It All Works Out

I was never remotely a jock. In high school, my ideal Saturday afternoon found me lying in bed with one hand holding a comic book and the other elbow deep in a bag of cheese puffs. Parades on weekends kept me active, and my neighborhood friends often forced me to play sports, so I think it's fair to say that while I was overweight, I was never obese.

After college, a desk job took its toll. Without walking back and forth on a college campus, I developed the physique of a small pregnant woman. It wasn't until the second company I worked for added a gym and a few friends coaxed me in to joining with them that I started exercising again. Suddenly, gym wasn't an acronym for “Grumpy Young Man”. I had energy and my brain felt clear. I even lost a few pounds, though poor eating habits kept me from dropping down to my more reasonable college weight. I ran in a few races, and even won free gym membership for a few months by coming in first in a competition. It was close, and in the final week I surged ahead of the other teams by working out three hours before work and three hours after work. It didn't change my reputation; if anything, people thought I was crazier. But I felt good for achieving a goal and pushing beyond my limits. Getting to work three hours early was a major achievement in itself.

When the company fell under new ownership last year, I was one of many to perish professionally in a massive layoff. They gave me plenty of notice, several months in fact, so I had adequate time to get another job. I continued using the gym up until the second to last day of my employment, opting to say goodbye to my few remaining friends at a couple of happy hours on my final day. After a busy weekend of band gigs, I started my new job the following Monday. Between a more realistic workload and a lack of a gym, I had nothing to do but go home at 5:00 every day. I tried jogging around the house each day, but did less and less until finally I was just coming home and watching movies. I got through a lot of movies, and watched a lot of television shows. I got caught up on Stargate SG-1, watching all 10 seasons and DVD sequel in a matter of months. I liked all the extra time I discovered. Four years of running and weight training were soon forgotten. I considered buying a treadmill but the idea was discarded between the size and cost of the equipment.

That all changed this week. On the recommendation of a friend at work, I stopped by the gym on the road to our office. From the outside, it looks like a one level brick warehouse, but inside it’s massive. I signed up, taking advantage of a company discount, and by Thursday night I was ready to break my 10 month lapse. Determined to take it easy at first, and start with what I knew, I grabbed a treadmill on the end of a row with few people around. It was a little different from the ones I was used to, but the buttons were pretty self-explanatory, to anyone who isn't a partial moron. My first attempt to set a speed resulted in changing the channel on the flatscreen television mounted above it. I decided to actually read the writing on the device instead of pressing random triangles, but nothing worked. “Select a program or press Quickstart” flashed the LED display. I pressed every button. I tried to move the thing with my feet. A pretty blonde girl walked by and gave me an odd look. I was off to a start that was ridiculously me.

Defeated, I quietly grabbed my bottle of water and climbed down. One row back were what I thought were elliptical machines, low impact and perhaps easier to operate. As I climbed up, the base split in half as my feet spread in opposite directions. Clearly it was no elliptical or stair machine I'd ever encountered. Pulling myself up by the handles, I managed to bring my feet back together before I lost a testicle. I tried not to think of the show I was putting on, and instead concentrated on the buttons in front of me. After punching a few, there was some resistance and I could step from side to side without sinking too far. Soon I had a rhythm going.

About 10 minutes in, I noticed my heart rate had reached 165. It's been so long I don't remember if that's normal. It concerned me, and I felt lightheaded, so I started pushing buttons on the television to distract myself, and managed to find Family Guy. It was one of the episodes in which Peter battles Ernie the giant chicken. 10 minutes soon became 15, and I noticed a little round display had reached 100% and reset to zero. I watched it begin to light up again, realizing it reached 100% every 15 minutes, so I had to stay on until I lit it up again. Turning exercise into a game has helped me in the past, and so I managed to complete a half hour and “travel” 3 miles. Only after a comical dismount in which I stood on one foot and let the machine lower me to one side did I notice a platform on the back for disembarking. I have so much to learn.

The Cybex strength training section was twice as large as the one in my old gym, and there were weight machines that worked muscles I didn't even know people had! Thankfully, each had a small diagram explaining how to bend, sit, and contort. In some cases, I felt like I had climbed into the exoskeleton of a mecha. In addition to arms and legs, some devices worked my back and abs.

The shower offered wall mounted shampoo, conditioner, and liquid body soap dispensers. The dial actually had temperatures on it, instead of “H” and “C”. There would be no guesswork, no burning or freezing. I felt refreshed and alive as I drove home, one hand on the wheel while the other hung out the window. All in all, I'd done well for my first day. In the end, I expect I'll develop a healthy routine and abilities I thought were lost will prove merely dormant, especially once I get a treadmill to work. It's better to feel good than to look good, and I'm taking charge of the one I have control over.


Blogger b13 said...

Happy Hour next Friday in GC. No solid location yet.

Good for you on hitting the gym again. Now I'll have to try and keep up on excursions.

6/20/2008 12:22 AM  
Blogger Lyndon said...

Good to see your going back to the gym again. Now if only I could my lazy butt to go as well.

6/20/2008 12:39 AM  
Anonymous TheWriteJerry said...

You know, you can ask for help with the machines (says the guy whose only exercise is the rare 20-minute Wii Fit session)

6/20/2008 7:44 AM  
Blogger Darrell said...

Serendipity: I'm gonna have to start using the gym at the local YMCA pretty soon and I'm dreading it. And I'll be doing everything in my power not to think about the show that I'll be putting on. So I feel for ya, dude.

6/20/2008 8:37 PM  

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