From Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul

The Exercise Bike

Those who do not find time for exercise will have to find time for illness.

Earl of Derby

I caught a glimpse of myself in a full-length mirror at the mall last Tuesday. On Wednesday, I introduced my credit card to the nice man at the fitness outlet.

Finding the perfect exercise bike took a bit of effort. It had to have a nice, big seat. And if I was going to be riding it everyday, I may as well buy one of the air resistance models. That way, as I ride, I can blow my hair at the same time. It would have to be black to match my stair stepper machine/coat rack and would definitely have to be equipped with a calorie counter. This way, I could see how many chocolate bars I had earned . . . I mean burned, each time I rode.

My investment did not arrive preassembled. It was packaged in a huge, flat box and weighed approximately 700 pounds. Getting the unit into the minivan was one thing; getting it out and into the house was an adventure. I slid it out the side door and then turned to open the gate, which anyone with half a brain would have done before unloading their cargo. The latch promptly gouged me in the side, and I got my left thumb tangled in the chain link. After much struggle, I finally made my way to the front steps. Halfway up I had to stop and rest, and I prayed that none of my neighbors were watching me. I like to make people laugh, but sledding down the front steps while screaming and sitting on top of a box wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.

Once I had it inside and was able to pry through those gigantic staples, I could see why it had been packed in such a large carton. Inside I found a hundred bike parts and twice that many pieces of cardboard and Styrofoam. So the floor of my office is littered with nuts, bolts, tools, bike parts and dozens of tiny cardboard chunks. I picked up the instructions, and right then I knew I was in big trouble. There, on the paper, was a parts list a mile long and a picture of a bike with ten thousand arrows pointing here and there. Worst of all, not a word of the instructions was printed in a language I could read.

I sat with a pair of pliers in one hand and a cookie in the other, wondering how I was ever going to get the stupid thing put together so I could start burning some calories. Putting the seat on was the easy part: just put two pieces together and tighten the knob. When it came to assembling the moving parts, I had a little more trouble. I had to turn the bike upside down and hold it in place with one knee while I held the pedal on with my shoulder and tightened all the coordinating nuts and bolts. It fell over three times, leaving a mark on my wall and a bruise on my leg, and by this point, I figured I had burned at least 100 calories, so I ate another cookie.

The right pedal wasn’t any easier, but I managed it without further injury. After half an hour, I stood the bike upright, feeling quite proud of myself. Then, glancing at the diagram, I realized I’d forgotten a few steps. I was supposed to put the handlebars and rods on first, then the pedals last. So once again, the bike was turned over and I was taking it apart. Note: It was at this point that I closed the door to my office. I had just spent all my money on a new bike, and the last thing I needed was to have the kids rush in and demand that I start putting quarters in the “bad words” jar.

I had been home with my new purchase for a total of two and a half hours. Within that time, I had assembled and reassembled it three times, screamed at the cat, scraped my knuckles, acquired numerous bruises and eaten nine peanut butter cookies. I was fatigued and sweaty and decided this was probably the best workout I’d ever had. I stood back and admired my handy work. Everything was put together perfectly; it looked great, and I could hardly wait to ride it. But I was too tired.

The next morning when I got up, my muscles ached and I noticed the shiner that the bike had left on my leg. But I was not discouraged. I always heard that exercise was best in the mornings before eating, so I didn’t have a bite. I fixed the kids some breakfast and began my leisurely ride. I hiked my ankle-length nightgown up to my knees and climbed onto the seat. Peddling steadily, I watched the calorie counter mark my progress. The children rolled their eyes at me as they left for school, but I barely noticed. I just rode and rode, feeling very proud of myself and wondering if Richard Simmons exercised in his jammies, too.

Ann Morrow

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