When The Pants first got back together, I was shocked at how physically demanding performing had become. I'd finish practice sweating and winded, barely able to make it through our sets (and that was before we added the dance routines). It seemed so much easier when we were 15.
Now I know better, and I prepare physically and mentally. Doing so this time around has brought up all sorts of memories and thoughts for me.
The record business has always thrived on young, thin, good-looking kids to populate magazines, TV, movies, and stages. According to Hollywood, being fat is worse than not being able to sing, play instruments, dance, or write songs. If you're looking to be a star, you are seriously better off working on your abs than on your act.
So of course, I had to stay in shape, then and now.
I was born in the 60s, and started training regularly in the early 1980s. Things were different then, back in the 20th Century: The post-Pumping Iron era. Jane Fonda's workout videos. Olivia Newton-John singing "Physical" (a #1 hit). Aerobics were new. Leotards for everyone!
Some of the conventional training wisdom of the day:
- Carbs are good, fat is bad. Eat carbs, avoid all fat!
- Steroids are perfectly OK
- Serious bulk for dudes. Lift heavy weights!
- Otherwise, run your ass off (in every sense) with Jim Fixx. Maybe using HeavyHands or ankle weights.
- Leg warmers are acceptable for everyone. Headbands, too.
- Train until it hurts. Then train more.
- If all that fails, just stop eating (also known as the 1,000 calorie-per-day Scarsdale diet), or try the fake Mayo "egg" diet, or drugs.
In my case, you get a supposed "ex-drill sergeant" having you drink raw eggs at 6 am on a Sunday before running you around the reservoir in a rubber suit until you either throw up or collapse.
You get to be 16 years old waking up at 5 am sore, running a few miles to the gym so you can do your morning workout, then going to school or the studio until the day is over, then going back to the gym for the evening workout, then trying to do homework before you fell asleep exhausted to start the whole thing over again.
And they try to get you to like it, to be grateful, to have a positive mental attitude. "It's for your own good", right?
Kids are weird, though. They can't really understand how messed up it all is, and they can still take some pride in accomplishments, whether it's winning a trophy, a smile from a demanding parent or coach, or setting a new personal best. At the time, it didn't seem all that unusual, just...difficult.
Kids' bodies just can't take that kind of punishment for long, and things break or wear out. I managed to escape with a permanently broken bone in my foot, some vertebral degradation, a wacky metabolism, and a little demon constantly whispering in my ear about how I look.
Many of my friends fared worse, ending up with temporary or permanent eating disorders (if they were lucky) and temporary or permanent drug problems (if they weren't). Some had wrecked knees at 16. Some had shredded rotator cuffs at 18. Regardless, we all got spat out of the machine with damaged bodies and body images.
Though I have to say we were damn good looking. All of us. I'd kill to look that good today. Plastic surgery, while an option for some, is just not going to cut it for El Sid.
The 90s were a rough time. I was both the thinnest I've ever been and the fattest I've ever been. Bad eating habits all around. A compulsion to exercise and little enjoyment about any of it. My fondest memories are of playing basketball with my friend Ian on weekends. My worst memories are consecutive weeks of hearing the alarm go off at 5 am and rolling out of bed so tired I literally could not see straight until I was halfway to the gym.
Now it's the 21st century. I find myself on the treadmill again, acutely feeling the impact of every step. After all these years of beating up my body, it's finally learned to beat back. I see myself in the mirror, and the little demon whispers in my ear and starts pointing out all the flaws.
Nobody said it would be easy. It never was, and never is. The effort is what separates the pros from the amateurs. But this time around, I'm going to appreciate and enjoy every bit of it - the hard parts and the painful parts as much as the joyous parts.
Older, wiser, still good-looking. What more could you want from your rock stars?