by Mike Todd

After buying some workout equipment for his basement, this is how Mike Todd looks (in his dreams).

If these words appear to be written by someone in peak physical condition, it’s only because we just put a new elliptical machine in our basement, and the effects are starting to kick in. I haven’t actually used it yet, but with the amount of money my wife Kara just spent on this machine, I’m already feeling the burn.

Actually, it’s kind of nice knowing that the machine is down there. Just being in proximity to exercise equipment makes you feel like you’re in better shape. It’s a similar theory to how just smelling doughnuts makes people fatter, because then they eat them.

As Kara has noted several times, we’re going to save money on this deal. She just quit the gym, so with no more monthly membership fees, we’ll break even on this purchase sometime around the Tuesday before the sun burns itself out.

You might notice that I only mentioned Kara quitting the gym. I tried to quit, too, but we ran into some murky issues when it became apparent that I’d never been there before. The gym is a place I’ve avoided ever since teachers stopped making me go there, in part because it’s a fundamentally dishonest place, designed to fool your body into thinking it needs more muscles than it actually does, and in part because of all the oddly unashamed naked people wandering around.

“This lady was just standing there naked,” Kara reported after a recent visit to the locker room. “Like, not to get changed. She was just chatting and hanging out naked as if she had clothes on.”

In my limited gym experience, it seems that one’s proclivity for walking around naked is directly proportional to how many years a person has under his/her nonexistent belt. I’m not sure if this is a generational phenomenon, perhaps inspired by gym classes of yesteryear in which kids were comfortable showering and changing in front of each other, or if you get to a certain point in life when you think, “You know what? I’m going to wander around for a while naked before I put my pants on.”

When you go to the gym, you’re telling your body that you need more muscle to perform your daily activities. But if that were true, wouldn’t you have those muscles already?  The cavemen who needed to catch animals ran faster because they were chasing animals all day. And animals can really run. The cavemen who needed to carry rocks got stronger from lugging the rocks around. The ones who developed caveman software got flabby, just like our computer engineers in Silicon Valley. (It’s called Silicon Valley because so many couch potatoes who work there need silicon enhancement to make themselves look as if they actually use their muscles.)

So Kara and I have called another piece of exercise equipment into being. I’m not saying we won’t get our use out of it, but the vast majority of these dust-collecting basement-dwellers are born of hope, only to die of neglect. Perhaps the lone exception is my dad’s old exercise bike, which was purchased in 1971 with three pinto beans and an extra scratchy burlap sack, and which he still rides several times per week. That thing has more miles on it than Air Force One.

We might as well decide we like having the machine in our basement, since it’s four inches wider than the only exit door. I’m pretty sure the delivery guys welded it together down there, creating our very own ship in a bottle. People may come and go from this house, but that machine isn’t going anywhere without a long visit from a blowtorch and a hacksaw. Hopefully, when we stop using it for exercise in a few months, it’ll make a nice drying rack. And I can always use the cup holder in front for my chocolate shakes.