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Run Chipmunk! Now You Are Free

By Michael Murray | Miscellaneous | November 5, 2010 |

By Michael Murray | Miscellaneous | November 5, 2010 |

Increasingly, I’ve found myself telling people— people I don’t even know sometimes— that I used to be pretty good at sports. Typically, I’ll then start talking about beating Matthew Perry—star of 90’s hit “Friends” —in tennis, and how I played on the second power play unit on my high school hockey team. The look I always receive when doing this is one of tolerant, disbelieving sympathy. The person will indulge me for a moment or two, and then drift off to somebody else at the party, or begin to feign interest in a piece of Inuit art they found on some table.

It’s clear that in terms of physical activity, I’ve long been living in the past, and this makes me feel pathetic— like some frail, Monty Burns character rattling on about his underhanded free-throw dominance.

And so, after years of shining lethargy, and then a major surgery in August— that was as gruesome and unlikely as something straight out of a Saw movie — I decided to get “in shape.” I had no idea what this actually meant, but I imagined something, well, easy, like relearning the rules of Euchre.

The first thing that I did was comb through Craig’s List in search of a suitable Personal Trainer, settling upon Anastasia, a 21 year-old that had recently emigrated to Canada from Russia. Amongst her hobbies were beach volleyball, mature gentlemen and running. Her rates were very reasonable, and she agreed to come to our apartment three times a week while my lady, Rachelle, was at work.

For some reason, this didn’t sit well with Rachelle — who has a difficult streak — and she insisted that I get a new trainer, one that she would pick out. Anastasia was very disappointed when I told her this, texting me the message, “im sadd was looking fortheword to bring you comfort.”

Rachelle chose a trainer whom she described as “inexpensive, not cheap,” some 29 year-old dude named Matchitehew, a Blackfoot name meaning “Born During an Earthquake,” who lives on a diet of nothing but raisins and the wind.

As Rachelle was showing me his web page, which had a creepy photograph of him, shirtless, crouching in the snow like a Tiger, Rachelle commented, “Oh, Michael, look how his smooth, dark skin contrasts so sharply with the snow!”

Seemed like a weird thing to say, but whatever.

Regardless, Matchitehew showed up at our apartment a week later to conduct my first training session.

From what I can tell, the relationship between the Personal Trainer and Trainee proceeds along these lines:

  • You sign a cheque.
  • You sign a waiver absolving your trainer of any responsibility for the inevitable induction of stroke, heart attack or intestinal rupture.
  • You then allow the Personal Trainer to ruin your life.

    The first thing that Matchitehew did was inquire into my diet, quietly taking notes as I spoke (rather lovingly, I guess) of the alcohol, red meat and chocolate milk that served as my dietary staples.

    “We have much work to do,” he told me. “Your diet is out of harmony with your body. You are a Meat Dreamer, and you must learn to change your dreams if you want to change yourself.”

    I nodded my head as he told me about the fruit, leaves and certain twigs (for protein) that were to comprise my new diet.

    “So, I’ll eat like a Chipmunk?” I asked.

    “Do not underestimate the Chipmunk,” Matchitehew said, “for the Chipmunk is a warrior.”

    “A warrior!” I repeated.

    I presumed at this point that Matchitehew and I would continue to talk about diet and nutrition, maybe do a little stretching, drink a protein shake and then high-five, but instead the fucker told me we were going running.

    I explained to him why this would be impossible, pointing out that I was comprised of scar tissue, asthma and fear, but he would have none of it and pushed me outside onto the street.

    “Run, Chipmunk. Now you are free. The Meat Dreamer is no more.”

    I began to plod along, as if chasing a streetcar I really didn’t want to catch. This didn’t go well, as before I had traveled ten yards, my body was beset by cramps, stitches and mystery shudders, including in my forehead. While I was in the midst of some sort of spasm, my inhaler dropped out of my pocket, an event I took to have an ominous foreboding.

    “You see, your old life is falling away. You will no longer need that medication. Keep running, until the next street lamp! Run, like a predator squirrel is chasing you!”

    I staggered along, as if a person who had been shot many times, before collapsing against the street lamp. Ignoring my dry heaves, Matchitehew forced me to straighten up, breathe deeply from the diagphragm and do a bunch of stretching things.

    We then proceeded to do “lunges” through the streets of my Queen East neighborhood in Toronto. From what I can tell, a lunge is a variation of one of the Monty Python silly walks,

    and as I am weak— think of the atrophied muscles of an astronaut that has just returned from a three-year mission in space—I have crappy balance.

    With my spent legs trembling, and my arms outstretched as if hoping to catch flight and flee this misery, I wobbled like a fledgling down a back alley. It was here where a meathead yelled, “You ain’t gonna get very far walking like that, ya know!” before breaking into peels of broken-toothed laughter. I tried to tell her to “Fuck Off,” but I could not muster the wind to make this happen.

    Matchitehew, between stretching and breathing exercises, made me do three more near-fatal circuits, before we returned to my apartment. It was at this point that I thought our session was over, but no, it was not.

    “We must work on your upper body now. You must do ten push-ups.”

    I explained to him how this was impossible, how I could never hang from the rope or do a single chin-up back in school.

    “I understand, Chipmunk, we will begin with lady push-ups for you.”

    And so I started to try to do the lady push-ups.

    “Take off your baseball cap, you are using it to cheat, pretending that when the bill touches the floor you have completed a push-up. It is a lie, Chipmunk.”

    “It’s my lucky Expo hat,” I protested.

    “Remove it.”

    “No, I have a little bald spot on the crown of my head that I’m ashamed of and I don’t want you to see it.”

    “I see all of you, Mister Michael Murray, I see all of you,” and then he removed my baseball hat. “Challenge yourself!”

    As I challenged myself to do the lady push-ups, Heidi, our Miniature Dachshund— sensing that her primary food source was about to expire— came up and began to lick my face, hoping to revive me I guess. As she was doing this, she managed to knock my glasses off, which I instinctively reached for, upon which I felt a hellish ripping in my left, right and center side.

    A few moments later I saw Matchitehew and Heidi looking down at me. Matchitehew uttered a few words in his native tongue and then said, “Welcome back, my brave Chipmunk. You have been on quite a journey for our first session, and now you must rest.”

    And then, just like the wind, he was gone, while I remained there, on the floor, with the dog dozing by my side, until Rachelle got home from work six hours later.

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    Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.