthusiastic before a morning workout—as if they like working out; as if morning is a time of elation for them; as if they can't wait to go forth into the world, unaware that the world is a festering wasteland of angst, despair and a never-ending stream of pointless movie remakes, a world where true love is a lie and your wife will dump you just as surely as Don Sterling's iPod don't got no Public Enemy on it? Ah, but what does it matter anyway because we're all going to be dead soon—dead, dead, dead, dea—er, did I mention I'm not a morning person?

For our first drill, the instructor took us out to the parking lot to run laps while carrying Home Depot buckets with weights inside. The fit people ran effortlessly while I crawled half-dead on the pavement, gasping for water and listlessly swatting at buzzards. I began to pray to the god in which I don't believe for relief. It was then I understood why the YMCA was trying to kill me. How could I have been so blind? YMCA stands for Young Men's Christian Association. It hates me because I'm agnostic!

Well played, YMCA. But let me ask you something: What kind of creator tortures his children in this manner? Wouldn't a loving god let us eat whatever we want and not get the diabetes or the puffy ankles? Or, at the very least, he'd make the food that tastes the yummiest—burritos and burgers, for instance—be the healthy food? If God truly loved me, wouldn't he make it so that sitting on my ass playing video games was a massive calorie burner—I mean, seriously, God, what would it take to make that happen? A snap of a finger? A whisper into the ear of an intern? Get 'er done for crissake! Because it won't be long before homicide investigators are snapping pictures around a chalk outline of my body and questioning the YMCA staff, who will all undoubtedly claim that I was mauled by a cougar.

Write to and Edwin Decker blogs at Follow him on Twitter @edwindecker or find him on Facebook.

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