Me, The Gym, and My Hamster Mike

I joined a gym in early January of this year. I’d gained more weight than I’m comfortable carrying, and thought that if anything could stop me from increasingly looking like my erstwhile pet hamster Mike, it would be spending great amounts of time frenetically running on a thing that just kept going round and round so that I never went anywhere at all, just like ol’ Mike used to spend great amounts of time frenetically running on a thing that just kept going round and round so that he never went anywhere at all.

Maybe I’ll just fill an old refrigerator box with shredded paper, and start sleeping in it. Might as well get busy fulfilling the destiny God has in mind for me, which is clearly to become a giant hamster.

Cool. I always wanted to drink out of one of those glass pet bottles, with the tube and black stopper. I love those things.

And how I used to love ol’ Mike. He once chomped my finger so hard I almost passed out, but how else would I have learned the invaluable life lesson of never touching a sleeping hamster? And how else would Mike have learned he can fly?

Yes, if there’s one thing nature teaches us, it’s that blood and flying somehow go together.

Anyway, the gym. I joined. I sweat. I groan. I make faces in public I’d be embarassed to make in private. And at least once every time that I’m pounding away on the treadmill, I think back to my old pal Mike the hamster, and reflect upon the possibility that maybe, just maybe, he knew more about life than he was letting on.

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  • [Hey, Anita! You were right! Thanks for your sensitive reading! To anyone else reading this: The original version of the post above included an anecdote of how a man at my gym recently tried to pick me up. My blog-friend Anita, over at , commented here that she thought the piece a little offensive to gays. I re-read what I'd written, decided she was right, and yanked the part about the guy trying to pick me up. But by THEN, see, my new young e-friend Arlywn had already WRITTEN her comment to the original post, which you see below. And rather than erase that, I thought I'd leave it, and write this long, boring explanation instead.]

  • arlywn

    least all you got was being stalked.

    I was at college and dressed for professional day, which I thought I was dressed very snazzy for, and this guy–creepy btw–makes it abundantly obvious that I am well formed. (I'm female, in case that was unclear) and that apparently my shirt was extremely… well, flattering for my body, and emphasized certian aspects.

    I did not wear it for that purpose. didnt even know that was a purpose to that particular shirt. Gabe's mother gave it to me. And while it was a little low cut, I didnt think it was that low or anything.

    I digress, anyway the guy very blantantly asked what size I was, and if I was with someone, and… ect. I informed him I didnt buy my clothes, and yes, I was engaged to a guy of 3 years!

    very rude. And creepy. Much like your wanna be lover john… Except you got lucky. Hopefully there is not a next time for you, and good luck with the loss of weight. I dont like diet. Diet and hell are both 4 letter words. I dont think thats significant, but it proves I can count!

  • Arylywn: Actually, I'm not much of a dieter, either–though I guarantee that when you get older–like, say, FIFTY–you'll become a lot more aware of what is and isn't good for you to eat. You'll also find that instead of just BEING in shape, as you do when you're young, you have to actually WORK at being in shape.

    I've lost some 13, 14 pounds. Gotten in much better shape. I'm happy with where I'm at now. Yay.

  • arlywn

    thank you. Very clarifying.

  • arlywn

    i dont like my wieght, it's healthy- but its not the 95 pounds I maintained until…. *counts* 17- 18? I think… now its 110. and I see it. lol. Congrats anyway.

  • I feel your pain.

    I was at the gym today, too.

  • John,

    I'd address this in email but since you commented on it here, I want to do likewise, and that's only to say how much I respect you for your willingness to read what I said without taking offense, and reconsidering. It says a lot about who you are as a person and a Christian. I also want you to know John that I've followed your blog long enough to know you meant no harm, just as I hope you know I'm not running around with my shorts all in a bunch over every little thing. I have a rather wicked sense of humor myself which I humbly admit has had me retracting my own words a time or two….or three or four or….

    I could say more but then I'd cry, you'd cry, our tears would drip onto our keyboards causing our laptop circuitry to short out and then where would we be?

    Word out to the Shore-man!


  • thereisnogray

    Was the flying part the reason we now talk about Mike in the past tense?

  • Anita: I was going to email you, but thought that since I wanted to maintain Arlywn's comment, I might as well cover it all here. And (kind of you though it certainly is!) you surely have no need to thank me. On the contrary, I'm deeply grateful to YOU for alerting me to my offenses. I've always had gay and lesbian friends in my life, and so (believe it or not) am naturally particularly sensitive to anything that slights them. If you hadn't suggested I might want to rethink aspects of what I'd written, the piece would have sat as is, and my own interests wouldn't have been served. So, as I say, I'm really and truly the one who's grateful to you.

  • arlywn

    good for you john! Being nice to others and all that cool jazz. I made up my mind to go to nathans youth group, and I was excited, cause I do think it will be fun….

    he informed me I was too old for youth group. Which is so depressing because I dont think you can really be too old for anything.

    and I have to work on sunday, so I couldnt go this week anyway. Really depressing.

    what is it with suicidal animals? I had a rabbit that literally jumped out of his cage and broke his neck. We didnt know he broke his neck only that he was scrunched up and didnt want to move. We brought him inside and he died that night. Rabbits arent very smart…. and I think they change from male to female spontaniously. We had 4 rabbits, 3 of which were sworn girls and not one of those rabbits produced bunnies.

  • Neon Java

    As always, amusing and insightful! The amusement was amplified in an unexpected way: my Gmail account kindly provides a sidebar of "sponsored links" based on keywords that some algorithm I'll never understand calculates as possibly interesting to me. I.e., "Gee, since your mom wrote you about her condo association's plans to re-work the chimneys, here's everything about chimneys you never wanted to know. Just click!"

    So here's everything calculated for today's post, John :-0

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  • Leif Sr.


    There's a verse in the Bible (1 Timothy 4:8) that says exercise profits a little. I love that verse.

  • Leif: Yeah. The quote is "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." So clearly, God doesn't want me to work out. WHOO-HOO!!

    Neon: What the …??!!

  • As someone who has battled a weight problem most of his life (and trust me, at the age of 48 it doesn't get any easier!), it's all I can do to spend my lunch hours at the YWCA or walking a few miles along the Kanawha River. I love good food, and I'm quite fond of beer, so it's all I can do to exercise every day.

    But John, I have to say that my purchase of a BICYCLE about a year ago had to be one of the best investments I've ever made. It's been good for my health, my wallet (!), and of course the environment. I lost 20 pounds in just a few months! Bicycling is a highly FOCUSED activity: You are always paying attention to the road ahead of you (so as to avoid potholes, broken glass, putrifying animal and such), plus you want to avoid being creamed by motorists who are more concerned with their cell phone conversations than the highway.

    Do you have a bicycle? Are there good bike paths to enjoy in the area in which you live? You might want to give it a try; it's a LOT more invigorating than the treadmill.

  • Chuck: I LOVE bikes! I didn't own a car until I was 31; I used to live on my bike. From when I was 15 to … I don't know, 34 or so, I was a total bike freak. Had a cherry Gitane that weighed nothing, all the clothes, tools, stand, packs, rode100 miles or so a week, etc. Just insane over it. And you're right: there's nothing like it physically. But when we moved to San Diego I finally sold my bike all my bike stuff. It's just not a good bicycle town. I still look at PICTURES of my wife and I's bikes, and get all sentimental.

    So you're loving it? You live in a good area for biking? What kind of bike do you have?

  • I am definitely loving it. Last year when I was mulling over the possibility of purchasing a bike, I asked various friends of mine if they had any recommendations, and one guy whose opinion I respect suggested a Trek hybrid; he said he's had one for over ten years, and it's been really reliable. And when I went to the bike shop, I told the clerk that I was looking for something without a lot of bells and whistles, I just wanted something I could use to commute the eight miles to work when the weather was nice, and also ride recreationally. And sure enough, the clerk pointed me toward a nice Trek hybrid (midway between racing tires and mountain bike tires). I tried it on for size, it seemed to fit, so I said, "I'll take it." With helmet and repair kit it set me back about $450, but I have had absolutely NO regrets.

    Now, although West Virginia tends to be rather mountainous, the Charleston metro area where I live is typical floodplain with lots of level biking. The only real challenges during my commuting or recreational biking are mostly bridges.

    I would THINK that San Diego has some good bicycling. Check out the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition:

  • Here's another useful link:

  • Hey good luck with that. I joined the gym in November and have been sticking with it, more for how it makes me feel than how it makes me look. I feel happier, more creative and a ton more energetic.

  • back to lurking i go…

  • You won’t believe this, but the first real bike I ever bought my wife was the first “hybrid” bike Trek ever made. It was, I believe, the Trek 840: it cost, then, about $850, and was a miracle on wheels. She LOVED that bike. What a machine.

    San Diego has great bicycling–but it’s all in outlying areas, the mountains and so on outside the city. Moreover, my problem was I hate riding without a place to repair and maintain my bike, and we’ve never really lived in a place in San Diego large enough for that. I STORED my bike and tools down here for years and years. Finally, we decided to just make the break from biking. But yeah, there are a LOT of intense bicyclers in San Diego–but they ride around on busy, congested streets that are too unsafe for my tastes. Dangerous stuff.

  • Neon Java

    Oops, sorry John — just looked in, realised I hadn't deleted the URL's from my post. Aside from that oversight, I hope the humour of the situation (your post + Google's overeager bottle-selling algorithm) wasn't misplaced.

    Maybe I've had so much espresso today, everything strikes me as amusing? Guess you had to be here. 😉

  • arlywn

    hmmm……… there is no gay mafia. thats kinda unfair… everyone else has a mafia…. (sorry, listening to will and grace on tv)

  • Neon: By "What the…??" I only meant to express appalled incredulousness at learning that along with the RSS feed of my blog comes automatically attached freakin' ADS. Is that true?? That's SO FREAKIN' TERRIBLE. That's all I was saying. But is that true??? TERRIBLE!!

  • "There are a LOT of intense bicyclers in San Diego–but they ride around on busy, congested streets that are too unsafe for my tastes. Dangerous stuff."

    On MOST of my eight-mile route to work I have to share four-lane highway with motor vehicles travelling 40-50 mph. I stay as far to the right as possible, but the fact remains that I rely on the attention of the other motorists to keep from ending up as roadkill. Yes, it's dangerous by any estimation, but I still think the benefits outweigh the risks.

  • Neon Java

    John, yes, adverts accompany your essays. A “convenient” sidebar provided by our noble friends at Google, often to distracting levels that detour me entirely from….wow, viagra at half-price!

  • Renee

    Great blog! I so relate to the treadmill thing and to the aspect of blood and flying ,and how they go hand in hand. Thnks for sharing your thoughts and humor! G-d Bless!

  • thats why i said, never wake up a sleeping hamster, or you may lose your hand, this was actually he was saying when he posted hes blog about hes hamster mike.