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TV Abs: People are still doing workout videos and I am proof of that 

Exercise videos encourage depressing optimism.

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I just finished working out. It is three minutes past midnight and I'm in my basement.

I've been trying desperately to write something about how comic book-loving Robert Griffin III's Heisman win over the smiley face of Andrew Luck has a lot to do with the Occupy movement and the first three films of the Twilight

franchise, but have since realized that this is a horrible idea for a column. So I decided to get some exercise and planned on doing so without leaving my basement office.

While I'm reticent to discuss it at length with people who aren't already aware of my obsessive nature, I have been engaged for the past several months in a tumultuously unpredictable relationship with a certain exercise video series. The phrase "exercise video" might conjure images of Richard Simmons' (who I mistakenly have called Russell Simmons on no less than 50 occasions, an error with which the real Russell Simmons would hardly be pleased) piercing voice instructing you to perspire to the sounds of Buddy Holly, but the regimen that came into my life is nothing like that. In fact, it's not so much a work out video as it is a test of the human condition and/or vomit reflex and a routine that landed me in urgent care with unrelenting back pain. Yet, I continue to do it.


Workout videos have been around for going on four decades now, so it shouldn't be shocking that people are still doing this. But just a few minutes ago as I ran in place and attempted to perform a move aptly called a "suicide drill" without slipping on the ample sweat on the floor, I wondered why the hell I'm doing this. And are there other men in their late 20s trying to shamefully shake off last week's Pabst Blue Ribbons in the solitude of their basements? There must be, right?

Surely, my sports idols - Ken Griffey Jr., John Stockton, Shawn Kemp, Walter Payton, Michael Jordan, Carl Lewis, to name a few - didn't become highly tuned physical specimens by doing inverted jumping jacks, moving pushups, leg pumps or whatever silly-ass maneuvers my video instructor demands of me. Still, for guys like me, who once got fit on football fields and basketball courts, but are now relegated to 40 minutes - if they're lucky - of available exercise time, the work out video is a last-gasp attempt at maintaining a semi-active life.

But it's impossible to avoid the absolutely bizarre nature of working out to a pre-recorded image of a guy, who in my case constantly showcases his impossibly rigid rack of abs while yelling "Come on y'all, push it!" into the little microphone thing he's always breathing not heavily enough into. I remember making fun of mother jamming out to Jane Fonda workout videos in the late '80s, but in retrospect, she must have really wanted to get that exercise in, especially considering she was taking orders from someone she and my father had always told me was no-good communist. Then, there was a former girlfriend that I scoffed at for her high school obsession with "8-Minute Abs." I've been a lifelong ridiculer of workout videos, even the practical ones like "Sit and Be Fit" which is exactly what it sounds like and is meant for old people, but now I'm a begrudging convert.

I know, I know. These are the pyramid schemes of exercise and engaging in them is like taking financial advice from the Home Shopping Network. I know I'm not going to get one of those 12 packs of abs my instructor is trying to push through the screen and into my face. I feel like an idiot running in place in my basement. I should. I'm going to keep "pushing it y'all."

Shit, maybe I should have tried writing that Heisman/Twilight essay after all.

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