Monday, November 30, 2009

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Day Three

Misery loves company. It must be true because I had lots of company today. The pit was positively alive with bodies in various stages of self abuse. I was hoping for at least one prime male specimen to focus my attentions on in order to offset the pain factor. Alas, the place was full of women of all shapes, sizes and years. The few men in attendance were mostly C +20’s, with a few C’s thrown in here and there. Now you ask, “What are you talking about?” Let me explain. In the interest of clarity I have decided on a sort of abbreviation system in regards to age. By definition a contemporary is someone at or near my age, a C if you will. A C+20 would be my age, plus about 20 years. A C-20 would be approximately twenty years younger.

So, you ask, “How old is a C+20?” Daughter #1 would be a C-27. This is one of those word problems we all hated in school and wondered why we had to do. Now you know it was in preparation for this very day, when you would have to decipher my cryptic system designed to mask my age. Now, anyone out there who is a C+20 or more should get out the abacus, C’s should use their slide rule, and C-15’s or more will probably use something like a TI 89 Titanium to figure this out. Are we clear on this? Good, let’s continue then.

Where was I? Oh yes, my fellow travelers on the road to hell. It’s Monday morning. The breadwinners of the valley are tucked away in their offices making a living. That leaves the C+20’s, the C-20 trophy wives and the C-25 stay at home moms. Daughter # 1 and I survey the pit. She spies one unoccupied treadmill and heads in that direction. Notice, after two days she deems me either competent to be on my own, or she is eager to dissociate herself. Every other machine in the pit is in use or plastered with a bright yellow, out of order sign, except for the lounge chair cycles. I have several of these to choose from, so off I go. I select the one where I will have the best view in the giant rearview mirror.

The mirror provides my best source of entertainment. I am most intrigued by the C-25 on the elliptical next to Daughter #1’s treadmill. Let me clarify. This is the machine where all four limbs are moving in different directions at the same time, something like riding an irate bull. C-25 is talking on her cell phone! Somehow she manages to stay on the contraption and carry on a conversation at the same time. How does she do that? I concentrate on my own problems, namely kicking the resistance level up to 8 and trying to make it out of the driveway before I collapse. I’m cruising along trying to look as if my legs are still attached to my body when a C+30 takes over the bike next to me. I must have looked like I knew what I was doing as she catches my attention and asks me how to adjust the seat and turn the darn thing on. This is something I can do. My confidence bolstered, I check the rearview mirror and C-25 has switched her phone to the other ear and is still talking!

I contemplate the dexterity and lung capacity necessary to pull this off and try to avoid looking at the various C+’s occupying the treadmills in front of me. Lucky for me I am saved from tedium by a C-15 of the male variety. I’m sure you are familiar with the basketball game at the pizza place run by the giant rat. You know the one. You toss the ball into a basket and the ball returns to you and you do it all again, sort of like a combination of bowling and basketball. Well, it turns out they have these for grownups. C-15 grabs a ball, reclines on the bucket style seat, ball above his head. He does an impressive sit-up and tosses the ball into the basket, and so it goes. I forget all about my thighs burning. I forget I have thighs. This is a much better diversion than C-25 on her cell phone.

Ball-toss guy moves on to other things, so after twenty minutes on the bike I move on to a bigger challenge. Daughter #1 suggests still another variety of elliptical torture machine I have yet to try. On this one only your legs move and after about thirty seconds I have to stop. My thighs feel as if someone is ripping the muscles out with a hot knife. When my vision clears I survey the control panel. Inclination. Hmm. Up arrow. Down arrow. This thing is set on Rocky Mountain High and I’m more of a High Plains Drifter. Down, down, down, down, down. Once I’m out on the prairie life gets better. I can do this, especially with a tune with a good backbeat pounding in my ears. If I’m going to do much of this I’m going to have to revamp my playlist. The soundtrack to Pride and Prejudice just won’t cut it for this.

Amazingly enough I’m still feeling charitable toward Daughter #1 after twenty minutes of gliding along the Llano Estacado. Daughter #1 however has had her a** kicked by the foothills of the Sierra Madre and is on the verge of collapse. Youth. Always in a hurry.

Off to the locker room. Don’t get me started on this. I’ve opened a file named Etiquette. I’ll share it with you one of these days.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Day Two

Daughter #1 said we should go back to the dungeon once more. I’ve had twenty-four hours to recuperate which leads me to believe there is more to the name of the place than I first thought, so I agree to accompany her.

Yesterday I began on the cycle where I had an excellent view of the parking lot. I witnessed several women, contemporaries we shall say, coming in and disappearing. I concluded there were several possible reasons for this phenomenon. One, they could be walking in the front door so as to be seen entering they premises and exiting moments later through the back door and skirting the parking lot to the Jack in the Box next door where they would order a large fry and chocolate shake before making their way back to their car. Two, they could be convening in a super secret back room where they munch on donuts and hot chocolate before exiting previously mentioned back door. Whatever the scenario, they were not ending up on the devices of torture where I was. Clearly they knew something I did not. I will have to investigate this further.

I was heartened today to see more contemporaries; however they were mostly men, and mostly in desperate need of torturing, if you get my meaning. I did note one woman on the treadmill walking at a pace that would have been slow for a snail. Then there was the non-contemporary on the treadmill directly in front of the mirrored wall. He wasn’t hard on the eyes I must say and apparently he thought the same thing because his eyes were locked on his own visage, never straying. I wonder what he saw in his own gaze. I personally find it hard to look myself in the eye for more than a few minutes, not because I don’t like what I see there, but because I can’t see anything but my eyes. I think eyes can be windows into the soul, but that only seems to work for me if I’m looking at someone else’s eyes.

We started our torture regime on the stair climbing thing-a-ma-jigs today. I climb stairs every day so I knew going in this wasn’t going to be good. I get winded going up one flight and am a firm believer that elevators are gifts from above. However, there were several open machines, which of course we all know is a warning all its own, so we picked out two and tried them out. I set mine on torture level 1 and gradually worked up to level 4. After about two minutes I was getting dewey (this is called sweat north of the Mason-Dixon Line and west of the Rio Grande). Smart aleck daughter #1 set her machine on level 8. After two minutes she was complaining about the state of her thighs. At the three minute mark I looked over and she was hanging by her elbows from the handrail and practically crawling up the stairs. At five minutes she shut off her machine and suggested we try something else. I agreed even though this is something I can actually do as it requires very little coordination and at level 4 I was dewey, but still able to talk. Besides, I didn’t want to be anywhere around when the guy to our left had a heart attack from running up the stairs as if they led to hell and he didn’t want to go. I made it up the equivalent of seven flights of stairs and burned off at least one M & M. I was ready to move on.

Next were the ellipticals. Yeah, I know. They kicked my a** yesterday, but I was willing to give it another try. We found two of the ‘slide’ variety which require less physical coordination as one leg and one arm go the same way at the same time, much like walking or cross country skiing. I managed this well enough except for the one time I tried to get a drink of water and nearly fell off. I grabbed for the hand rail and righted myself wondering if someone yells, “Woman overboard,” if you end up on your padded backside. I doubt it. I’m sure if anyone noticed they’d just have a good laugh and keep on running, climbing, ellipting, or whatever. I didn’t dare look around to see if the stair climber was still at it. I was not going to do CPR on him, not that I had any air in my lungs to give him anyway.

Twelve minutes of swinging my legs and arms and I was even more dewey, and my thighs were no longer responding to the signals sent from my brain. At least I think my brain was still sending signals. Hard to tell. Swinging daughter was still going strong so I tapped her on the shoulder and told her I was going to the bikes. I took up my place on the easy chair bike and kicked it up to level 5 and away I went. I think I made it around the block a time or two in the twenty odd minutes I was there before exhausted daughter sat down beside me and said she was done for. At some point she’d switched to a treadmill and ran until she couldn’t stand. We were both in need of a donut, but pleased with our accomplishments for the day, so we headed for the locker room.

I think I might have burned off three M & M’s today and have yet to find the secret backroom where they keep the donuts. Tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Day One

I did it. I went to the gym and I survived! Don’t cheer just yet; I was only there for half an hour. A minor success, but I’m proud of it. I knew hoping the place would be empty was too much to hope for, and I was correct. I had no idea so many people who outwardly appeared sane would willingly subject themselves to public to torture. It’s all part of the learning curve I suppose.

Daughter #1 and I began on the cycles as all the treadmills were occupied. Kindly, knowledgeable daughter suggested we try the recumbent cycles which to my delight appeared to be an easy chair with pedals attached. I pedaled to the playlist I usually listen to while writing and observed my surroundings. I felt smug. I can do this. Sitting on my, er, rear, my favorite tunes in my ear, making up stories about the people around me. This isn’t much different than what I do every day, except I’m moving my legs.

At resistance level one I’m able to check out the place at my leisure. With only a row of treadmills between me and a bank of floor to ceiling windows overlooking the parking lot I have plenty to look at. The wall directly in front is mirrored, a kind of giant rear view mirror. I pedal away. I can do this. I glance at Daughter #1. She is up to level 4 and is half way to Riverside while I’m still in the driveway. I kick it my bike up to level 2.

The woman on the treadmill at the far end is starting to get on my nerves. Does she think there is a bear chasing her? She was running at warp speed when I sat down and is still going strong. There must be some kind of law. I vow to look it up when I get home. I feel much more charitable toward the nerd in his pajama bottoms who is strolling while reading a colorful brochure. He could be planning an exotic vacation but I suspect its gym propaganda. Seriously, this guy will never look like the models in that brochure.

I’m feeling pretty good so I kick it up another notch. I can do this. The treadmill directly in front of me is vacated by the old guy (anyone over 30 in this place) and is quickly claimed by a god. Yep. Are my legs burning? Who knows? Who cares? Thanks to the mirrored wall I have both a front and rear view of this rather nice male specimen. Hubba Hubba. This guy is six feet of lean, muscled, toned and bronzed male. No pajama bottoms for the hunk.

I thank my lucky stars and kick the bike up another notch. I can do this. Mr. Hard Body is running as fast as the lady with the bear chasing her, but somehow I don’t find this anywhere near as annoying. I swig water from the bottle I brought along (see I know what I’m doing) and admire the scenery. My bike has several ‘tours’ available, country road, mountain pass, but why I want one of those when the landscape ahead is full of such delightful hills and valleys?

Daughter #1 taps me on the shoulder. There are two ellipticals open, do I want to try that? “Why not?” I say. The timer on my bike says 25 minutes. I can still breathe. I can do this. My legs tingle when my feet make contact with the floor, but I manage the ten feet to the new machine. This looks fun. Daughter #1 assures me it is. “You get to bounce,” she says with a smile. Bouncing is something I do all too well these days, thus the reason I have signed myself into the chamber of horrors in the first place. I smile back and say, “Okay.”

The machine flashes me. No, not that kind of flashing, a message in bright red letters. “Pedal harder,” it says. I try. Legs go in two different directions, arms in two more. “I think I’m going backwards,” I say. Smart ass daughter says, “That’s because you are.” She places my hands on the vertical bars and tells me to push. I push, I pedal. Mr. Hard Body is forgotten. I need all my faculties to stay on this thing.

Two minutes in on resistance level 1 and my thighs are burning, and my lungs are seizing up. I let go to take a swig of water (yes, I still have over half a bottle). My legs are still going, propelled by the machine, not by my muscles as I have no muscles left, or at least no control over them. Water sloshes from bottle to dribble from both corners of my mouth. Great. Now I’m drooling on myself. I wipe my face with my shirt and demon daughter says, “You can quit whenever you want.”

Not me. I can do this. I wrestle the hand grips under control and push on. The machine flashes me again. Bastard. What does it look like I’m doing? My vision blurs. I think I may be going backwards again but I’m helpless to reverse the motion. Another two and a half minutes go by. Five minutes total, including water break. I give up.

As we make our way to the locker room my legs scream obscenities at me. My arms are noodles at my side. Daughter from hell says, “You did good. Half and hour. Not bad for your first time.”

“Huh” I respond. According to the computers on the machines I have endured thirty minutes of self inflicted torture and burned off the grand total of two M & M’s.

Luckily I have the car key so my demon spawn can’t leave me behind. As soon as I can stand I’m going to use it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - The Beginning

Well, I’ve done it. I’ve actually signed myself in at the torture chamber, aka the gym. My oldest daughter assisted me by signing us both up online so they couldn’t talk us into more than we were willing to commit to. For this I am grateful. It goes against all that I am to pay for access to a chamber of horrors, but thanks to her savvy shopping skills we are only locked in to a two month deal.

Today, less than 24 hours after stuffing ourselves with massive amounts of Thanksgiving dinner we ventured over to the 24 hour humiliation mill to check it out. We wore our street clothes so no one would mistake us for participants and force us onto some masochistic machine. Neither one of us was ready for that today.

Inside the door a twenty-something hard bodied young man (yahoo!) took the receipts we’d printed out and sent us on our way. The place was hopping I must say. I tried to block out the fact that only one person besides myself appeared to be over the age of consent, directing my attention to the amenities instead.

No medieval dungeon has anything on this place. The Prince of Darkness must smile every time another innocent strolls through the tinted glass doors into his parlor. People who have no need of physical torture strained and sweated on the machinery, watching football and soundless news on oversized television screens. I instantly wondered what I had gotten myself into. These people were sweating!

I don’t sweat. I don’t run. I don’t stretch, unless it’s to reach the hidden stash of chocolate on the top shelf. I plead temporary insanity and beg my daughter to let me out of my commitment. “What did I ever do to you?” I ask. Nothing I say sways her to my way of thinking, not even the generous bribe I slip into her purse as we tour the locker room.

On the way home I remind daughter number one that I am more than twice her age, but she keeps up an endless stream of encouragement that I should find endearing. I tune her out, knowing full well that before we leave the place following our first workout, she will be telling anyone within hearing distance that she’s never seen me before.

I just hope she drives around back where I will be waiting for her to pick me up. It’s a long walk home.