Tuesday, April 16, 2002

PULFER: Cleaning guy's floors shine, pecs bulge

By Laura Pulfer, lpulfer@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        He would be easy to hate. Stephen Markovich eats a whole pizza at a sitting. He gorges on double orders of buttery spiced chicken wings. At night, he says he routinely slathers a quarter jar of peanut butter atop three scoops of ice cream. He drinks beer. And he is not fat. In fact, he is better than not fat. He is buff. And limber.

        He's a 47-year-old man who can do the splits like a 16-year-old cheerleader. He has well-defined lats and pecs. His calves bunch impressively when he walks. His biceps bulge a little when he pushes open the door for me.

        But I forgive him because he got his muscles cleaning house. He burns off calories scrubbing floors and polishing windows. His training equipment includes a vacuum cleaner, a bucket and some rags, Windex and a paper towel. He warms up by picking up his daughters' Barbie dolls.

        He thinks I'm a doubter. So he follows the splits with some energetic lunges. Then some push-ups. Then some more push-ups. Never, not once does he make an old people noise. Not a grunt or a groan as he hops down on the floor to demonstrate. He hauls out his driver's license to prove he is really 47, because I told him truthfully that I'd have been 15 years off. He looks very young.

        Also he keeps calling me “ma'am.”

        Still, I forgive him because he says he gave up the gym to spend more time with his kids, ages 4 and 6. “I used to work out 24 hours a week,” he says. Aerobics. Free weights. Kick boxing. “This was before we had the girls.” When they came along, he says he figured he would get his workout doing something useful.

        He shows me the motion he uses to wipe down the shower door, using both hands and a lunge and squat thrust. He vacuums his staircase on his tip toes. He exaggerates every move to push his body harder.

        He works off the beer and buffalo wings with about a half-hour to 45-minute cleaning spasm every day at his Crescent Springs home. “My wife does the dusting and we split the laundry. I do most of the rest. I like it.”

        He holds the couches up with one hand and sweeps underneath with the other. He slings around water and milk jugs. “You have all the equipment you need right in your house,” he says. StairMaster? He climbs real stairs a dozen times times a day. At a trot. Free weights? Lift your own kids, he says. Give 'em a hug. With reps.

        I suppose you could get some of these benefits with just normal house cleaning. I wouldn't know. We are still finding Christmas tree needles at our house and are careful to coordinate our carpets and furniture with the color of the dogs we own.

        “Our house is spotless,” he says. And he is just so tickled by all this sweaty cleanliness that I can't hold a grudge. A marketer and direct mail consultant, he works from (his spotless) home and has produced a video, “Aerobic House Cleaning,” which he hope to get into retail outlets.

        He thinks his body is a temple. I think my house is an untidy and dusty gym. And Stephen Markovich can come work out there whenever he wants.

       E-mail Laura at lpulfer@enquirer.com or call 768-8393.


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