“Cardio” has a funny connotation these days. Usually, guys think of ways to “get their cardio in”; they play basketball, or toss a football around, or just plain skip it.
Me? I’m a basic bitch – I run on the treadmill.
I actually enjoy running outdoors, but it’s a different story inside. I get why it sucks. It’s boring. It’s monotonous. It’s…well, it goes something like this.
– After changing in the locker room, I walk towards the cardio section. I am wearing a pair of boxers that should have been retired long ago. A good pair of boxers is like a loyal dog; they’re hard to put down, even after the joy is all gone and replaced with pain and suffering. There’s no guarantee you’ll ever find another quite like ’em.
– The cardio section has, by my tally, four main species in it:
1. The Personal Trainer Kid: This is the guy who’s pretty out of shape and comes up to the treadmill next to you with a towel draped around their neck, argyle socks on under his brand new New Balance running sneakers, and a personal trainer in tow. I feel for this guy; he’s going to quit tomorrow and those brand new kicks are going to waste. The trainer always makes them do something humiliating, like “a nice speed walk on an incline”.
2. The Gaunt Runner: This guy is usually in his 50’s or sometimes 60’s, wearing super short shorts and well-worn running shoes, and looking like they haven’t eaten in weeks. Oddly enough, they actually run for hours on end, shuffling along at a medium speed.
3. The Supermodel Chick: This girl is wearing fashionable sporty leggings, a tank top, and a determined look. They might be smiling for the camera all day, but in the cardio area, they mean fucking business. We’ll come back to these, because – surprise surprise – they are the only ones that matter.
4. The Multitasker: This person hops onto the elliptical or some other variant with a book and a pen/highlighter. What a go-getter! Easily my least favorite person of the bunch. You can tell they just like to think they’re important. “I just don’t have time for a 45 minute workout – I’ve got a thesis due in four weeks!” Get over yourself. Comes as no surprise that this species make for terrible girlfriends*.
*Blatant generalization and total assumption
– I stop in the water fountain line to take a sip before getting down to business. I am directly behind an attractive female, who bends over right in front of me for the water. I awkwardly go very far out of my way so as to let the world know I am not staring at her ass; usually, this means I turn my head to the left and stare at the wall like a blind person.
– Walking down the middle aisle, I scan for an open treadmill. When picking a treadmill, follow the same principles used for picking a urinal/bathroom stall: maximum distance between you and anyone else, as well as leaving options for the next person to possibly not go right next to you.
Speaking of, quick aside here. Taking the urinal next to someone when there are many others available should be a Class-A misdemeanor. What’s more unsettling: someone smoking a joint in their bedroom and watching Shark Tank, or someone needlessly standing as close as possible to me while my Johnson is out of my pants? It’s a borderline sex crime. It’s not because I get stage fright, either – I have a strong, youthful stream that would be the envy of many men – but it’s just plain wrong.
– All the simple treadmills are taken, so I opt for one of the fancier one’s with a sticker that says “I’m new – try me!” It would be funny if strippers wore those on their first night, I think to myself, smirking.
– Predictably, the new fancy treadmill requires a bachelors degree in computer science to operate. After pressing “Quick Start”, it takes me a good two minutes to figure out how to raise the speed. For those two minutes I saunter ahead at an agonizingly slow .5 mph, or “the speed at which the bad guy walks into the saloon in old Western movies.”
– I finally figure out how to raise the speed, which requires many taps of the “up arrow” button to get it to 7mph.
– I am cruising along now, music bumping in my ears. This is the point where the ridiculous daydreams begin.
Ask any guy who works out what he imagines while he runs or lifts and the answer is likely hilarious and ridiculous. My buddy who I went to Penn State with admitted that whenever he runs, he imagines himself catching the game-winning touchdown pass in Beaver Stadium while the crowd goes nuts. I won’t tell you who it is – okay, fine, it’s my friend Teddy – but he’s not alone.
Personally, I’m hamstrung by my romantic mind demanding a tiny sliver of realism, so my daydreams are usually one of these two:
1. Having an amazing performance in a company sporting event: I like to pretend that my company joins a basketball/flag football tournament, and in the championship game, we face off against a rival company. At halftime we’re down big, and I carry the team back on my broad, hairless shoulders, culminating in a buzzer beating three pointer that makes every girl in attendance want to have casual sex with me that night. The next day the CEO secretly gives me $50,000 in a brown paper bag because I helped us beat our arch rivals.
2. Defending the honor of (Insert Chick I’ve Recently Hooked Up With/Gone On A Date With) in a bar fight: Here’s the situation: a gal I’ve recently gone out for drinks with invites me to go to a birthday party with some friends of hers. While there, a humongous muscular man hits on her right in front of me. Little does he know, I’ve been doing 30 or so sit-ups twice a week for a good month now – this meathead has bit off more than he can chew.
He says something ignorant like “What are you gonna do about it, loser?” while slapping my girl’s ass. She begins to cry and looks at me with sad eyes that silently ask, are you just going to let him do this?
Hell no, baby. The bad ass music from the fight scene in Snatch starts playing in the background. I take a swig of my neat whiskey and make eye contact with the bartender. He slowly nods at me. Do what you gotta do, kid.
In a flurry of movement, I drop the glass and give the 6’7″ barbarian a one-two combo to the gut. I shove him into the wall and kick his ass, and if I’m really having a good day on the treadmill, I take out his two henchmen buddies too. Afterwards I grab (Girl I’ve Recently Taken On A Date), throw her over my shoulder, and carry her out the front door while the crowd cheers.*
*I don’t imagine it while I’m at the gym – Gym Boners are extremely dangerous – but it’s generally understood that the next scene would be me making love to her in my Camaro in the parking lot.
– Interrupting my daydream right when I was about to give Biff the final blow with a pool cue, one of the bombshell Model Chicks takes the treadmill next to me. Because she chose the one next to me instead of any of the other available ones, I reason that she likes me. I spend the next few minutes picturing a long, happy life together.
She has thin hips, so giving birth to our three athletic sons will be quite painful, but she’d make a good mother. I can tell by the way she towels off her sweat – very carefully (toweling skills are a great indicator of mothering ability). She’d be like the mom in those Tide commercials, yelling out the back door for the boys to come in and have their chicken soup and not getting that mad when they drag mud all over the house – just one of those sideways glances and a shake of the head, maybe even a knowing chuckle. If it wasn’t for the Tide, she’d probably be really pissed, but hey – boys will be boys.
– I’ve already been running for a few minutes when she starts, and that’s a problem. See, there’s a rule when running next to an attractive girl – I can’t stop before her. It’s part of my bizarre Awkward Samurai code. Sometimes I like it because it actually pushes me to new heights – you know, the opposite of the personal trainer and the incline walk – but in this case, it’s dangerous. If she has any sort of decent stamina, I’m in trouble.
– Twenty minutes later and she has just now begun to sweat. She appears to be in fantastic shape. I’ve been running for over 40 minutes and have begun to hallucinate. By the way, the rule isn’t just against stopping – I’m not even allowed to slow down. This would be a sign of weakness and cause her to select another mate. You think I’m going to give up our beautiful life together because I couldn’t grit out another two miles? Think again. One day I’ll tell my boys this story, when they’re old enough to understand. She’ll be listening in the other room and silently crying tears of happiness and gratitude at the memory. It’s easy to forget how much we love each other, with all the PTA meetings and me off saving the world and making a ton of money. She will later arrange for the boys to sleep over at the Miller’s, and we will have tremendous sex.
– We are now in the danger zone. If she doesn’t stop soon, I’m going to be the latest GIF that gets passed around of a guy falling on the treadmill and flying off the back. As a bonus, I forgot to grab a towel before getting on here, so every lunging step I take is causing a few dozen pellets of sweat to fly off of my face in random directions. I say a silent prayer to the Gym Gods, asking them to protect my future wife from any stray sweat bullets, lest she be repulsed.
– Mercifully, she hits the “cool down” button. I’m not out of the woods yet – I can’t just stop a second after her or she’ll know I was weirdly racing her the whole time. She doesn’t know about our marriage yet, so it could upset the space-time balance and ruin everything. It’s like in Back To The Future, you know? Ah, forget it, it’s hard to explain. Just trust me.
– Seconds before it all goes black, she calmly turns off the machine and walks away. I fight through the blurry sweat-soaked vision of my burning contact lenses and frantically claw at every button on the machine to slow down the belt.
– Peace. Finally.
As she walks out of gym, she doesn’t even glance at me. Oh, whateveryournameis – why must you always play such games? I hope she’s more direct by the time we’re married.
Gritted out five miles, found a wife, survived – solid cardio day.
THE REST OF MY PERSONAL JOURNEY TO RESPECTABILITY:
– By Jack Gashi