May 29, 2024
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May 29, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

A few months ago, my wife sent me to a one-time free exercise class on the other side of town, across from Home Depot.

The class was in an exercise studio that is run by a guy named Marcelo, who is about 90 percent muscle and 10 percent body hair. And 10 percent heavy accent that is either Italian or Argentinean. And 10 percent encouraging yelling that I cannot always understand. And yes, that’s more than 100 percent, but he wants us to give more than 100 percent, so there you go.

The class was arranged by a former English writing student of mine named Shlomo, who, despite my best efforts, turned into a responsible adult who communicates primarily through text messaging. For a while, Marcelo was wondering, “How do I get the Jewish population of this town to try my classes?” And Shlomo said, “Number one, you arrange some gender-only classes. And number two, you make some of them free.”

So he decided to hold one free session, which my wife found out about. I was reluctant to go, because there was no way I was going to sign up on a regular basis, and I didn’t want to lead anyone on. But then Shlomo told me that I could come in and they wouldn’t try to sell me anything.

So I went in, and sure enough, they didn’t try to sell me anything. They just worked me really, really hard. And then I came home and crawled up the stairs and collapsed, face down, and while I was lying there, trying to will myself to take a shower, Shlomo called. And he’s like, “So, do you want to sign up for the class?” And I’m like, “No.” But he kept pushing, and it turns out that after this exercise class, I didn’t really have the strength to argue with him.

That’s how they get you.

The class is actually called the “90-Day Challenge,” and the first session was on Motzoei Rosh Hashanah. Whoever loses the most weight in 90 days gets $3,000 dollars, in the form of a ginormous photo-friendly check that you then have to figure out how to cash, if you can manage to get to the bank without getting mugged.

And we don’t just weigh in at the end of the 90 days. Marcelo makes us weigh in once a week, to measure our progress. Every Motzoei Shabbos.

“Um, we’re gonna lose. Nobody weighs their least on a Motzoei Shabbos.”

As a bonus for signing up, we each got a free T-shirt with a neck that is slightly too small. My goal, in exercise class, is to eventually fit into my workout shirt. The front of the shirt says “90-Day Challenge,” so no one would freak out if they saw us running at them, and the back says, “No Excuses,” which is strange, because I had plenty of excuses. My first excuse was that the neck was too small.

The workout itself is intense, but Marcelo does what he can to prevent it from getting boring. He has us do different exercises every time. For example, he has punching bags, but we don’t use them for punching. We have to do things like drag them across the floor. Which, as I’ve pointed out, is slip-free. We’ve also had to push a truck tire across this floor by hitting it from the side with a mallet. Then we had to do pushups on folding chairs while wearing heavy chains over our shoulders. I’m pretty sure he’s buying most of his exercise equipment from Home Depot.

What complicated things was that my back hurt. I have a herniated disc, and part of the reason I signed up is that I was hoping that I would lose weight and take some of the stress off my back. But the issue was that, because of my back, I couldn’t do some of the exercises properly. In fact, in one of my first classes, I threw my back out doing burpees. Burpees, which are not as cute as they sound, are a cross between a pushup, a squat and a jumping jack. And if this doesn’t sound physically possible, it’s because it’s not.

But the thing I learned about exercise class was that everyone has their injury. No one just decided to start going to exercise class because they thought it would be fun to torture themselves three nights a week. There’s the guy with the bad back, the guy with the bum knee, the guy with the broken wrist, the guy with the hernia and so on. Everyone had some event in their life that made them say, “You know, I should really start taking care of my body, as long as the first time is free.”

So on the whole, it’s going well. It’s taking Marcelo a while to get used to having Jewish students, though.

For example, we’ve been playing Jewish music on the loudspeakers during our workouts, such as Lipa’s “Diet” song, which is about how Lipa doesn’t diet on Shabbos. Probably Lipa doesn’t have to weigh in on Motzoei Shabbos. But we keep playing this song, because the only word in the song that Marcelo understands is “diet,” so he thinks it’s about losing weight.

Then one week he actually caught some more words, and he said, “Hey! Are they singing, ‘baloney pastrami macaroni’?”

And we’re like, “Yeah, but it means something totally different in Yiddish.”

In the end, the winner was the guy with the hernia. I hope he can carry that giant check. He lost 75 pounds, whereas I lost—well, I don’t want to tell you what I lost. I lost enough that I want to continue doing this, but not enough that I can stop. It also didn’t help that at some point, in middle of the 90 days, I went to Kosherfest.

By Mordechai Schmutter

 Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia, The Jewish Press and, among others. He also has five books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].



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