Monday, January 14, 2008

Tilting at treadmills

Taj Mahal, Blue Light Boogie, Honky Tonk Woman

I went to the gym at lunch today. It felt like the first "real" trip to the gym since it was during the work week and Mrs P was not with me and there were more people going about their gym-business.

I was really surprised at how good I felt after walking yesterday. I guess I expected exercise to improve my energy and outlook, so that's what happened. I hit the gym feeling really good about myself as I walked through the afternoon dusting of snow towards the glass door.

When I opened it, I noticed that the treadmill I used yesterday was jacked up on a milk crate and had a big "Out of Order" sign on it. For a minute I wondered if I had broken the thing because I'm so fat, but I put that out of my mind. That's the kind of negative thinking that makes a fat man eat. Bad plan.

I made my way to the locker room. Now I have been working in the theatre at one level or another since the third grade. I am accustomed to dressing in front of people. I even undressed on stage many pounds ago. When I entered the locker room, there were two men talking. We nodded and grunted at one another, and I shucked off my drawers. Not so bad. I managed to dig through my back pack to find the shorts and tee-shirt - got my iPod cued up - hung all my work clothes up in the locker, and grabbed my towel.

OK, glasses? No. Water bottle? I don't want to look like a dork, carrying a water bottle around, but then I don't want to look like a newbie passed out at the foot of my treadmill because I didn't have the sense to hydrate like I should. I pondered the bottle in my hand. It felt cool. I imagined myself chugging from it as I ground out the miles on my faithful treadmill. I pictured dropping it onto the belt, stopping to pick it up, and being flung backwards through the plate glass window and into the snow crusted mulch.

I left the bottle in my locker.

I made my way to the long row of treadmills, nodding and grunting my way past the other mid-day gym-rats. They were all dressed better than I and were much fitter than I and I thought to myself, "Well, if I didn't look so bad, I wouldn't be here now would I?" This thought made me feel better.

I walked past yesterdays wounded steed and chose a new machine. This one was in front of a TV broadcasting business "news". I fired up the treadmill like a veteran. Choosing an apropriate arm-up speed, I started my ipod rolling and I was off. Soon I was hiking along at my chosen speed, and I was pleased to see that my heart rate was much more comfortable today. I was swinging my arms, standing tall, and breathing deep as Taj Mahal crooned Honky Tonk Woman in my ears. Five minutes in, and feeling great.

Ten minutes in and I had broken a good sweat, but the heart was still at a nice 146, 147 bpm. I felt like I could go all day.

Fifteen minutes, my first mile, and I feel like a million bucks. It's crazy that I should feel this good after only two sessions, but things are clearly going great. I am feeling really good about myself.

At around 17:40 the belt stopped abruptly. I caught myself just in time to avoid striding into the console and grabbed the side rails to keep from falling. I looked down and the surface below me was rolling gently forward - not smoothly back as I had hoped. I clicked the stop button. It stopped. I clicked the start button. It labored back into action, but without any power. I also noticed that where just moments before the console had proudly proclaimed that I was speeding along at "4" of some unit of measure, there were now flashing lights repeating Err4...Err4...Err4 like a stammering dodgeball bully. I looked around quickly. Oh my God! I just broke another treadmill! Had anyone seen? Should I just walk away? Would the burly men with the shaved heads come burling up to ask me to leave quietly? Was I actually going to have to go tell someone that I had just broken a freaking treadmill?

No one had noticed. I tried the buttons a few more times, glancing around hoping that someone would come to my rescue. No luck. I had to go to the very pleasant woman at the counter and tell her.

"I just broke your treadmill. Am I too heavy for that machine?"

She never even seemed to take the question seriously. "Oh, I don't see how. They just get funny sometimes." I mumbled something about the "Out of Order" machine. She said something about a new belt. My vision was a blur of shame and sweat. We stood on either side of my second victim in two days. She pushed buttons while I wished desparately for a new rope and a stout beam. Finally she said "I'll be right back." and zipped away, leaving me alone at the scene of my crime. I could swear I smelled burned rubber as I stood there watching all the young beautiful people running, lifting, twisting. I could not have felt more clumsy or stupid if I had come out of the locker room without my pants on.

My kind friend returned with - a burly man with a shaved head. I imagined the look he would give me as he sized me up quickly before delivering a humiliating kick to some gelatinous bulge in my nether regions. Instead, he looked at the console and clicked the start button. The three of us watched as the belt purred into action, the ever encouraging lights letting the invisible runner know that they were sprinting along as a speed of "0.5". The burly man gave me a quick smile. "Working fine now."

"Well. I guess that's it then." the kind lady said and they returned to their posts--- and so did I. I finished my walk, two miles today -- though I noticed that my heart rate was a little higher after the break.


1/14/08, Snowing lightly
Walking, Treadmill, Flat
2 miles
Max HR 151
Resting HR 104

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