Seeking the Bruce Springsteen Workout

The personal trainer looked me up and down, mentally taking notes before deciding what my body could handle over a one-hour session, the first of three.

“Not only will we be exercising but we’ll also be discussing your diet,” he said. I declined to correct him on the inappropriate use of “we.” I’ve employed personal trainers before but “we” never exercise. “I” do the lifting, running, sweating and (eventually) begging, while the trainer counts as in, “four, five… six… seh… OK, take a break. 10 pushups will be your goal next week.”

“So what do you hope to accomplish?” he asked.

“I want to be like Bruce,” I said.

“Bruce?”

“Springsteen,” I said. I want the Springsteen workout. Let’s go.”

“Wait, I’ve never heard of the Springsteen workout,” the trainer said. “Isn’t he a musician or something?”

I shook my head so vigorously, it probably qualified as exercise. I did the same when my 13-year-old daughter recently asked, “Who’s Elton John?” Our next president, whomever it is, needs to sign an executive order requiring everyone under 30 to spend one hour listening to Darkness on the Edge of Town on vinyl.

I showed my musically-challenged trainer a YouTube clip of the 66-year-old rock legend, currently in the midst of The River tour, crowd surfing through a sea of fans as the E Street band rips through Hungry Heart. Numerous clips from numerous shows suggest it has become a staple of The Boss’ concerts. Springsteen, arguably the most trusting musician when it comes to his fans, falls backwards into a sea of mostly baby boomers and Gen Xers, who hang on with one hand, while snapping selfies with the other.

Look kids, that’s me holding The Boss’ foot!

Springsteen’s body is taut, his stomach muscles obviously clenching to make the crowd’s work easier. Yet, he shows no outward signs of discomfort. On the contrary, he appears to be enjoying being pawed by fans whose knees or backs could certainly give way at any moment and send Springsteen plummeting to the floor while the crowd ironically sings, “Everybody needs a place to rest.”

“How am I doing? I can’t see a thing,” he joked at a Chicago show while being pushed around the United Center. Safely back on stage, one could certainly sympathize if he altered the lyrics to classic River tunes. “Ooh, ooh, I got a crush on you,” could become, “Ooh, ooh, I slipped a disk or two,” while “Drive All Night” could morph into “I swear, I’ll cry all night.” But Springsteen completed the song as if he were performing it while seated in a beach chair gazing out at the Caribbean.

Springsteen’s stamina and body control are the subjects of numerous message boards. “Something unnatural is going on,” wrote Brian on RollingStone.com. “I am over 20 years younger than the Boss (and in good shape) but I know I will need a couple of days just to recover after being in the audience at his St. Paul show.”

The trainer finished watching the clip. “Very impressive,” he said “Am I hearing you correctly? By the time we’re done, you want to crowd surf?”

“Not necessarily,” I said, even though I am a standup comedian by trade and do have access to crowds. But most of my shows are for corporate audiences, and I don’t think it would be appropriate to fall backwards into a flock of cloud computing managers. “I just want a body that can take a little abuse without suffering the consequences.”

“Then we’d better start with your lower back and your core,” he said. “Grab those kettlebells. Give me three sets of five reps.”

I managed one set of between three and five reps. It was over before the trainer could even start counting.

“Maybe choose another rock star?” he asked with that trainer patented, “desperately-thinking-of-something-positive-to-say” inflection.

“Or maybe catch a show and see how Springsteen does it,” I said. “I’d better look for tickets. I mean, he can’t do this forever.”

YouTube and thousands of fans might beg to differ.

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