PUMPING IRONY: The Son Also Rises

My son and I traveled to the fancy gym in the suburbs last night for a workout.

He’s 19 and likes to go first-class (although we traveled there in the Crapmobile, which I think he’s beginning to appreciate for its rugged good looks). My local gym, which is in the basement of the office where I work, can be a little crowded and he doesn’t really like to draw attention to himself — especially when he’s in the company of his old man.

There’s been a ton of ink spilled in recent years about child obesity and the generally poor state of health among kids of all ages, and while Martin is as lanky as they come and hasn’t been to a doctor in years, he hasn’t been particularly active. Since I started working out, he’s occasionally mentioned cranking out some push-ups when he gets up in the morning/afternoon, but he’s generally not a highly motivated guy.

At least not until recently, when he discovered something called free running (aka parkour), a sort of urban acrobatics performed amid and upon various structural obstacles. Think of the opening scene in Casino Royale — only without the fight to the death. It’s a discipline that requires all sorts of physical attributes — strength, endurance, speed, balance, power — as well as the kind of bravado that most of us lose by the time we hit 30.

Martin has never been one for conventional sports. He played little league baseball and park-and-rec soccer for a couple seasons back in grade school, and he can still block any of my shots on a basketball court (he’s about 5-7, but he can touch the rim). But he’s always been attracted to more unconventional stuff: rock-climbing, skateboarding and snowboarding, and now doing backward flips from the roof of abandoned cars.

I like to encourage my son in whatever (legal) endeavor he’s currently embracing, and he assured me after his first parkour training session the other day that this is all on the up and up, so we hit the gym last night with the idea of doing a little upper body and core work.

He’s got a ways to go, and he knows it. After 10 minutes on the elliptical, he confessed that his legs were feeling rubbery. And hoisting 50 pounds on any of the resistance machinery is a real struggle. Still, we made the circuit and I was doing the whole personal trainer bit, smugly teaching him all I know about body-building.

At one point, while he was resting between sets on the chest press machine, he asked about the benefits of push-ups. I told him they might be the best body-weight exercise you can do, pointing out how they work your shoulders, your biceps, triceps and core.

“They don’t work your biceps,” a young man at the next machine offered.

“Oh, they work them a little,” I replied, hoping to maintain my dignity.

“Not really,” he countered, explaining how pushing moves build your triceps and pulling moves work the biceps.

I thought back to the 30 push-ups I did that morning and briefly considered dropping right there and doing a set just to prove my point, but thought better of it. “Hmm,” I pondered. “Not the biceps, huh?”

“Nope.”

“Hmm,” I mumbled. “Great for the triceps, though.”

Martin went back to his chest presses. I gazed at the ceiling. Maybe I’ll set him up with a real P.T. next time.

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