The science of stability balls and other stories

I only started to ponder why I found myself staring at stability balls on a Friday night when I was (um) staring at stability balls on a Friday night.

I'd like to say I found myself at the Y because I'm so dedicated to reinventing my body but the reality is less impressive. Nic informed me that Zara was claiming I had promised to take her to the "interactive zone" although my recollection was of a less definite term. I'm not sure when the word "perhaps" had morphed into a promise but by the time I got home it was cast iron.

I have been on my intensive fitness program now for two-and-a-half months and the folks at the Y keep moving the goal posts; or rather they keep fitting new distorting mirrors. I am convinced they bring in a more grotesque mirror every week. How else can I explain the fact all these intensive work outs seem to be having so little impact on my gut?

In saying that these work outs are clearly having an impact on upper arm strength. These days if anyone is handing around babies at work I politely decline for fear I'll accidentally snap off a couple of limbs with my super human strength.

Still I feel like confronting the folks at the Y and telling them I wanted this program to flatten my gut, not to turn me into the Incredible Hulk with a gut. If I had wanted that I could have stayed at home, painted myself green and ripped up my shirts. Believe me people do this kind of thing in my neighborhood. Not for purely altruistic reasons either.

The gym is bearable if a trifle dull. I always forget head phones and find myself watching TV screens from afar. This being American TV there's always a lame show with celebrities trying to dance and another show about two waitresses which is probably better without words, although the brunette can become quite alluring 14 minutes and 24 seconds into the random hill program on the elliptical machine. But who's timing it?

At least I don't feel out of place in most parts of the Y where there are people more out of shape than me. The exception is the weights room downstairs which attracts football players and guys with bulging muscles and eyes. Last week I was pulling down about 50 pounds when I eyed a guy opposite me who seemed to be in direct competition and appeared to want me to know he was pulling 100 pounds.

When I went to walk away he blurted out: "Excuse me." I assumed he was going to inform me he had just out pulled me when he said: "Did you used to teach?"

It dawned on me this was one of my former students. We proceeded into a rapid fire conversation about how bad the rest of his class and all of the teachers (except me) were and by a stroke of luck I recalled his name.

Tonight I encountered another student but he either did not recognize me or did not want to acknowledge me. The last time I spoke to him I reprimanded him for plagiarism. My advice for any students out there who are minded to cheat is this; if you are going to rip off another person's work, don't use word for word the thesis of a leading academic on Macbeth comprising some elaborate and complex theories that have nothing to do with the essay topic when you haven't even mastered the art of tying your shoe laces or keeping your pants up in class. It tends to raise suspicions.

Still Kevin's parents were nice enough, although I did get worried when they emailed me to ask on his progress two months after I had quit.

Although the weight room is scary, it's the stability balls that really do my head in. If the program asks you to do crunches on one it's anything but stable. You find yourself drifting across the running track and coming into conflict with the grumpy, cursing old man who walks round and round every time I'm here whistling for his imaginary dog.

I am enduring the Y but will need to spice things up to keep going. At the moment the only saving grace is Prophet Monster Man, a character with the beard of a crazy preacher, big saggy and potentially soiled track pants and a moss green T Shirt who looks like he swallowed a baby whale for breakfast. Yes Prophet Monster Man makes me feel a lot better about my gut.

But right now I need a plan. I need to invest in the cutting edge of technology - a Sony Walkman perhaps so as I can listen to my tape of The Queen is Dead.


  1. I like your conspiracy. I believe the government is behind all these fun mirrors that seem to be popping up everywhere. I see them in my own home! It has to be the government. They are responsible for all weird, unexplainable disasters, right? Or so a homeless man told me four years ago...

    The image of you huffing along on the elliptical machine, watching 2 Broke Girls, makes up for this blatant disregard of privacy, however.

    How awkward you're working out amidst your former students! Especially that plagiarism one. When I was an editor of my college paper, my movie reviewer got called out for plagiarizing every single one of his reviews...for two years. He had been copying reviews from magazines/newspapers all over the world. It was horrible and he never even apologized, just called it a "misunderstanding." He actually managed to graduate college and became a very successful PR guy in town. Not surprising, eh? Ha!

  2. BALL is DEDST.
    And so is BLETA.
    BANGI to CHOES...

  3. Actually, there could be something to those mirrors - I read where high-end stores like Nordstrom's have mirrors in dressing rooms that make a customer look slimmer. So, why not the opposite in gyms? Keeps one coming back and back - hmmm! Having said that, getting those abs starts on the inside and takes forever for those (not me) who can look like the ab photo. Seems like there's a genetic disposition (from an article on CNN's blog awhile back.) Good luck!

  4. This post gave me a good laugh. Loved it! Sounds like you've been in the local Y here. The plagiarism paragraph and the description of Prophet Monster man were the best! haha! Thanks for the smiles this morning. :)

  5. Oh, the Smiths! Perfect for the elliptical. ;)

    I gave up on the Y (and the W, and the C...) several years ago. I remember my trainer was a brute, but it was worth it. I felt terribly good after a workout, but not the next day.

    Did you know that there's software that teacher's use to detect plagiarism now? My son uses the Turn it In website to send some of his teacher's reports, etc., and it flags any sentences that appear to be plagiarized. (I guess it's good for kids who might be unconsciously--ha!--copying other's work). He gets a little frustrated when his sentences are flagged and he hasn't cheated, though. ;)

  6. I've heard of those stability balls but am suspect. Can they possibly promote stability? Do you feel more grounded having used them? If so, I'll give it a shot.

    Love your advice to students tempted to cheat.

    Be well.

  7. I know Jennifer. What weirded me out was how obvious the plagarism was. They didn't even change a word and then they were shocked to be caught. Thanx Kittie - although maybe I imagining these mirrors distorting etc. Always worth if if it raises a smile Daisy. I know Jayne - probably Heaven Knows I'm Miserable now. That's true, not that I needed it. err not much more grounded Robyn - you too David x

  8. Working out - gah!

    The weight room scares the crapski out of my always. And that's the place I need to visit. All those grunter-guys are so intimidating.


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