December's fitness wish in January's hall closet

January 15, 1998|By Kevin Cowherd

WHENEVER the subject of home exercise equipment comes up in conversation, I like to tell the Story of the Ab Roller.

The Story of the Ab Roller begins a few weeks before Christmas, when my 12-year-old daughter appeared in the kitchen with an announcement.

"In a very short time," she said, "I plan to have the trim figure and rock-hard abdominal muscles displayed by such sports and entertainment superstars as Michelle Kwan and the Spice Girls. Therefore, I'd like an ab roller for Christmas, please."

As soon as the words left her mouth, I had a vision.

In this vision, I saw a man climbing the stairwell of an apartment building with a huge sack slung over one shoulder.

He kept climbing and climbing, perspiring mightily from his exertion. When he reached the roof, he walked to the nearest ledge, opened the sack and dumped its contents to the wind.

The sack contained money, and now a confetti of bills, $20s, $50s and $100s, fluttered gently to the street below, where a huge crowd had gathered and traffic had stopped as pedestrians scrambled madly for the bills.

The vision left me badly shaken, for I knew exactly what it meant.

It meant that within a very few days of its purchase for $29.99 or whatever, the ab roller would end up in the laundry room, where it would be used to hang wet sweat socks.

Mainly, this was because an ab roller goes against Cowherd's Primary Theory on Exercise, which states: Exercise is fun only if there's a ball involved.

Basketball is fun. Racquetball is fun. Tennis is fun and touch football is fun and softball is fun, especially in the late innings when there's a keg parked at second base.

But using an ab roller is absolutely no fun.

For anyone who has never used an ab roller, here's a way to duplicate the experience.

Go out to the driveway where your car is parked. Get on your VTC back and slide yourself under the front bumper. Now raise your head and shoulders slightly, as if to inspect one of the tires.

This is what using an ab roller is like.

In fact, this is actually more fun than using an ab roller, since there might at least be something interesting to see under the car -- a smudge of grease, perhaps, or a worn patch suggesting the tire needs to be rotated.

Of course, I said none of this to the 12-year-old that early December morning in the kitchen, not wishing to discourage the next Michelle Kwan or Sporty Spice.

So we got her the ab roller for Christmas. The next day, she slipped on a T-shirt and sweat pants and took the ab roller from under the tree up to her room.

I asked if she minded if I watched her first workout.

"Not at all," she said.

With that, she dropped to the floor, positioned the ab roller around her, and did eight crunches, or whatever they're called.

Then she stood and began toweling off.

"Whew!" she said.

"That's it?" I said.

"You don't want to go overboard the first day," she said.

Then she pushed the ab roller to the side of her bed, picked up the phone and called one of her friends.

"Oh, nothing much, just working out," I heard her say as I left the room.

Anyway, after observing this, I went downstairs and said to my wife: "You know that ab roller we bought for $29.99 or whatever, the one that took two hours to assemble? It will never, ever be used again.

"The next time you see it, I'll be dragging it out of the storage shed and sticking a piece of masking tape on it, and we'll be unloading it for two bucks at a yard sale."

"No, she'll use it," my wife said. "You wait and see."

As it turned out, my wife was right and I was wrong. The ab roller was indeed used again.

It was used exactly once more a week later.

This time, in a furious burst of energy, my daughter knocked off a total of nine ab crunches.

Then she received a phone call from one of her friends about where they were going to see "Titanic" that afternoon.

And that, as they say, was that.

These days, the ab roller can be found in our hall closet, where it serves mainly as something to trip over when people are trying to find their coats.

On the bright side, though, it props up a large bag of rock salt.

Maybe some day we'll get a stationary bike to prop up the vacuum cleaner.

Pub Date: 1/15/98

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