Dan Conradt: Quest for buff hits a bump in the road

I tried to pull the box out of the trunk. It wouldn't budge.

But I was philosophical about it … if I could get it out of the trunk and into the house, I probably didn't need it.

I cut the box open and started carrying the parts into the basement two or three at a time. It took 13 trips, which gave my mind a chance to wander: how long before people started using words like "buff" and "ripped" to describe the new me?

Tuesday. Wednesday at the latest …

The guy at the sporting goods store was wearing a T-shirt that said "No pain, no gain". The letters were distorted because the shirt was stretched so tightly across his chest. He looked like a young Jack LaLanne.


I told him what I was looking for, and he gave me a quick once-over. "Do you lift now?"

"Yeah, 12 ounces at a time." I first heard the line from a friend, and thought it was pretty funny; the guy in the T-shirt apparently didn't.

"Uh … no, but I'd like to start."

One month into the New Year and I'd already broken nearly all my "healthier lifestyle" resolutions, including setting a "personal best" by eating three bowls of Count Chocula to break the "eat better" resolution at 8:15 a.m. on Jan. 1. The one resolution that still had a chance of succeeding was "get more exercise."

The guy in the T-shirt gave me a twice-over.

"I've got just the thing …"

He led me to a corner of the room: "This is a pretty basic set," he explained. "Inclined bench, barbells, dumbbells. 250 pounds in all. You want to try it out?"




I looked at the distorted words on his T-shirt.

"Uh, no, it's just what I was looking for," I said. "I'll take it."

He rolled the box out to my car on a two-wheel dolly and hoisted it into the trunk.

"Good luck," he said as I slid into the driver's seat. "Be sure and warm up first!"

As I clicked the seatbelt in place he said, "Don't start with too much weight … increase it gradually!"

I'm not positive, but as I drove away I thought I heard him say "Maybe you should collect stamps instead …"

Thirteen trips up and down the stairs later I had all the parts in the basement. I sat on the floor and paged through a booklet that welcomed me to "… the exciting, healthy world of weight lifting."


The bench went together in just a few minutes with a minimal number of cuss words and no Band-Aids, and I was getting excited: the sooner I started, the sooner I could drop the phrase "couple of reps" into conversations with friends.

I wasn't quite sure what a "rep" was, but it's something all us weightlifters say.

I added weighted rings to both sides of the bar, locked them in place and … remembering what the T-shirt guy said about warming up … I dropped to the floor and did a push-up, then took my position on the bench.

Deep breath in … let it out.

I lifted the barbell off the support stand.

Huh. A little heavier than I thought it would be …

Breathe in … let it out … up and down, and up and down. Man, that's heavy. But four reps, right? Up twice and down twice? Yeah, four reps.

I managed to swing the barbell back onto the metal support and hopped off the bench to check the weight.


No wonder it felt heavy! I'd put 25 pounds on each side!

I removed one weight ring from each side and locked down the remaining plates.

Up and down and up and down …

How many reps was that? I'd lost count. Eight? twenty-two? Ninety-six?

I swung the barbell back onto the support and it landed with a CLANG.

"No pain, no gain" the guy's T-shirt said. If it were true, I was going to see a LOT of gain. I think I was getting a cramp, and I might have blown a spleen. Two more reps and my first weight-lifting session was over.

So was my last weight lifting session.

Still, there was probably some health benefit to going up and down the basement stairs 13 times.


I jumped into the car and headed toward Dairy Queen to celebrate.

But first, I had to make a quick stop at the discount store.

The clerk was stocking a shelf with flip-flops; she looked so healthy I almost changed my mind.

And she remembered me from that morning: "Hi, again! What can I help you with?"

I was kind of disappointed she didn't use the word "buff."

I handed her the box.

"I'd like to return these running shoes …"

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