Friday, November 13, 2009

The Adventures of Naked Jamie!

I think I mentioned that Wendy and I have joined a gym. I look forward to going every day. Much like traveling to Europe and seeing the world, I did not know that I needed it, but I do. It feels fantastic to be working out again. After three weeks I am finally to the point where I have to push myself very hard to be sore the next day. I am sore today, but not horribly so.

I used to work out with a couple people over the years in college. My last workout partner in college was Doug Shepardson, the man watching my house and dogs in Vermont right now. We are of similar, slender, wiry builds. No matter how much we worked out, we got more cut and the weights went up but we didn’t get bigger. We didn’t bulk up like we wanted. After months of this we approached our friend Lloyd who was an extremely nice, powerful, squat, incredible dancer and also Vermont State Champion in amateur bodybuilding. First thing he asked was:
“What do you eat?”

“Eggs, fish, steak… lean proteins mostly.”

“How much of them do you eat?”

“I don’t know; the normal amount.”

“Then you’re not eating enough. You need to eat 5000 calories a day to get the results you are looking for.”

Five THOUSAND calories!?!?!

We took his advice to heart and stuffed ourselves day after day. Steak, pizza, whole chickens, hot dogs, protein shakes, a dozen eggs a day and more. It was insane. We were constantly sore from working out and bloated from trying to ram just one more piece of pizza down our throat. We were at the gym or we were on the coach eating or resting.

But it worked. We bulked up to the best shape either of us had ever been in.

And now I’m back at it. The feel of the steel bar in my hands as I grab it and swing myself under to do four sets of bench press is like a welcome home handshake from my father. Wendy either does classes or runs on the treadmill while I rotate from free weights to machines and back again, breaking down all the muscles of my upper body two and even three times using slightly different exercises. I’m working out even harder than I did in college.

And I am ravenous. I now understand what it must like to be one of those people who are always hungry. They range from my friend Dan Renfro who can eat as much as four men yet remains slender as a willow (despite being over forty) to the enormous people with bad genes that can’t ever feel full. That’s what I’m like these days as my body tries to rebuild the muscles I have destroyed in my workouts. But unlike college, I don’t want to bulk up. I want to get rid of my gut and see definition in my arms and chest again. So, I’m hungry all the time, but can’t eat any more than normal and go to bed hungry most nights. On bad days I succumb and eat a huge piece of salmon, then fry up some eggs, then some Doritos with salsa, then some bacon crackers and half an hour later I’m looking in the cupboard to see if there’s anything else I can eat, preferably something healthy that will help my muscles and not my middle grow. Hey look, tuna fish! I’ll make a couple tuna fish sandwiches on wheat bread.


As you may know, I’m in Spain. Spain is going through a cultural revolution that is akin to the seventies and eighties in the United States. A vast majority of Spaniards do not work out. As a rule, they are very slender. As I noted in a past entry I was shocked to go home and see so many obese people in the states. But then I realized there were an equal number of people that worked out and looked like Greek Gods compared to Spaniards; fit and alive and glowing with health. The fitness craze has been going on for decades in the US. It’s just starting here and watching Spaniards work out is simultaneously hilarious, baffling and as always, a chance to practice patience and work on your inner calm. Otherwise you might strangle someone.

When I get to the gym I ride the bike for ten to twenty minutes depending on the day and then I like to hit the bench press. One day I got off the bike and there was a towel laid over the bench, signifying that someone is using it. So, I go do some other exercises and ten minutes go by and still no one shows up. I finally figure out it’s one of two gay guys hitting on each other at the water cooler. I move the towel out of the way, add some more weight (I bench more than almost every other person I have seen in the gym, and I’m forty-four) and start my reps. He comes back over in the middle of my set and asks if he can work in and I tell him fine. He does one set then wanders around the gym a bit. I finish up my fourth set and move on to curls. I watch him the rest of the day and he clearly has no idea about gym etiquette. He will lay his towel over a machine he’s not using, use the one next to it, then go chat with someone for ten minutes. Essentially monopolizing a machine for no reason, not getting in a good work out and just wasting time.

Then there was the young, fit guy who asked me if I was almost done with the bench and I told him I had one more set. He took over when I was done (removing twenty kilos) and did a set, then sat on the bench for ten minutes watching people. I moved over to another machine, did four sets before he attempted his second set. I moved to another machine, he is still resting. I finished my work out, doing four sets on eight other machines or free weights by the time he was done with the bench, forty minutes later.

They have three treadmills and again, hilarious. We like the guy who gets on, lays his paper on the display and walks for twenty minutes while he reads the paper. I get that much exercise getting to the gym! Dude, what the hell are you doing?

Wendy is a machine on the treadmill, cranking it up to ten and running for twenty-five to thirty-five minutes a day. I’m always impressed when I see her run. Most Spaniards run at about a five or a six setting and for about ten minutes and then walk for another ten to cool off. Yesterday Wendy had to wait for a treadmill while two guys actually ran and one guy sedately walked for twenty minutes. And there’s no sign up sheet so she had to stand there the whole time because if she went to another machine someone would jump on the treadmill the second it was free.

It’s very seventies in the sense that working out and being fit is a brand new concept here and many people don’t know what they are doing. This is nice in some respects because there aren’t any massive young hulks wandering around intimidating me with their fitness and my lack thereof. No, I’m one of the fittest guys there and I know what I’m doing. There is a trainer who wanders around and constantly corrects people’s form or even explains how to do different exercises and, I am proud to say, she has never corrected me on anything.

It’s funny sometimes to watch people spend all this money for a gym and not even walk or bike fast enough to work up a sweat. I want to just tell them: You have no idea what you’re doing, do you. And no, that’s not a question. Other times is pure frustration as they sit and chat at a machine you want to use or leave their towel on a machine and then leave for twenty minutes. Luckily there are enough stations and free weights I can almost always find something I can work on while waiting. It’s also nice to be forty-four and out-lift 98% of the people that are members of the gym.

Progress is slow no matter how hard I work. Like in college I am going up in weights and reps and all of that is very satisfying, but staring in the mirror progress is glacial. I look better, but not as much as I would have liked after three weeks of working as hard as I have. I only have two weeks left before we go home and I was hoping to look a lot better. Oh well, it will come.

Soon I’ll be ready to make my appearance as this world’s first superhero: “Naked Jamie.”

You could say I’m a nudist. I don’t mind clothes and in fact, I love some of my clothes, but like a two year old, first chance I get I’m walking around the apartment naked . This has made Wendy brand me “Naked Jamie” which she says whenever I get undressed. I’m very good at getting undressed. Wendy and I will retire to the bedroom at the end of the day and she’ll sit down, start to take off a sock and I’m naked in bed reading by the time she finishes. “What the…?” How do you do that?

“It’s my superpower. Worst superpower ever.”

One night in Santorini we laid in bed and cracked up imagining how your life would be as a superhero whose power was the ability to get naked in a split second.

Imagine the scene in “Hancock” where instead of Hancock, the little boy wakes up Naked Jamie sleeping on a park bench.


“Bad guys” and points at a big TV.

Naked Jamie stands up and strips off all his clothes. Kid runs screaming.

Lois Lane is falling to her death, Naked Jamie runs into a phone booth, strips off all his clothes and thinks “Okay, now what…”

Or maybe a bank robbery is happening so Naked Jamie runs in and strips off all his clothes. Startled, a robber shoots him. While lying in a pool of blood Naked Jamie whispers “Worst… power… ever.”

Or maybe he succeeds in foiling the bank robbery; shortly after doing so Naked Jamie is arrested for public indecency. A woman interviewed on the scene exclaims: “I had kids in there. They don’t need to see that!”

Paper headlines the next day read “Crime spree ends and continues as Naked Jamie foils bank robbery and then arrested.”

“Mayor pleads with hero of the city ‘Can’t you just solve crime with your clothes on?’”


  1. So Cordoba sucked. If you did not like looking at flowers, we probably liked reading about them less.

    But I still read and enjoyed it, just not moved to comment.

    Thanks for the technical update on the flu. I new I was not getting the shot, now I know why.

    This is a good example of everything bad about modern medicine. It does great stuff, but while anyone with a brain knows that modern medicine does not know everything (and therefore must get some things wrong) many Doctors are still reluctant to admidt that some drugs are not perfect, or that there are effective alternatives to medication.

  2. "“Mayor pleads with hero of the city ‘Can’t you just solve crime with your clothes on?’”"

    Pure gold.

  3. I think "Naked Jamie" should be your next book title...

  4. Okay, a slightly different thought! Maybe instead of your travel memoir being named "I'm not an Alcoholic, I'm Just Europen", it could be "The Adventures of Naked Jamie" --baring yourself to new experiences and getting yourself back in shape in many MANY ways. I think that title would REALLY catch people's eyes.

  5. I liked the Cordoba entry and I would love to go to that festival because I like flowers very much. Loved this entry and as a fellow nudist I very much approve of Tanya's idea "The Adventures of Naked Jamie"