Saturday, July 9, 2016

My Greatest Humiliation

Everyone remembers their greatest humiliation.  Asking someone out in public and being loudly rejected.  Constantly getting picked last at gym class.  Freezing during a public performance.  Having an attractive doctor perform an invasive exam.

I've had all those, but this is the worst:
Harmless looking, innit?

It's called a "stability ball."

A few years ago, I hurt my back.  I didn't hurt it like "Ow a cramp." or "I'll go lie on the floor for a bit."  I hurt my back like "I'm going to walk with a funny bend in my spine for a few days because that's the least painful position."

I didn't hurt myself from lifting something heavy or being in an accident.  I hurt myself by working in the game industry.  Game companies traditionally work you to death.  They're in a state of constant crunch, trying to pump something out before a ludicrously short deadline.

Twelve hours a day, six days a week, you sit at your desk, staring at a screen.  It's bad for your health.  It's bad for your back.

I've always had back problems.  Even as a kid I had back pain.  The doctor taught me some stretches, but they didn't help.  As I got older, it got worse.  I tried walking at lunch.  I tried a variety of ergonomic chairs..  I even wore a truss when it got bad.  That was humiliating.

Not as humiliating as the ball.

After I hurt my back the third time, my wife insisted I go to a personal trainer on the weekend (Hi Daniel!).  It worked.  The pain receded.

I came to the uncomfortable realization that my back pain came from being sedentary.  I never exercised.  All I did my whole life was sit.  In front of a computer.  In front of a book.  In front of a teacher.  In front of a television.  It was a humiliating epiphany.

Not as humiliating as the ball.

Daniel brought it out the first day I met him at the gym.  He found an empty corner in the weight room and explained how it worked.  You sit on it.  That's it.  As you work to keep your balance, you get a core workout.
Looks easy, dunnit?

"Core" is trainer slang for stomach muscles.  "Core workout" is slang for "You're so weak you can't exercise for real yet."

The stability ball has other uses.  You can sit on it when you're in labor.  You can play catch with it.  You can scare cats who claw the furniture.

And there's the other exercises.

Daniel told me to hold the ball out at arm's length.  Then he told me to twist from side to side.  Hold it to my right.  Then center.  Then left.  Repeat.

Imagine me, surrounded by weightlifters, working out with a big balloon.
Looks easy, donnit?
Now imagine I'm shaking and sweating after three minutes.

Now imagine my triceps seizing up in painful cramps, and Daniel making me lie on the ground so he can stretch out the pain.

Now imagine the looks from the other people in the weight room.  Thick-armed men shaking their heads.  Toned women smiling condescending encouragement.

And that's my greatest humiliation.


Forgetting your lines in the school play doesn't seem so bad, does it?

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