I have a black eye. A shiner. For those of you old enough to remember, I look like Petey, the dog with the black circle around his eye, from the Little Rascals. For you younger readers, suffice it to say that at this very moment my right eye makes it appear as if the left half of my face merged with a raccoon’s.

Allow me to explain.

I got fat. Again. This time, I rationalized that idleness during the pandemic was the culprit. Then, post-coronavirus, I packed on even more pounds by convincing myself that cutting, chewing, and swallowing were aerobic activities that burned calories.

What to do?

Weight gain and loss is a cycle I’ve been dealing with since the Cuban missile crisis. I knew that fad dieting was not my long-term solution as the discarded tonnage always returned with a vengeance. I once lost 45 pounds eating Jenny Craig’s portion-controlled meals, and my progress thrilled me—especially how much less time it took to shave because there was a lot less face to tend to.

And then one night I strayed from the prescribed meal plan and ate a raisin. By morning, paramedics needed the Jaws of Life to get me out of my pajamas.

Then recently my son, Adam, told me about Rumble Boxing, a chain of small studios which claims to combine “the sweet science of boxing with the transformative power of strength training.” Adam had been going to a location in his New Jersey town, and in a short time the results were dramatic. He’d lost weight, he’d gained muscle tone, and when the Rumble folks opened a place just a few miles from my house, I signed up.

Drew, who manages the place, sold me Rumble boxing gloves, hand wraps, and a water bottle. My new routine soon became one that a much younger Alan would not have predicted for this 73-year-old version. Awaken at five a.m., put on sweats, make coffee that I take one swig of before pouring the rest into a Swell thermos, and drive the 11 minutes to the small gym that shares a parking lot with a dozen stores that have the good sense of opening after the sun rises.

A would-be pugilist takes on the 45th president, in heavy-bag form.

I usually arrive 15 minutes before it’s time to check in, and I wait in my car playing Wordle, the New York Times game that has become a harbinger for the rest of my day. For those who haven’t played, you’re given six chances to guess a five-letter word. If my random first guess is revealed to have a few of the answer’s letters, I can conceivably solve the puzzle in two or three tries, which emboldens me to go forth and conquer all that lies ahead. But if the very next day I venture down a road where, after five guesses, I have one last opportunity to determine if the answer is “sheep,” “sleep,” “sweep,” or “steep,” and I fail, I’m convinced my wounded self-esteem is so obvious that everyone I encounter has conspired to do me harm.

A few days ago, I was stumped once again and figured that the physical respite was what I needed to clear my head. So I left my car and entered the Rumble studio for another session of what over the past eight months has made me the de facto mascot of all my fellow Rumblers, whose parents are younger than some of my socks.

One night I strayed from the prescribed meal plan and ate a raisin. By morning, paramedics needed the Jaws of Life to get me out of my pajamas.

The gym is divided into two sections. One side has low benches with dumbbells of various weights underneath. On the other side are heavy, water-filled boxing bags that hang down from the ceiling. The lights are lowered, and loud, driving music is played. Led by an instructor who stands in front and demonstrates what we are about to do, we perform different exercises for five three-minute rounds, before switching to the other half of the room for five rounds of boxing.

I guess this would be a good time to tell you that I’m terrible. My wife, Robin, suggests they should give me a 50 percent discount as I only go down halfway when we’re asked to squat, for fear that if I descend any lower I would need a Rumble hoist to get me and my titanium hip upright again. Still, I give myself credit for showing up in the first place. As someone with five grandchildren, I think of when my own grandfather was my age. And I have trouble picturing that rather frail, Yiddish-speaking immigrant—who, no matter what he was eating, ended up pulling fishbones out of his mouth—doing jumping jacks.

But it’s the boxing side of the gym where the experience takes on a fluid tone, as the movement is less deliberate and more free-flowing. Hitting the bags in combinations of numbered punches that are projected high on the front wall, I can easily get lost in the flurry of jabs, crosses, hooks, and uppercuts when the endorphins kick in and my mind drifts to wherever it chooses.

Sometimes to a scene I’m writing that still isn’t quite right. Other times it’s the faces of people who assume I’ve lost 43 pounds by using Ozempic. Or of that optician who convinced me I’d look “really sharp” in those $300 aviator sunglasses. Or of Donald Trump. It was that last image I hit the hardest. Again! And again! And again! Each right cross more powerful than the one before, until the bag reached an apogee just shy of the ceiling.

As it swung back, I let my guard down when, for some unknown reason, the picture suddenly changed to one of my immigrant grandfather pulling fishbones out of his mouth while doing jumping jacks. And I started laughing. Until the bag hit me squarely in my right eye. Which is now black. And hurts a lot.

By the way, for those of you who are wondering, the Wordle answer for that day was, quite appropriately, “idiot.”

Alan Zweibel is a writer who has worked on Saturday Night Live, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, which he co-created, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. He is the author of many books, including the memoir Laugh Lines: My Life Helping Funny People Be Funnier