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Crunches and condescension


Exercise for the sake of exercise is torture. Oh, I love the accompanying endorphin release, but unless I'm playing a sport, I'd rather be stuck in a mid-summer Flying-Y traffic jam without air conditioning than set foot in a gym.

My wedding is at the end of August and I've been telling people I'll be in shape for the event and, perhaps more importantly, the trip to Hawaii afterward. But every start date I set for a workout regimen has been preempted by work, family functions or sleep ... until one Monday a few weeks back.

Waking up at an ungodly 5:30 a.m. in order to have time to finish the routine and shower (and probably cry) before work, I began that Monday by kicking off the P90X exercise program. I'd seen the DVD series advertised on late-night infomercials, but hadn't given it a second thought until a coworker lent me the 12-disc set, saving me "three monthly payments of $39.95" and the embarrassment of buying anything off TV.

The concept is simple. Use fitness expert Tony Horton's muscle confusion and mixed exercise system for 90 days and you'll be as ripped as he is. Of course, the fine print doesn't mention how sore you'll be for three straight months, but crippling pain is implied, right?

By about 5:45 a.m., one thing became obvious: exercising with Tony is like being on the wrong side of the Spanish Inquisition--but with more condescension. His body is either so finely toned or his brain so poorly developed (or both) that he's unaware he's saying discouraging things like, "You can do a pushup here or not. I like to."

Gee, thanks, guy. Do it and die or skip it and cry; a real win-win situation.

And yet Tony's inadvertent put-downs and obvious interest in his female backups ("Nice; Dreya stripped down," he utters as she removes her shirt. "Vanessa, you've got the skin of a five-year-old--so lucky!") are less conspicuous than the awful nicknames ("Pam the Blam," "Downhill Dommy") and mini-biographies ("He's Johnny trainer stretchy dancer boy." "[She's an] aerialist, flies through the air with the greatest of ease.") he bestows upon both genders of his understudies.

It could be worse. I honestly prefer Tony to the hyper enthusiasm of Sweatin' to the Oldies' Richard Simmons and Tony's rival "as seen on TV" fitness peddler Barry Jay of Barry's Bootcamp. I dare anyone to watch Barry's 30-minute advertisement and tell me he doesn't look like a muscled cross between Chris Martin, the lead singer of Coldplay, and Chris Burke, who played Corky in the '90s drama Life Goes On. Then tell me he doesn't sound like the second Chris hopped up on caffeine pills.

If I stick it out, by the time this column runs, I'll be two-and-a-half weeks deep into P90X. If I'm still alive, walking upright and haven't thrown an eight-pound weight through Tony's likeness on my TV, I hope to be able to do at least one more sit-up than I could when I started. If I fail, keep an eye on Craigslist for the guy seeking a month's stay in a torture chamber. The pain level would be commensurate with my workout videos, but at least I'd be shielded from superciliousness.