Chris Johnson

Going back to the gym worth the weight

I have always maintained that I could handle working out at home on my own and achieve the same results I could if I joined a gym. I've always been wrong.

For the sixth time in my life, I've joined a gym. This came with a little gentle nudging from my doctor: "Dude, you are like so gonna die if you don't start working out."

After a routine checkup and lab work, the report came back that my cholesterol was a little high and my blood smelled a lot like cheeseburgers. The lab worker who drew my blood gained three pounds just from being near it.

So I visited three gyms and after considering the two most important factors (price and decibel level of men grunting during the bench press), I did what any wise man would do:

"Honey, which one do you want to go to?" I asked my wife.

So, we (she) picked a fairly normal gym that had all the usual weights and workout machines -- elliptical machines, the chest press machine, the don't-use-this-after-eating-a-big-Mexican-dinner machine and stuff like that. And the decibel level of the grunting is slightly less than a jet taking off, so that's refreshing.

Also nice is that it has a racquetball court -- an indoor racquetball court. Now, I know some of you believe that all racquetball courts are indoor, but I grew up in the sticks where we had four outdoor racquetball courts in which the sun would shine and heat them to approximately 142 degrees in January. Worse, when you mishit a ball, it could leave the court and land somewhere in the giant kudzu patch between Possum Holler and Booger Bottom. Of the 200 balls I hit out there, I only found about four, although I did manage to find about six rattlesnakes.

I was first introduced to indoor racquetball in Valdosta, Ga., where the YMCA had a few indoor courts and had a member who was one of the nation's best racquetball pros. I had no idea there was such a thing, so I decided to show the pro, Ken, what a real outdoor country boy racquetball player could do. You should have seen the look on his face when he got aced on my very first serve. And you should have seen the look on my face when he won the next 1,321 straight points, quite the accomplishment for a game played to 15.

"Best two out of three?" I suggested afterward. He chickened out.

Between my being reacquainted with the great game of racquetball and the loathsome experience they call exercise, I'm already getting back in shape. But life is about balance. To illustrate this point to my wife, I decided that we could skip a day at the gym by going kayaking -- and on the way paying a visit Troy's Snack Shack, the greatest burger joint on planet Earth and one of the top 10 in this solar system.

There, in downtown Montezuma, Ga., I explained to my wife one of the greatest principles of life -- balance. You can't work out all the time. And you can't eat junk like tofu all the time. You need balance.

And I illustrated the importance of balance in the clearest and tastiest way possible -- with two double-chili-cheeseburgers in my left hand and two in my right.

Chris Johnson is an independent correspondent whose "Best of Chris Johnson" is now available for Kindle. Follow him at