I confess I’ve had a lifelong obsession with weird weight control/fitness gear.
Maybe that’s because when I was 10 years old, I rode my bike to the little strip mall not far from home. A new storefront had opened, so I parked my pride-and-joy Schwinn Roadmaster to take a look.
I was stunned to spy a dozen or so mom-age suburban ladies jiggling like Jell-O in an earthquake. They were leaning back on big canvas belts hooked up to machines that looked like giant versions of the ones at the soda fountain that whipped up the milkshakes. They were bouncing from bare feet to beehives, including parts that even a kid knew were … “interesting.”
Fascinated – and nosy – I opened the front door, snatched a brochure from a table and made my two-wheeled getaway. In the privacy of our cobbled-together kids’ clubhouse in the woods, my pals and I studied this generously illustrated document and learned that anyone – but mostly women – could drop pounds and attain fitness by being vibrated vigorously by those “milkshake” machines.
At that moment, I realized that people often wanted to lose weight and improve muscle tone by utilizing “sort-of science” and mechanical devices. Hard work was never mentioned.
Eventually, I was to learn that being jiggled by a vibrating belt was just that – being jiggled by a vibrating belt. You didn’t lose weight or build muscle. You just looked silly – at least to a 10-year-old boy.
Still, the underlying message stuck. You could get trim and fabulously fit just by getting lots of workout gadgets. Oh, and using them!
Some I managed to get were pretty good: Rows of really strong springs with handles at both ends and thick “rubber bands” with handles ditto could accomplish a raft of good exercises.
But a whole other group relied on nothing more strenuous than perspiration. These included huge “health club” hot boxes you sat in with nothing exposed but your head while a heater cranked up the Fahrenheit until you were drenched.
Likewise, in your own home, you could strap long, sausage-like balloons to your arms and legs and walk around the house like the Michelin Man. If those were too clunky, you could wrap a wide neoprene belt around your waist to heat up your midsection. Or slip into a full-body vinyl “sweat suit” with tight elastic cuffs and neckline. Heck, you could go for the trifecta and try them all at the same time!
Full disclosure: Each one worked. Depending on your tolerance for discomfort, you could easily lose ounces, maybe even a pound! But the loss was all water. As soon as you gaspingly gulped down some H2O – or scotch on the rocks – the weight came roaring back.
I tried ’em all, plus a metal rod and boots that let me hang upside down like a pudgy opossum. I even bought a battery-powered box that crackled with painful, pulsating shocks sent to electrodes I’d stuck all over my body. Neither resulted in much except dizziness and pain.
Today, some popular personal training devices actually do work. A good example is those very expensive high-tech stationary bikes. Their video screens can take you from the Rockies to the Tour de France. You’re getting a workout all right, but, in fact, you’re not going anywhere at all.
You might be better off hopping on a real bike – maybe a Schwinn Roadmaster – and pedaling over to the nearest strip mall. You might not get a great workout, but you never know what you’re going to see.