The Bunny Slope

I have absolutely no scientific data to back this idea up, but I feel pretty confident when I say that one of the major differences between the sexes is that while I think everyone has fallen prey to watching an infomercial now and then,
Only guys are dumb enough to actually buy stuff from them.
I'm not talking about HSN, which is its own circle of hell -- I'm talking about 30 minutes of in-your-face hard sell advertising. Video montages of people who apparently don't have the motor skills to wipe up a spill on their kitchen counter followed by some dude wearing a headset microphone who’s wiping up Lake Michigan with some wonder chamois while shouting at you about some special offer.
Women don't fall for shit like that, do they?
Seriously, there isn't a guy out there who can tell me that he hasn't been flipping channels, or had the TV on while he was doing something else and then came back in the room and got caught up in some quick commercial for some wacky product that uses solar power to run a fan that can cool off the interior of your car while you're at work and didn't give at least five seconds of thought towards buying one?

In fact I’m pretty convinced the reason I don't actually own half the retarded products I see on TV is that it's sort of a hassle to order them. And even if I get to the point where I'm like dialing the phone to take part in the short term special offer for an extra 30-day supply of super-Oxi whatever, there's this moment where the phone starts ringing, and I realize what I'm about to do and hang up.

And I hate to out my old man like this, but I know exactly where I get it from -- because although he doesn't go around broadcasting it to everyone out loud, my father buys all kinds of stuff he sees on TV.

I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've been at my dad's house helping him with some sort of yardwork or whatever and we have a conversation that goes like:
"The lawn is starting to look pretty good"
"Yeah, but there are a bunch of dead spots in the backyard I can't seem to get rid of"
"I saw this ad the other day for this stuff.. Quickturf, Insta-turf -- something like that?"
Only to have him cut me off with, "Patch-Perfect. Bought some last week. Doesn't work at all."
I don't know why dudes fall for it, but every now and then you see something on TV that's advertised with a certain sense of logic to it, and it's hard not to get a little sucked in. It's like they have a little flowchart designed to fool people like me -- where they start off saying, "Do you like Pizza?" and I'm like -- "Yeah, I like Pizza!" Which prompts the guy to say "Do you hate it when you heat up a leftover slice in the microwave and the cheese burns the roof of your mouth?" and instead of saying something intelligent like "Well yeah, that's why I reheat pizza in the oven" or "Sure, that's why I let it sit for a few minutes before eating it" I'll be all like:
"Wait, you guys figured out a way to fix that!?"
And then they've got me. Then it's all over, because even if I don't dial up the 1-800 number and order the product they're hawking -- the next time I'm at Target I'll come across a display featuring the exact same item and then it's only a matter of time before I fall to the dark side and bring home the new Pizza-Perfect microwave tray -- which of course doesn't work for shit.

But here's the worst part. No matter how many times I get burned on products like that -- I'll still watch the commercials. I'll still half-talk myself into things. Like the other day, when I came face to face with the latest commercial for something called P90X.

If you haven't seen it -- P90X is this mega-extreme workout system aimed at building muscle and shaping abs, except that there are no machines or gadgets to buy because the majority of the exercises are isometric. And then on the screen you've got all these charged-up people doing rapid-fire one-armed pushups, yoga moves, and a bunch of Kenpo-styled aerobics. And everyone's got great biceps, and the before and after pictures all look really convincing, and even though I absolutely know EVERY exercise program sold on TV is 99.9% bullshit --
Something about this program starts to look almost ..doable.
I'm struggling with my weight. I've been back in the gym recently, but the progress is slow -- and the honest truth is that I'm still sorta finding my way through there to get into a routine that not only provides concrete results but isn't a complete chore to get through or as easy to give up on as it's been in the past.

Working out isn't fun. I feel good when I'm done -- but it’s frustrating while I’m in the middle of it and then when I go look in the mirror I'm still fat. Worse yet, no amount of time in a gym or good feeling after a workout makes food taste any worse. It’s almost like my body at this point is better at being oversized than it is changing metabolism or building muscle. I'm driven to get to my goals, but the lack of any sort of noticeable changes no matter how much you do when your body gets past a certain fitness level makes the whole process really hard sometimes.

So I'm watching this commercial and everyone's doing all these weird looking pushups and yoga moves and the trainer is blabbing on and on about this thing he calls "muscle confusion" -- which essentially says the way to really get results from workouts is to shift the muscle groups you focus on often enough to fool your body out of the "plateau effect" that comes from the normal style of working out, where you get quick results early but then can't seem to get any farther along the line because your body adjusts to the new stress that exercising puts on it and then settles into a metabolism/fitness level that can accommodate it.
Which not only makes a lot of sense, but mirrors things I've heard at my actual gym.
Then the commercial start hitting you with the testimonials -- the "real" people who use the system and the results they get? And you don't want to believe them, because you know it's advertising -- but you hate hate hate being fat, so you desperately want to find something that can get you out of that corner, which makes the short films of these guys who "were skeptical, but stuck with it and now have a body they are proud to show off at the beach" and the slow-fade transitions from their pudgy starting points to their big-bicep skinnier selves, and it kinda makes you feel envious.

So then you start looking for cracks in the armor. OK, what's the catch here? How much crap do I have to buy? Is the workout matched with some ridiculously expensive nutrition plan? Do I have to drink a bunch of awful-tasting shakes, or go to meetings where I have to hang out with a bunch of skinny people who all clap when the scale says I lost half a pound?

In other words, is this one of those "Shame on you for being fat" workout plans, is it one of those "It only works if you drink the Kool-Aid and become a complete douche" plans, or (worst of all) is this one of those -- "It looks like it works on TV, but even you had to know this was a scam when you bought it." type of deals where you know it's not gonna work, but you'll give it a solid week just in case you're wrong.
Believe me; I've wanted desperately to be the guy who "accidentally" lost 50 pounds using the Ab-Roller.
But I'm not. -- The reality is that I'm just like every other dumbass that bought one, used it for a while -- realized it was sort of a pain in the ass and then put it under the bed with the 10 other exercise gadgets I should have never bought in the first place.

The twist here though was that P90X, this super military style crunch/pullup/pushup/kenpo aerobics boot camp thing that is supposed to "get you ripped" in 90 days doesn't come with equipment. It's just a DVD series that you use at home. A selling point that not only makes it seem somehow more genuine -- but also in this modern age, means that there's a whole new twist involved:
Because if P90X is a DVD -- that means somebody has created a torrent file of it.
And don't even look at me like that. You know how much Photoshop costs. You know how much of a pain in the ass it is to spend time browsing through porno DVDs at a video store when all you want to do is see some boobs. You know how much your iTunes bill is at the end of the month, even when you only thought you bought "just a few songs."

Downloading brand-name stuff I can't afford but still have a use for is not a crime. It's adaptation. And it's not like it's a perfect crime either, because for every software package you get without a license, every 4-day download you sit through in the hopes of beating Bill Gates at his home game -- there are 10 versions of the same thing you end up with that don't work, or work great if you can read Norwegian, or infect your computer with a virus, or any of the zillion other types of pitfalls that come when you decide to dig through the cyber-mud for free stuff.

So I get online, look around for less than 5 minutes, click the button, and start downloading the thing -- when I realize something about the testimonials that are still playing on the infomercial. Yes, the video footage shows overweight people getting skinny and building muscle -- but now that I've sort of sold my soul to the devil and jumped in on this thing, NOW I suddenly start to notice that every person they're talking to is an EMT, or an emergency room nurse, or a fireman, or some guy who did 2 tours in Iraq and then came home and "let himself go a little bit," or a former college softball star who got married and still has a little weight leftover from when she was pregnant with her daughter..
People who are already in shape.
So I do a little research, and what starts to come up from some of the medical review sites I'm reading is that P90X is great for people who have a high fitness level, but haven't been able to get the kind of results they want. That it's a great way to go from being strong to getting ripped, -- but that if you're nowhere near your ideal weight that it's likely to be more frustrating than effective because the speed of the workouts is high, the difficulty of the moves is noticeable, and the goal is to maximize muscle, not to burn fat.
..Well, crap.
The review sites all say that if your goal is to lose more than 5-10 pounds or you aren’t someone who is in decent shape already, then you're better off trying out something called Power 90, which is the beginner level program.

Part of me feels vindicated because I've been able through research to avoid getting scammed by something that wouldn't really be effective for me in the first place (a revelation that makes me feel that much better about downloading a pirated copy), but there's this other thing that sort of slaps me in the face -- this realization that being this far out of shape has once again kept me out of somewhere I kinda wanted to go.

It's like this thing I've started to notice at the gym. This sort of invisible line that I never really noticed before -- where all the treadmills and crunch machines are on one side of the room, and all the weight sets and full-bore aerobics classes are on the other, or in a different section of the place altogether.

At first I thought it was just logistics. Treadmills take up room. Weightlifters need open space. But lately I've started thinking about something. Especially because the personal trainer that I spent time with as part of my membership deal was really adamant about starting every workout with aerobics.

But then when you're in the gym -- when you're actually there on the stair machine hoping you're doing some kind of good for yourself, does anyone else sort of notice that all the really in-shape people slinging around the free weights and marching through their Zumba classes never seem to bother with it?
Why are the trainers telling me to do things that I never actually see them doing?
And the answer I'm starting to settle on is this -- you know all that treadmill work? All that stretching in the special room, all those Nautilus-type machines that ring the outer edge of the place?
What if all of that was designed to keep the fatties out of the way?
I'm sure Bailey’s Powerhouse would like it if I were to get in shape. But more and more I’m coming to realize that they're not really as invested in that goal as much as they like getting my money. At least not the same way they seem to be for the people who can bench 250 pounds. Not like the way they are for the spinners who get their own room. What I'm starting to feel like is that the fancy treadmills with the heart rate monitors and the varied resistance training programs are actually more like the kiddie pool at the waterpark.

A concern that was solidified even more when my pirated copy of the "beginner level" Power 90 workout finished downloading, and Tony Horton -- the very same trainer who was in the commercial on my TV a few minutes ago literally shouting in some guys face saying "Go for it, Don't quit -- you can do another rep, you can achieve your goals but you've got to fight for it. Warriors use the pain, that's what P90X is all about!!!!" -- Is standing there on the video player screen leading the Power 90 workout talking in a much softer voice, saying things like:
"Just go at your own pace. Use our moves as a guide, but don't strain yourself trying to
keep up. And if you can't do the actual move, that's ok too. Just do the best you can."

[Listening to: T-Pain (feat. Akon)"Bartender" ]


I'm Frank said…
I think the only women to buy stuff from infomercials are the elderly. My grandma will pick up the phone and start dialing after ANY infomercial, even if it's something she already has or doesn't need. Every time we go over there, she tries to pawn off things like automatic pancake makers or sprayable grass seed on us.
Narm said…
But if women don't buy this stuff who is Tony Little supposed to be attracting??? he is all that is man!
Heff said…
I've always just stuck with free-weights in the privacy of my own basement. I bought a reasonably priced weight set. I don't have to pay any stupid monthly fee, and I never have to wait for some asshole to get off a machine so I can use it. As far as the "As Seen On Tv" ads, I ALMOST bought a Flowbee once. Almost.
unMuse said…
The only thing I've ever seen on an infomercial that interested me was The Magic Bullet. I bought a set. It works great. However, I never trust any advertised in 30 minute segment work-out plans. They are ALWAYS people who were very in shape and then had an injury, got pregnant or so on. It's people getting their body back to its "normal" state. Not someone like us where the normal state of our bodies is fluffy and they magically shed 30lbs overnight.

Still, good for you. I'm much more of a quitter than you are. After 6 months in the gym, eating 6 meals smaller than my fist a day of fish (which I don't really like), chicken and vegetables with no butter while spending 10 hours a week in gym with no actual weight-loss or dropping of clothes size I decided to enjoy food again. So, now I eat what I want and do Comcast's on-demand workout videos. It's free and there's like 20 of them so I don't have to do the same stupid crap every day.
whatigotsofar said…
Dude, my Miracle Blade is 20 years old and I've used it to cut everything. I cut through a baseball bat just to see if I could. And that thing is still sharp enough to cut the stink off shit.

Not that I've ever tried to use a kitchen knife to hack through a turd or anything like that.
JerseySjov said…
you just have to find a workout that you LIKE to do. that way it becomes something to look forward to and enjoy in and of itself, rather than just a means to an ends.
i dance and play capoeira, but i do them both because i enjoy them, not because i'm trying to get a nice bum or sweet abs. the physical benefits are just the cherry on top.

you said on my blog that capoeira is something you'd 'like to be in the right shape to do', so find a beginner class somewhere.
you can't go into something, never having done it before, and expect to have great results on day 1 or be the best at it.
Werdna said…
I'm mentally innoculated against buy shit from infomercials.

1) I'm a misanthrope and I think people are generally stupid.

2) I don't trust people partly from number 1.

3) Anything that is too good to be true, is...

But here is an infomercial that would sell to every dad in America:

a spray that you spray that would let you watch the end of the fucking game in peace. It would make your family, job, whatever bug the fuck off while you get 10 minutes peace to watch the end of the game. You don't even have to have it spray anything.

Dads would buy it in droves because of one thing: HOPE.
Maria said…
Men are not the only ones who get sucked into this. I work alone, overnight, with basic cable, and more than once I have considered reaching for my credit card to order from the boob tube. And I am not even gonna say what items I considerdd because they are shamefully cheesy.
unMuse said…
I remembered something else that I bought that Billy Mays sold me: Orange Glo. I had a party-goer drag the cooler across my hardwood floor leaving scratches. Orange Glo took care of that. I bought it in the store, though.
Satorical said…
Your paranoia on the gym front is actually totally justified. In fact, it's even worse than you think: it's not that the aerobics stuff is designed to keep the hefty off the floor, it's that the whole business model works best if you don't go to the gym at all. If every member of the gym used their membership regularly, nearly every gym would go out of business by having to invest in more equipment, space and staff.

The only way to defeat them is to beat them at the game by going regularly or taking your workout private (your home and the great outdoors).
Hex said…
Frank -- Good point. My grandma always had that weird stuff too.

Narm -- I know what you mean bro, that chick is yoked.

Heff -- There was a time period when me and my brother were really young and getting the weekly haircut that I was terrified my dad was gonna get a flowbee. Not because it would make us look good, but because he could then watch just that much more college football on Saturday instead of lugging us to the barber.

Unmuse -- did you actually order it off the TV? Because I've seen those in stores. I would argue that it is so close to a food processor that it was just an improvement on a product we already like and trust. Nothing like a haircutting tool you hook onto your vacuum cleaner or a fishing pole you put in your pocket.

wigsf -- lol, the miracle blade. The kitchen tool that's been making tomatoes taste like aluminum for generations.

jerseysjov -- I'm trying to get into the kind of shape where I can really take advantage of something like that. If I was in capoeira right now I'd be a mess. But it's always looked like fun to me.

werdna -- well I can think of one airborne gas that usually clears out a room, and if I recall correctly, you're already WAY full of that, aren't you?

Maria -- Considered and purchased are two different things, my dear. My dad's patch perfect and WIGSF's miracle blade are sorta different than you and me "almost" buying something, you know.

unmuse -- Orange Glo does rock, but it's nothing new, is it? They've always had citrus cleaners if I remember correctly, it's just new that Billy Mays is yelling about it.

Satorical -- It's just sorta frustrating to feel like you're in the way like that. I mean, maybe one day I'll hopefully be in good enough shape to be snobby about it, but right now it's kinda like I'm on the outside (eating a sandwich) looking in.
unMuse said…
hex - I actually bought the Magic Bullet online, but after I sat and watched the 30 minute infomercial with Trey. I was all "jeezus that rocks" and purchased it immediately.

Also, Orange Glo isn't a cleaner. it's used after I clean the floors to make them shiny and specifically to hide scratches. Between the 2 100lb dogs, drunks dragging coolers and regular traffic wear and tear, the floors were starting to look a little torn up. 2 applications and they looked almost like new (considering they are 30 years old).