Todd Hartley: Of sit-ups and hang-ups |

Todd Hartley: Of sit-ups and hang-ups

Those lucky few who are intimate with my buffed physique may find it hard to believe that I have no idea how to “work out” at the gym that I joined three weeks ago and never go to.

Oh, I went to the weight room a couple of times in college, but there was something about pumping iron while some other guy spots you and yells things that you’d normally say in bed to encourage you that I always found kind of creepy.

Regardless, it takes two people to really pump iron, if you know what I mean, so since I have no friends interested in the least in doing it, it’s out of the question. And the weight machines are likewise

ruled out until someone shows me which ones won’t further damage my back.

I was on a treadmill for a laugh once at a drunken high school party when my friend and I got one going as fast as we could to see if we could jump on and really hurt ourselves. He succeeded, crashing brilliantly into the back of a couch. I decided not to go. Beyond that, I’m not really familiar with how treadmills work.

Well, the basic concept I get, but they’re all a little too advanced these days. All the treadmills and stationary bikes and other weird-looking machines are such techno-

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logical marvels that I don’t know how to get them started.

I suppose I could figure out on my own how to utilize things like the swimming pool and the basketball court. But the truth of the matter is that I have a fear of gyms that dates back a few years to the only time I’d ever been to the one I just joined.

I went with a friend on a guest pass. At the time I thought the gym was home to Aspen’s elite crowd, and I was more than a little intimidated. The fact that someone like my friend was a member should have been proof enough that I was wrong, but somehow the gym kept its aura.

I packed what I fervently hoped was a suitable gym bag. I’d always assumed that gym clothes went in the bag, but it seemed to make more sense to just wear the gym clothes and bring the ones I planned to change into later. I prayed I was right. I didn’t want to look stupid.

Anyway, the first thing I did after checking in was hop on a weight machine and struggle to move it around until I finally realized I was doing it wrong. I looked like a complete idiot right in front of a couple of good-looking chicks. I was mortified.

So basically, I never wanted to set foot in a gym again. But like I said, I have a bad back, so I joined one hoping to figure out how to strengthen my midsection. For two weeks I was too scared to set foot in the place alone, and I had no friends who were available to take me with them and show me what to do, so I just stayed away.

Eventually I mustered up the courage to go to the gym on my own just before it closed one weeknight. My thinking was that if I couldn’t decrease my chances of going in and doing something moronic, I could at least minimize the number of people who would see me doing it.

I ventured into the place timidly and headed for the treadmills and stationary bikes, which seemed unlikely to injure me. Plus, I figured that even if I couldn’t switch a bike on, I could still pedal really fast and try to get a good sweat going.

So I picked a bike as far away from two gossiping ladies as I could get, and I started pedaling. Mercifully, someone had left a newspaper, so I had something to do besides stare like an idiot at the six TVs with their sound turned off.

Thankfully, there was nobody in the steam room after my pedal, because I have no idea how steam-room etiquette works. I just unwrapped my towel and let it all hang out because I was alone. But if I walked in and saw myself that way, I’d be appalled.

So I made it out without incident, but I didn’t actually conquer my phobia until a friend finally brought me with her a few days later. She led me through a stomach workout and showed me how to use something called an elliptical machine and how to plug in my headphones so I could actually hear one of the TVs.

It’s like a miracle. I’m not scared anymore, and I owe it all to my friend. Oh, I still don’t know proper steam-room decorum – unfortunately she couldn’t teach me that – but at least now I can switch on one weird-looking machine and watch the tube without feeling like a total jackass.

[Look for the new, improved, even more muscular Cheap Shots, coming soon to this very newspaper. E-mail at]