Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Day Thirty-three

New Year’s Eve, 2009 and I’m at the pit once again, along with half the population of our little valley. Today, like yesterday, saw the influx of persons getting a head start on their New Year’s resolutions. I’ve never seen so many personal trainers running around with their clipboards and out of shape C and C+ clients. Every treadmill is in use, over half running at what I like to call, Mall speed. I’m not sure why these folks bother coming here where the humidity hovers around 100% and the fragrance of choice is eau de body odor, when they could be at the mall window shopping and doing as much good. I’m sure being able to say they went here, before they went there, is the prime motivation.

This day marks more than one milestone for me as I end 2009 at one age and begin 2010 a year older, and I hope, a year wiser. I commend the folks who are here because they’ve resolved to begin a healthier lifestyle, but I have to wonder how many of them will stick it out. I’ve been at this now for over a month and I can’t promise I’ll stick it out, but I’m going to give it a good try.

I can’t help but wonder what history will make of places like this a few centuries from now. Everywhere I look people of all shapes, sizes, and ages are flinging their limbs hither and yon in an effort to negate the effects of their sedentary lifestyles. Never before has there been anything like this place. We have evidence of medieval dungeons and torture chambers, we know of the macabre means to determine if a person was a witch, we know all about the methods employed during the Spanish Inquisition. Militaries around the world have devised means of torture designed to gain valuable information from prisoners, but in the history of mankind there has never been a documented case of self inflicted torture by large masses of people. Sure, there are recorded cases of self flagellation for religious reasons, and of course there are the insane folks who mutilate themselves, but again we’re talking solitary pursuits. The pit is more akin to a cult following, without a leader. As I shuffle my feet and flay my arms in a syncopated rhythm people continue to arrive in droves, presumably of their own free will.

Who will discover the ruins of our quest for physical fitness? For a moment, suppose life as we know it has ceased to exist. There is that asteroid that could hit the planet in 2029, then again the Mayan calendar ends on the winter solstice in 2012, a date claimed by many to be our last. (If I really believed this one I’d quit this insanity right now and eat like I only had two years to live!) I have a friend who argues Global Warming will do us in. Since I’m not a follower of his theories I suggest we think Planet of the Apes, or any number of other post apocalyptic stories. Someone, be it archeologist, or beings from another planet, comes upon the remains of the pit. What are they to make of the place? All these torturous devices lined up in rows suggesting the users did not interact with each other, evidence of willful participation in the torture via plastic membership cards that will survive as surely as plastic bags in a landfill, large video screens they might correctly assume were to placate the users of the equipment and perhaps brain wash them into compliance, all will combine to present a snapshot of our doomed society, much like Pompeii.

Exercise in itself isn’t a new thing. Previous generations accomplished it via what we now refer to as manual labor. Heaven forbid we should have to chop wood, or beat wet clothes against a rock, or walk more than a few steps. Modern conveniences have made us a sedentary society. Back in the day we had to do Jumping Jacks on the playground, much like the ones the C+10 is doing over there under the watchful eye of his personal trainer. Then there was the early television workout show where Jack LaLanne showed us how to stay fit using nothing more than a chair – a piece of equipment we are all too familiar with. The wealthier sector could avail themselves of weight lifting equipment or my favorite, the vibrating belt. You may remember commercials for these miracle machines. You simply wrapped the rubber belt around your gluteus maximus and the machine would shimmy and shake the pounds away.

Then came the 80’s and the advent of ‘ercizes’. This was a suffix attached to any number of nouns and was meant to convince us that exercise was fun. It took a decade or so, helped along by the plethora of Richard Simmons videos, for society to realize that all we really wanted was a body that would look good in the shiny leotard and leg warmers that disguised our fat ankles. Once we figured out that we would never look like Farrah Fawcett in a leotard, and that yoga on a cliff overlooking the beach in Hawaii wasn’t anything like yoga in your living room, and dancing should be dancing and nothing more, those fads, thankfully, went away too.

Perhaps inquisitive futuristic folks will unearth these predecessors which now reside in a few museums. Will our society survive long enough for today’s torture devices to be displayed in a museum, or will they be left for someone in the future, someone we can only imagine, to discover?

Such are my rambling thoughts for this last day of 2009. Tomorrow will begin a new year, a new decade, and I will begin it a year older. I’m going to go turn the calendar page now to a fresh, new one. It’s kind of nice starting each new year of my life in tandem with the new calendar year. I only have to say goodbye to a spent year once where others have to do it twice a year. I’m also saved from making two sets of resolutions as well. I know you all do it, one set on New Year’s Day, another on your birthday. Maybe the birthday ones aren’t as monumental as the New Year’s ones, but still you feel compelled to make the effort. One less problem for me!

Whatever you resolve today I wish you success. May your blessing in 2010 be beyond measure.

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Day Thirty-one

I know I harp on this way too much, but I for some reason the message just isn’t getting out. Towels. We rounded the corner into the women’s locker room today to be greeted by a sight straight from a horror movie. Let me make this clear – EVERYONE should use a LARGE towel when disrobing in public, especially if you resemble dried fruit. I’m accompanied today by Daughters #1 & #2, my full complement of offspring and we hastily stash our jackets and purses, diverting our eyes from the tableau of terror. I think we set a land speed record exiting the locker room.

There’s a bumble bee on the Treadmill. This one is about five-five and in my lingo, a C-30. She’s wearing a black tank top and yellow cargo style pants made from a material resembling a parachute. The pockets have black satin ribbons hanging from the closures. I’m fascinated as she angles the machine up to ‘climb a mountain’ mode and moving at the speed of a aged snail she begins a series of sideways lunges. Left lunges, right lunges.

I admit that oxygen is hard to come by as I’ve all ready been to the top of a seventy story skyscraper and shuffled my feet on the half rack for twenty minutes, but I’m sure I’m not imagining this. Just to make sure I catch the eye of Daughter #1 who is pedaling on the lounge chair bike next to me. She confirms by a quirky smile that she too has noticed the bumble bee.

This is a holiday week and I’ve seen very few of the persons mentioned in previous posts so I’m down to scouting for new things to keep me going. The place is hopping with a real cross section of America. When I signed up I expected a room full of young, physically fit, don’t really need to be here people. As I take stock of today’s crowd I see a much broader spectrum of society. There are the young athletes to be sure, but there are also plenty of senior citizens and everything in between. Some are fit and firm, others, not so much. I like to think I fall somewhere in the middle of the pack, not too old, not too fat, not totally hopeless. Did I mention the lack of oxygen? The last observation falls under the asphyxiating excuse.

One regular is here, Trance Lady. This is the first time Daughter #2 has seen her and lucky girl, she has a good view from the half rack a row behind the show.

The bumble bee has finished her lunges and turned to take long backward strides uphill. This isn’t terribly unusual, I’ve seen it before. She places her hands on the handrails and lifts her feet from the belt and scissors her legs in the air twelve times – yes, I counted – and resumes her walk. I blink, thinking I’m hallucinating, but no, she does it again. She’s got this routine down and continues for another five minutes or so before altering it. Just what she’s accomplishing with this I have no idea. She seems lost in her own world, oblivious to the packed pit around her. I notice then she’s plugged into an iPod, listening to something that inspires this behavior. I turn up the volume on my own device and thank the pit gods that nothing on mine inspires me to such acrobatic feats. I have enough trouble staying on the machines as it is.

We make it back to the mercifully empty locker room where Daughter #2 proclaims herself traumatized for life. Between the earlier locker room incident and the Trance Lady she’s seen too much for her tender years. “I can’t stand weirdos,” she declares. I sympathize, but since these folks are the inspiration for this rambling blog I admit they make each visit more interesting than the last.

I’ve taken to an every other day approach to the stair thing-a-ma-jig and it seems to be paying off. I can now climb my seventy floors in less than twenty minutes and still do another twenty minutes on the half rack without having to call the paramedics. For an old broad I think that’s pretty good.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Day Twenty-seven

It turns out lots of people spend time at the pit on Christmas Eve. For the last week most of the regulars I’ve mentioned have been absent, but it is the holiday season and folks are traveling, shopping and eating stuff they only dream of the rest of the year. This past week has seen a noticeable increase in college and high school softball players, Daughter #2 included, who can see the season fast approaching and are making the push to get in shape for it. Daughter #2 is looking forward to her final season and has something to prove. As the only senior on the team she doesn’t want to be looked at as the old woman by the first year players coveting her position, plus there is the desire to end her softball career with a bang, or at least without injury.

I try not to be intimidated by the influx of young women in their school t-shirts, shorts and knee socks. Once upon a time, long, long ago, in a land far, far away, I looked like that, sort of. It’s a vague memory, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t make it up so I would have something to remember fondly in my old age. Anyway, I started out my Christmas Eve by climbing a skyscraper, all seventy stories of it. I was motivated and managed to shave a whole minute off my usual time to accomplish this insane feat. I distracted my brain from the pain shooting through my thighs by watching the C +10 with the red hair from a cheap bottle do ‘wax on, wax off’ chai tea or tie chee, or tie me up I’m insane moves. I’m not sure why she comes to the pit to do these motions, alone. I’ve seen groups of people in the park doing this stuff and thought it would be fun to push one of them over and watch the whole group topple over like dominoes. If you’re going to do this alone, why not do it at home? Why put on form fitting clothing and whacky socks and go stand in the front of dozens of people who have nothing better to do than watch you and go through these motions? I’m comforted by the thought that at least I’m doing the same thing as most of the peeps here, so they have no real reason to be watching me. This is my rationale; do not try to tell me otherwise.

I switch to the half rack and crazy woman is still doing the shifting statue thing only now she is wearing a blindfold. I tell you, you just can’t make up this kind of stuff. I shift into high gear with a little Born to Be Wild encouraging me to explode into space. I think this woman may be in space all ready, so I don’t know if I really want to go there, but I close my eyes and shuffle my feet faster anyway. When next I look up she’s on the floor, slipping jingle bells, yes, jingle bells, around her ankles and wrists and donning a Santa hat. I’m wondering where the back door to this place is so I can make a quick getaway if she starts pulling things from her backpack, but she hoists the pack over her shoulder and heads to the front door. I breathe out a sigh of relief. I know it sounded more like a dying person gasping for breath, but I swear it was a sigh, and keep on shuffling.

Daughter #1 and Daughter #2 are wimping out and have been on the lounge chair bikes for a few minutes, so I wrap it up with a little Carole King. I’m feeling like a natural woman and wondering if that foul smell is coming from me. I’m pretty sure it’s not; after all I’ve been coming here for nearly four weeks and haven’t had a deodorant malfunction yet. I suspect the guy next to me and decide it’s time to call it a day. My children are pedaling, but I’m pretty sure they are just waiting for me to call it quits and are sitting there so it looks like they’re still going strong. I know them too well. I birthed them after all. I know what they are up to. I grin and ask if they’re ready to go. It’s all I can do to keep up with them as they sprint to the locker room.

In the car they roll the windows down. I think this is a response to the fact that it’s nearly seventy degrees outside rather than the way I smell. Just to be on the safe side I roll my window down too. The pit is closed tomorrow so I’ll have a forced day off. After twenty-seven days in a row, which is twenty-seven more days than I’ve ever worked out in my life, I guess I deserve a day off. I’m thinking it’s time for some In and Out Burger to celebrate, so off we go.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight. (Thank you Clement Moore.)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Day Twenty-three

Things didn’t start out so well at the pit today. My plastic water bottle slid/fell/was pushed off the bench in the locker room and hit the tile floor where it promptly deposited all its contents on the floor via the new spout in the bottom of the bottle. Not to worry, there was a floor drain nearby and a water fountain in the pit. I’m in need of some retail therapy anyway to alleviate my homesickness for New Jersey and the major snowstorm I’m missing. I know, you think I’m in need of a different kind of therapy based on that statement, and you may be correct. I’m one of the few people on the planet who loves a good snowstorm.

So I’m feeling a bit down and now I’m without my water bottle crutch, you know, the excuse I have to stop every five minutes. I try to look way cool, slow down, wipe the dew off my face and neck, swig some water, rev up the machine again and get the heart rate back up there. This doesn’t always work so well. I’ve been threatening to replace the water bottle anyway as it has a wide spout and sometimes more water goes down the front of my shirt than down my throat, so the new hole in the bottom of it isn’t all that disturbing, other than the I have no excuse to stop other than I’m gasping for air excuse and that one doesn’t look near so cool as the water one.

I’ve got some good music pounding in my head, checking out the other pit occupants, finding little in the way of eye candy or curiosities or even anyone of entertainment value today, so I turn my attention to the banks of televisions overhead. It’s a Sunday so the choices are, football, the weather channel which I’ve all ready explained is depressing for me today, Fox News and an infomercial. Lucky for me the infomercial is closed captioned so I can listen to my music and read along with the sales pitch at the same time.

I’m not much on infomercials. Can’t say I’ve ever really watched one. There’s this guy standing in front of a building with gardens that looks suspiciously like the south lawn of the White House and he’s telling me the wonders of this light therapy gizmo. From what I can tell it’s a hand sized, mitt like device that emits flashing red and blue light. This amazing device is the answer to every pain I’ve ever had, or will ever have. No longer do I have to suffer after a day at the pit. A few minutes on the sofa with the magic light gizmo and I’ll be good as new. I’m skeptical, but after hearing/reading the testimony of several house wives, a racehorse jockey, a business man with tennis elbow, and an orthopedic surgeon who treated a real Olympic athlete, I’m thinking this may be just the retail therapy I need.

I wait with bated breath, okay, gasping breath for the guy in the White House garden to tell me how much this is going to set me back. My eyes have been opened to a great medical truth and intelligent being that I am, I realize this must be the reason police cars are equipped with flashing red and blue lights. Not having ever had my face smashed into the hood of a police cruiser I can only speculate that the flashing lights make the pain of metal meeting flesh and having your arms yanked behind your back and handcuffs being slapped on so much less painful. How did this truth escape me all these years, I wonder? Nevermore will I cringe when I see the news video of an arrest or while watching Cops. Now I know the truth.

Please tell me how much this miracle device is! At last the friendly salesman comes back and tells me these retail other places for $2300. I’m devastated. The miracle machine is out of my financial reach. I knew I shouldn’t have sprung for the cruise for the family Christmas present. What was I thinking? I could have had the miracle light machine instead.

But wait! No, I can have it for three easy payments of $40 each and they’ll throw in the patented body belt for free. This is much better, however I must act in the next twenty minutes to get this unbelievable price. Since my phone is in the locker room and I’m not planning on being out of here in the next twenty minutes I hang my head in disappointment. Well, maybe it was because my head suddenly felt too heavy for my neck, but anyway. Just as I’ve given up all hope of owning the miracle machine the kindly salesman comes back to inform me that today, and today only I can have this marvel of medicine for only two, yes two low payments of $40 each!!!

It’s my lucky day! I’ve reached the 70th floor, the observation deck at Rockefeller Center only there’s no snow on my observation deck, so I climb down and head to the half rack. I stop by the water fountain for a not so cool drink on my way. By the time I get set up on the new machine I check back in with my kindly salesman only to find out that I’ve missed the all important phone number I need in order to take advantage of this amazing offer.

A few choice words pass my lips, hopefully masked by the wheezing and panting go on all around me. Oh well. I guess I’ll have to settle for a new water bottle. Next Sunday I’m going to pay closer attention and bring along a pad and pen.

Today’s tally – 70 floors, twenty minutes on the half rack and ten on the lounge chair bike, one broken water bottle and I missed the opportunity of a lifetime. I think that’s worth an extra M & M or two.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Day Nineteen

So I was wondering if a person could live in a twenty-four hour gym. Today is day nineteen for me and there are a few folks I see everyday no matter what time I arrive at the pit. Not that I’m there all that long. I tend to limit my workout to around 40-50 minutes since I’m going every day, but these people are there when I arrive and still going when I leave. Like any random survey, these numbers are subject to interpretation. It did get me thinking though. If you had nowhere else to go could you live in the place?

Clearly I’ve become oxygen deprived at the lofty heights of the skyscraper I’m climbing. Today the guy who climbs backwards is here, still going strong. So is the guy who sweats enough to short out the whole system as he climbs at a sprint for longer than I am at the pit. Maybe these guys live here, but I don’t think so. Call it a hunch, but I think they have homes to go to.

I suspect Trance Lady lives here.

It wouldn’t be all that difficult. As long as you had the monthly fee and some extra cash for food, it seems entirely doable. As I watch a woman with hair fried from too many chemical applications read a magazine and operate an elliptical at the same time I envision how this would work.

You would always have something to do. There is no shortage of activities, from classes to lap swimming to weight lifting. Televisions are everywhere, including the locker room. Keeping up on current events would be easy enough. You could even read as many people do while you walk, pedal or climb. Someone is always leaving a newspaper lying around for the taking.

There are showers and a sauna and lockers for your belongings. There’s even a sofa inside the front door, perfect for a nap. I suspect there are more sofas in the super secret back room where they keep the donuts. I’m still looking for it, but I know it’s there somewhere.

Our gym shares a parking lot with a Jacque LeBox and it’s an easy walk to at least a dozen other eating establishments as well as a grocery store or two. The gym itself sells all manner of power bars and ‘healthy’ beverages so snackage would be easy to come by if you couldn’t find the secret donut stash.

I’m sucking in air somewhere around the fiftieth floor when a woman begins to climb the staircase next to mine. Usually this isn’t too remarkable, except this person is climbing two steps at a time and doing it a whole lot faster than I’m climbing. Where do these people come from? My brain skips a few important synaptic connections to my next random thought.

Just think of all the opportunities to meet people if you actually lived here. Unlike the bus station, people keep coming back to this place, inexplicable as that is. Granted, some of the folks who make their way through the tinted glass doors of the pit are a little on the strange side, but for the most part they appear to be your average garden variety suburbanites.

I’m thinking this whole idea is looking better and better. This is also about the time I reach the sixty-fifth floor and decide it’s time to move to something else. Off I go to the ¾ rack. I tried this yesterday and managed to make it for about ten minutes without falling off. I’m willing to give it another try.

There must be some drawbacks to this living at the pit idea. I haven’t been there in the middle of the night, so I don’t really know what goes on in the wee hours. I suspect this is the time when the cleaning crew comes in. This could be problematic in terms of sleep. Surely the munchkin lockup isn’t used in the middle of the night. That could be an option.

Do vampires work out? I think perhaps they do. This would account for places like this being open around the clock. Another mystery solved.

Clearly I’ve been here too long today. Daughter #1 is ready to go too, so we take ourselves to the locker room. Timing is everything and once again we have failed to take note of the whereabouts of certain regulars. We empty our locker as quickly as possible and make a hasty exit.

I made it up 65 floors, faster than ever before, spent 10 minutes on the ¾ rack at level 2 and rode my favorite virtual bike about half way home. I think I can do this again tomorrow.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Day Sixteen

I went back to the half rack today after many days of avoidance. The half rack is the elliptical thingy with handlebars and you only move your feet. I can stay on this thing if I close my eyes and concentrate on the music playing in my ears. If I open my eyes I lose the rhythm of the thing and am in serious danger of falling off. This is really pathetic, as in reality all I am doing is shuffling my feet in place. I think I’ll give this a try for a few days. Maybe I’ll develop some sense of rhythm and be able to move on to the ¾ rack. Unfortunately I don’t see any future for me and the full rack- the elliptical where all four limbs go in different directions at the same time. After all these years I don’t see me acquiring the coordination necessary to operate the rack. I’m a firm believer they should come with a warning label – DO NOT ATTEMPT IF YOU CAN NOT DANCE! At least you would know in advance what you were getting into.

Yesterday Daughter #1 and I took Husband/Father with us to the pit. It was bring a friend for free day, and it was raining, so H/F couldn’t do his usual four mile run in the park, so he decided to give the pit a try. We created a monster.

I’m sorry to say it, but we have. He’s not quite Mary Shelley’s monster, but close enough. Daughter #1 and I usually restrict our workout to around forty minutes a day. As we have been going every day, this seems adequate, especially for me who has avoided exercise as ruthlessly as I’ve avoided poison ivy for my entire life. For example: I never played any kind of organized sport as a child. Some of this can be attributed to Rule #5 of the Code of Southern Women – Women do not participate in sporting activities other than tennis, and then only if they can do it without getting dewey. As I have about as much hand to eye coordination as I have rhythm, tennis was out, and thereby all possible organized sporting activities.

The key word there is ‘organized’. If I was careful not to get caught I could play football with my older brother and his friends, but only if our mother wasn’t any where around to see. Said brother taught me all I needed to know about football, baseball and golf. He tried to teach me about basketball, but the whole foul situation was too confusing and I gave up on it. I can dribble a basketball, but running down court with it at the same time is out of the question. I was once pretty good at free throws too and I’m excellent at miniature golf thanks to above mentioned brother’s high school job at a local course. Now that several decades have passed and the place is long gone I think it is all right to tell you he let me play for free on weeknights when the place was empty.

Back to H/F at the pit. Daughter #1 and I did our forty minutes and were sufficiently dewey as the relative humidity in the pit was somewhere near 100%, so we found H/F who had kicked my assets on the stairs, outran Daughter #1 on the treadmill and was pedaling his way up Pike’s Peak on a lounge chair bike. Since the thing was people powered we couldn’t pull the plug, but instead wondered how we were going to get him off the thing and out the door. We stood on either side of him trying our best to remain upright. Having dehydrated long ago despite downing enough water to float a small armada, standing around waiting for him to poop out wasn’t appealing.

Finally, declaring us wimps and himself the winner, though we weren’t informed of the competition, he grudgingly coasted down the mountain and allowed us to leave. I was all the way to the locker room before I remembered I had the car key and we could have left him there to find his own way home. Oh well, live and learn.

Yesterday I climbed ninety floors and pedaled almost far enough to get me home, had I had wheels. Today I hung onto the half rack for twenty minutes, climbed sixty floors and biked half way home. Not a bad day.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Day Twelve

Today I saw the man I want coming to my rescue if I’m at the top of a flaming skyscraper. I never really saw his face, so that isn’t it at all. He was on the elliptical, the one where you adjust the incline and have hand rails instead of moving hand grips. I was behind him on the stair thing-a-ma-jiggy, huffing and puffing my way to the top of the Empire State Building. Mr. Come to my Rescue was with the group of fire fighters I saw the other day, so I can safely assume he is one of them.

So you ask why? What was it about this guy that got my attention? Let me explain. He was going strong on the machine when I arrived. He quit when I had been climbing stairs for twenty-five minutes. This in itself is nothing spectacular. What got to me was that in twenty-five minutes he never held the hand rails, he wasn’t breathing hard, in fact he was carrying on a conversation with his buddy next door as if they were strolling through the mall, and he wasn’t sweating. The entire time he was on the machine his arms were loose at his sides, his shoulders relaxed.

I tell ‘ya. If I’m in a burning building I want this guy coming up the stairs! Gotta love a fire fighter!

Another interesting person caught my attention today. This guy had one of those big rubber balls; you know ,the put it between your legs and show off your hoo-haw type. He was standing on it doing deep knee bends. Now I don’t know about you, but I can barely do a deep knee bend standing flat footed on the floor. I watched in open mouthed awe, well the open mouth was due to me sucking in air somewhere around the sixtieth floor, but I was in awe. I don’t think I’ll be trying that trick anytime soon.

Trance Lady was back and I guess her hypnotist was too. She was on the rack doing her thing, frontwards, backwards, frontwards again until she jumped off. I mean, jumped off the machine while it was still going. Most folks slow to a stop before they get off, not Trance Lady. She leapt off in mid stride and the thing was still going. She pointy toed lunged off out of sight as if everything was cool. I don’t know where she went. I don’t care. She’s weird.

Then there was the guy on the stair thing-a-ma-jig next to me. He was climbing at a pretty good clip when he turns around and starts climbing backwards. What is with these people? It’s all I can do to face forward and stay on my feet. I can’t imagine what kind of damage I could do to myself if I tried to turn around on a moving staircase. Several images flashed in my brain. None of them were good.

I made it to the lower observation deck – 86 floors then added 4 more for cool down before switching to the lounge chair bike for a brisk 5 mile virtual bike ride.

Everything was good until I rounded the corner into the locker room. TOWELS. Why don’t these people use TOWELS?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Day Ten

Mondays are such interesting days at the pit. Everybody shows up. It was especially crowded this morning as the weather was as close to winter as L.A. gets, rain and 45 degrees, driving more people indoors for their daily torture routine.

I would have preferred to pull the covers over my head and sleep the day away, but alas, I have a long ‘to do’ list. Daughter #1 and I survey the pit. She heads for the one treadmill that is open and I head for the lounge chair bikes, virtually the only equipment underutilized today. My observations are limited by location, however people watching is something I’m good at, so I manage. There is the usual assortment of folks on the treadmills in front of me, including a C who tips the scales at no less than 350. He’s walking at a reasonable pace and not all that interesting until he pauses the machine and sinks to his knees on the tread. I’m close enough to see he is breathing and is able to wipe his brow so I’m not too concerned. After a few minutes he’s up and walking again. I’m impressed he hasn’t given up. I silently cheer him on.

Trance Lady is on the rack. Her hypnotist mustn’t have been available today because she has trouble maintaining the trance and eventually gives up the rack and morphs into a giant praying mantis, lunging around the pit in dramatic, pointy toed strides. I bet she could do a really spectacular curtsy. She stalks her way through the free weights and around to the stair thing-a-ma-jiggies.

M.M. is in the pit. I’ve decided he has A.D.D. He flits from one thing to the next, never spending more than a few minutes on any one task. Sprints on the treadmill, chin ups, push ups, stretches, … I’ve lost track of him. Damn.

I take up my usual spot on the stair climbing thingy, determined to do better today. I’m inspired by the firefighters on the racks in front of me. How do I know they are firefighters? Besides the t-shirts (not the generic tourist variety) there is the way they look. How many C’s have that look? Fit. Lean. Not an ounce of fat on them. Serious hair cut. Determined face. They work out as if their life and yours depends on it, and it does. What’s not to like about that?

I’m worried about the guy next to me – not a fire fighter. If he keeps sweating at that rate he’s going to short out that thing. Despite having a hand towel, sweat is pooling on the stairs and dripping down the side of the machine. I hope the wiring is properly insulated or we may have a serious problem here. Are these things plugged into GFI’s? Luckily there are fire fighters nearby.

Daughter #1 has had enough, and so have I. Trance Lady is still climbing stairs so it’s safe to go to the locker room. In a few minutes we’re out into the cold rain, heading home. I’ve climbed to the Top of the Rock (70 floors to the top of Rockefeller Center). That’s for all the 30 Rock fans. I’ve biked 5 miles at level 9. It’s a good day.

Goal this week – Climb to the lower observation deck on the Empire State Building – 86 floors- in one day.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Day Nine

Help me if you can, I'm feeling down. Well, not so much down, as pooped. I slept like a log and woke up feeling like said log. Needless to say, I didn’t much want to go to the pit, but I’m resolved to come out the winner in this power struggle, so Daughter #1 and I head out.

And I do appreciate you being round. No, not the shape, though I do appreciate that there are folks at the pit who are that shape, and thus make me feel somewhat smug about my own shape which borders more on barrel than round. I do appreciate Daughter #1 being my companion even though she isn’t any happier about going there today than I am. We’ve already covered the misery loves company angle.

Help me, get my feet back on the ground. Never is this more meaningful than when I’ve been on the stair thing-a-ma-jiggy for twenty minutes or so. My legs feel more like hot pokers than muscle and bone and I’m not sure I can get down on my own, short of falling off and this doesn’t seem like a pleasant option.

Won't you please, please help me. By the sixtieth floor this is no longer an idle plea. I figure I’ve climbed the equivalent of the Empire State Building four times this week. When I look at it this way I’m inclined to believe I need help of an entirely different nature, if you get my drift.

When I was younger, so much younger than today, I never needed anybody's help in any way. Ahh, the arrogance of youth! The pit is full of C-25-30’s today. None of them appear to be in need of any help. At that age I didn’t either, or so I believed. Aging brings wisdom in so many ways, one of which is to ask for help when you need it, and lend a helping hand when asked. Now if that C-20 bench pressing 180 lbs. would just ask for my help. I’m thinking I could count reps (which I’m already doing), or maybe CPR.

But now these days are gone, I'm not so self assured, Now I find I've changed my mind and opened up the doors. I’m not sure at what point it happened, but it did. The blind optimism of youth gave way to the cautious optimism of adulthood. I’m not sure I can do this whole exercise/fitness routine, but I’m willing to give it a try. At any rate, I’m trying to keep an open mind about it.

And now my life has changed in oh so many ways. If there is one thing I am certain about in life, it’s that you never know what’s coming next. Pardon if I don’t elaborate. Lack of oxygen can do that to you.

My independence seems to vanish in the haze. I think some people confuse individualism with independence. I would never give up my individuality, but I’ve long since given up my personal independence. I see this as a good thing. I depend on a lot of folks. It’s nice to have family and friends to lean. They can be counted on to bolster my sagging self esteem and see me through the occasional crisis. I’m having one of those occasional crises right now. I really need to figure out where they keep the oxygen tank in this place.

But every now and then I feel so insecure. Make that unstable, in more ways than one. I present this blog as exhibit A. I must be getting to the top of the building where the air is thin. Why else would all this crap be filling my head?

I know that I just need you like I've never done before. Where is B.P.G. (Bench Press Guy)? I need help here. I bet he could give me a hand getting off this thing. I’d settle for Daughter #1 telling me she’s had enough and is ready to go. I refuse to give in first. This is my individuality showing. I am bested daily in this place, but I refuse give in before the kid does.

Help, I need somebody,
Help, not just anybody,
Help, you know I need someone, help.

No sign of M.M. or the Bronze God today. Luckily there was B.P.G. and Beatles to get me through. Many thanks to John Lennon for letting me borrow his lyrics. I made it up sixty stories and five miles on the lounge chair bike. Maybe I’ll come back tomorrow.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Day Eight

I’m waiting for something catastrophic to happen. Something must be in the works, as I have managed to make it to the pit for the eighth day in a row. Each day I have done a little more than the day before and I’m still functioning. Surely this cannot keep up.

Today I ‘m not at my best, having been out late the previous evening I would rather just pull the covers over my head and nap the day away. However, I’m made of sterner stuff than that. Daughter #1 is in much the same boat, but we still drag our unwilling back sides into the car and head to the pit.

I take up my usual spot in the crow’s nest, a.k.a., the stair thing-a-ma-jig where I can see what is going on in the pit. Today there isn’t much to comment on. The place is hopping, but the mix of people are as a whole, uninteresting. I’ve got my iPod back in working order so I tune in and tune out the world as I try to climb the Empire State Building. The dew is falling pretty good and something is taking my breath away, but once again it isn’t anything like what the song is talking about. What a shame.

I slow enough to pour some water down my gaping mouth and check out the place, just in case someone more interesting has come in. Some lady has brought a bunch of tweenie girls with her and they, for some reason I cannot fathom, are running amuck in the place. They are jumping on various pieces of equipment, punching buttons, and in general making a nuisance of themselves. I wonder who could be the owner of these brats and watch with interest until one of them makes contact with their parental unit. Guilty party is revealed.

I’m all for children being physically fit, but these girls are too small for this equipment and even if they were physically capable of using it, they would need supervision. Oh well, as long as they stay away from me I can’t worry about them. I have enough of my own problems, mainly breathing and maintaining my grip on the handrails so I don’t commit suicide on this thing. Maybe if I land on one of them it will break my fall. It’s something to ponder.

The C-27 on the skyscraper next door is about forty floors above me and climbing at a rate King Kong would envy. I’m reminded of the tortoise and the hare story. In my case, it’s more the elephant and the gazelle, but still I figure I’ve already beat this kid at one thing. I’ve made it at least 27 years further than he has and that’s one race he won’t overtake me in. Someone finally corrals the tweenies and sends clueless parent and her charges on their way. I’m sucking wind and ready to take the elevator down.

Usually I’d plop my considerable back side into a lounge chair bike about now, but Daughter #1 is on a treadmill and lucky her, there is an empty one next door, so off I go. I don’t run. It’s a personal rule of mine. Someone told me once that if I really tried it I would learn to like it. That person was wrong. I did try it. I signed up for a college class misnamed, Conditioning. It consisted of three days a week of cross country running, followed by as many sit ups as you could do in ten minutes.

Since my grade depended on how fast I ran the route and how many times I could fold myself in the middle, I gave it my all. I managed a B+ in the class and haven’t run since. I didn’t even run when I was thirty feet from the biggest bear in New Jersey. Now, if said bear had made a move toward me I’m pretty sure I would have waved the moratorium on running, but since it didn’t, I still have a perfect record going and see no reason to ruin it.

After twenty minutes walking as if a Krispy Kreme were dangling on a string in front of me I’ve put in a mile at a slight incline. I’m done, so is Daughter #1. We head to the locker room for our purses. I’ve climbed sixty-three floors and walked a mile. Not bad for an old lady.
We round the corner, headed to the tinted glass doors that promise freedom when they part and in walks M.M. Daughter #1 and I look at each other. Damn. Our timing is really off. Maybe we’ll have better luck tomorrow.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Day Seven

Friday is senior citizen day at the pit. I kid you not. I started out on the stair-thing-a-ma-jiggy again, right next to the wheezing C+25. Again I wonder why the concrete floor isn’t padded and scan the perimeter for the defibrillator and oxygen. Surely they are somewhere nearby, not that I’m going to use them, but I might NEED them sometime soon. Note to self – ask someone where they are, just in case. I should ask about the room where they keep the donuts while I’m at it.

I turn on my iPod and instead of music I get a nasty little note telling me to plug it in to a power source. The battery is dead. Dead. Dead. No music today. What am I to do? There is always TV, so I look for the cute little box that is supposed to be there so I can connect to the audio. There is no box. NO BOX. This is the only available stair thing-a-ma-jiggy and now I have no audio of any kind. Oh well. I can make do. I focus on the pit, trying to ignore the wheezing next door.

Daughter #1 is on the rack in the row in front of me, wearing her new shoes and doing fine. I’m glad the new shoes are working out, then it hits me - I hope she remembers the combination to our lock. How is this related? Let me explain. We share a locker and a lock as we don’t come with a lot of baggage each day. The combination to our lock was written in permanent marker on the inside tongue of her shoe. She is wearing her new shoes. No combination. I climb a few floors hoping she has memorized the combination in the six days we’ve been coming. I know I haven’t, but she’s an economist and numbers are easy for her.

Just in case she hasn’t, I contemplate how we are getting home. Our car key is in that locker, along with our cell phones. If we can use a phone we can call hubby and he can come get us, but I don’t know his cell phone # or office phone number. That’s what speed dial is for, isn’t it? We could call information, or we can call Daughter #2 at school 3000 miles away and have her call him. I know her phone number, and she has his on speed dial.

Half the people here today are C+25, or more. Some are leaving me in the dust, some are not. After climbing half way up the Empire State Building I head for the lounge chair bikes. You would think these would be full, given the average age today, but no. I’m the only one using them. I plug in to Regis and Kelly, only it’s Christian Slater and Kelly today and kick the bike up to level 10. I’ll show the Geritol crowd how it’s done! I think about telling you the story about the Christian Slater Memorial Closet at our house, but decide I’ll save that for another time.

There are two C+25 women on the treadmills and they capture my attention. They are walking at a snail’s pace and I wonder why they are here and not at the mall. Surely the mall would be more interesting. They have on their Velcro walking shoes and the one on the right is wearing a mint green sweat suit from Nordstrom and a cable knit sweater. These were meant to give the appearance of fitness wear, not actually be fitness wear. Her companion is dressed more appropriately in a serviceable sweat suit. I notice how small this woman is, frail actually. Her clothes hang off of her, as if once she filled them out, but due to declining health that is no longer the case. I suspect she is here as part of her prescribed physical therapy.

They chat as they stroll together. It becomes clear Nordstrom lady is there because of her friend, to keep her company. They complete their walk and leave, and I am reminded how special friends can be.

Daughter #1 joins me. She’s ready to go and so am I. Luckily she remembers the combination and we are soon on our way. I’ve climbed 62 floors and pedaled 5 miles. No one needed oxygen, including me. It’s a good day.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Day Six

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a Southerner by birth. My mother’s family has roots deep in the rich red soil of East Texas and can follow those roots all the way back to when Texas was a Republic. Thanks to my fabulous sister-in-law who did all the research, I can apply for membership into the Daughters of the Republic, and as soon as I fill out all the forms she sent, and copy all the documents, it will be official.

True Southern women are raised with certain values and live within a set of rules, the likes of which do not exist north of the Mason-Dixon Line or West of the invisible line that runs roughly half way between Dallas and Ft. Worth. You see, Dallas is in the South, Ft. Worth is in the West, or Southwest if you insist.

Some of these rules Southern women live by are well known outside the above listed parameters, such as Rule #1 – Do not wear white after Labor Day or prior to Memorial Day. No self respecting Southern woman would dare to break this rule. This has evolved over the years to a less strict rule involving white shoes and white purses, as too many women were dying of heat stroke in September and October.

Rule #2 – Do not air your dirty laundry in public. This is a metaphor. Think Scarlet O’Hara. Scarlet would rather dig root vegetables out of the soil with her bare hands, or use the parlor drapes to make herself a new dress than let her friends and neighbors think all was not well at Tara.

You ask, what does this have to do with the pit,er,gym? I present the not widely recognized, Rule #3 – Cross your legs at the ankle. This is followed closely, and related to, Rule #4 – Do not display certain body parts to anyone prior to said person signing their name on the line labeled ‘groom’ on your marriage license. Still confused? Let me explain.

There are lots of activities to choose from at the pit. One of those is some sort of exercise involving rubber balls of various sizes. Strangely enough, the area set aside for this activity is just inside the front door and visible from most of the electric equipment as well as any passersby via the floor to ceiling windows overlooking the parking lot. I have yet to see a male participating in this activity, which brings me back to Rules #3 and #4. I think from this we can extrapolate – Do not place 36” rubber ball between your legs and present your hoo-haw to anyone within fifty yards.

I am no prude. I write Romance novels when I’m not people watching at the pit. However, why a woman would choose to drive to a public place, don form fitting apparel, lie on the floor with or without a gaily colored rubber ball and spread their legs for all to see without being PAID to do it, is beyond me and well outside even the broadest interpretation of Rule #3, and a clear violation of Rule #4.

Now you say, “Nearly every high school girl is in violation of Rule #4.” This may be true, and I may have been guilty of it myself, once or twice, but in the off chance Daughter #1 or Daughter #2 is reading this, let me state that I have never contemplated violating Rule #4, nor do I suggest they contemplate it either.

Let me point out- Rule #4 also applies to locker rooms, especially to locker rooms.

I started my torture session on the stair thing-a-ma-jig. I like the view from up there. This is the same reason I like to snow ski – the view is best from the top of the mountain. Anyway, I opt for the default workout, twenty minutes. I’ve had success at level 4, and after surveying the pit I decide their isn’t much of interest so I kick it up to level 5. After ten minutes I’m ready to rethink the whole religion thing and wondering if I’m about to find out if there really is a spirit in the sky. I back it down to level 3 for a few minutes and contemplate just how hard the concrete floor behind me is. Would it be too much to ask for mats, or better yet those big inflated mattresses stunt people use? I’d be willing to chip in another dollar a month to see some changes in the place.

I finish off the last five minutes at level 4 and seek out my favorite lounge chair with pedals attached. Daughter #1 is there after some time on the rack. She’s having some trouble with shin splints, something that plagued her all through high school and college softball and still is worrisome, so she’s mellowing out on a bike for a while. I take a spin around the block, several blocks actually before we call it quits for the day.

M.M. from yesterday arrived while we were on the bikes and I’m tempted to hang around and watch for a while, but alas, we might be risking bodily injury to stay longer. I’m beginning to dread the locker room, but we left the car key locked up in there, so we must retrieve it. M.M walks by and I’m tempted to follow, but Daughter #1 is eager to leave.

Back to Rule #4. Trance Lady is in the locker room and lucky us, has a locker adjacent to ours. While we are fishing out our purses she proceeds to peel off layers until there are no more layers to peel. I did not need to see this. Trance Lady bounces off, buck naked to the showers (I assume). In the hallway Daughter #1 says, “I don’t know how people can do that.” She doesn’t have to elaborate, I understand perfectly. “Me either,” I say, my heart swelling with pride. Even raised in California, Daughter #1 knows Rule #4, at least when it comes to locker rooms. I don’t want to know anymore.

We step into the bright sunshine. I‘ve climbed a sixty story building and rode five miles, and my parenting skills have been validated. It’s a good day.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Day Five

I can’t think of a good enough excuse today, so Daughter #1 and I once again pass through the tinted glass doors into the pit. Lots of people must be reading my blog because all the stair climbing machines are taken and I’m forced to choose another method of torture today. Daughter #1 heads for the rack, aka, the dreaded elliptical where all four limbs must go in different directions at the same time. I’m still rhythmically challenged, so I choose a two limb elliptical in the row behind her. It takes me a minute or so to set the incline to flatlander so I won’t become a flat-liner anytime soon.

I start my musical accompaniment with the last track of the Pride and Prejudice sound track while I scout for something to take my mind off what I’m doing. My vantage point isn’t great from here, but the place is packed and I have no shortage of entertainment. Sadly, M.M. from yesterday isn’t there, nor is the bronzed god from day one. However there is Trance Lady. Let me explain. She’s on the rack (see previous definition) and the only explanation I can come up with is hypnosis. Arms and legs are going, feet are lifting off the pedals causing her to rock side to side, and her head is bobbing in rhythm, eyes closed, mouth open, left and down, right and up.

I move on to I had the time of my life, a flat out lie, and I’ve never felt this way before, a true statement but not for the reasons the song implies. I have to concentrate to keep from falling off this thing so I close my eyes, opening them between songs to check out my surroundings. If someone beefs it, I want to know. Not that it would be humorous in any way to see someone take a spill, but they would laugh if I beefed it, so I don’t want to miss any opportunities. Everyone is still upright, including Trance Lady who is still going strong.

After fifteen minutes I’m beginning to wonder if someone shouldn’t check on her, you know, tap her on the shoulder, or snap their fingers to bring her out of her trance. Did her hypnotist get her started then wander off to Jack in the Box and forget to come back and snap her out of it? Did said hypnotist implant a suggestion that she wake upon hearing a certain cue, say, laughter when she finally beefs it? Oh well. I’ve progressed to walking on broken glass and drowning in black water and now I’m thinking when every little bit of hope is gone, sad songs say so much. I’m suffering enough to write it down, that’s for sure. I think I might cry. No one would notice, the dew is falling pretty good by now anyway.

I’m twenty minutes into this and Trance Lady stops. She opens her eyes, looks around, and….. starts going in reverse! Same rhythm, same speed, same head and foot motion. Thirty minutes in and I’m in a purple haze and call it quits. Trance Lady is still in reverse mode, still no hypnotist in sight. I decide I’ve earned a sit down, so off to the easy chair bikes for me. Daughter #1 has moved to a treadmill and when my vision clears I check out the weight lifting section. There isn’t much there today, just a C wearing a NASA t-shirt. He’s not bad, but I have doubts about his astronaut status. More likely he works at JPL and designs robots to explore the solar system. Hmph.

It’s time for something soothing, so I find the classics I’ve downloaded and set the bike on level 9 and take a spin around the block, figuratively speaking of course. No need to be in a hurry, so I pedal at a nice slow pace. It’s not like I’m in a race with the C+25 next to me who could power Las Vegas if she hooked her bike to the power grid.

Another ten minutes and Daughter #1 wimps out. We head to the locker room where for once I don’t have to lament the absence of TOWELS. I’ve survived another day. No one beefed it, including me. Life is good.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Day Four

One word- towel. I can’t emphasize this enough. If one is going to shower at the gym, one should bring a TOWEL. I’m not talking about an ordinary length of terry cloth, but one long enough to encompass all of you. Trust me when I tell you, no one wants to see what your towel doesn’t cover, unless you are the bronzed god. It’s highly unlikely I will encounter him in the women’s locker room however much I would appreciate that very thing. I hereby make a pact. I will not subject my fellow locker room users to my unclothed self if they will do the same for me.

Enough said. I think you get the picture.

I parted company with Daughter #1 right off. She headed for the rack, I mean elliptical, and I headed for the stair climbing thing-a-ma-jig. I set it on level four and scanned the room for something interesting to look at. As these machines are taller than the others their row acts as a room divider between the moving machinery and the stationary or human powered equipment. This, along with my elevated height allows me an unobstructed view of the entire place. Sorry to report there is very little to see. The pit is inhabited primarily by the stay at home mom crowd and what appears to be a high school softball team. I’m not sure why they are here in the middle of a school day, but what do I know? My girls always had those pesky academic classes to attend in the morning. Softball was the last class of the day, or after school.

I’ve made it up a few flights of stairs when I begin to wonder if I’ve lost my mind. I’m a big fan of elevators; I think I mentioned that previously. I’m also a big fan of escalators and moving sidewalks. Why take the stairs when a perfectly good people mover is available? Why walk when the sidewalk will do the work for you? Every muscle from my waist down is on slow burn now and I begin to dream about moving sidewalks. The best are to be found in large airports like Minneapolis-St. Paul where to get from gate F-16 to A-14 is about a five mile hike. Try doing this in half an hour. If you know how to use the moving sidewalks it’s almost possible to make your connecting flight, thereby saving you a ten hour layover.

If you aren’t in a rush, standing in one spot and allowing the sidewalk to carry you along is a great way to go. You can text, dig for your boarding pass, or read a book because you don’t have to watch where you’re going. These are one way, so no oncoming traffic to worry about. However, if you are about to miss your connection there is the express lane. To make the best use of this lane, first secure all loose articles of clothing as you would for any high speed amusement park ride. Secure all luggage to your front or back as the walkway isn’t wide enough to pass the standing in one place folks with a bag hanging from your shoulder.

When you are prepared, take off at a sprint in the express lane. This is what it feels like to be the six million dollar man, to fly on your own feet. As these wonders of man must come to an end somewhere you need to prepare yourself to be launched off the end of the sidewalk onto terra firma. If you are truly skilled only one foot will hit the ground and your momentum will carry you onto the next sidewalk. This is an acquired skill and not to be attempted by the novice traveler.

I’m up to the fifth or sixth floor when inspiration walks in. I notice him as he claims a treadmill a few rows ahead of me. I’m thinking Matthew McConaughey look alike-ish. Close enough. My vision is going along with my ability to control my muscles, so he’s probably a toad in actuality. Anyway, this guy looks like he should be running on the beach with his sun bleached hair and long, lanky physique. He’s carrying a gallon water jug and wearing a sweatshirt. I focus on him as he pulls his sweatshirt over his head and begins his stretching exercises.
No one else I’ve seen stretches before they get on any of the machinery. I’m sure this is a no-no, but who cares? This guy is stretching and I’ve forgotten about my legs and moving sidewalks. I can work through the pain if I have the right focus and this is the right focus.

M.M. gets down to business, running sprints on the treadmill. Yep, sprints. Run flat out for two minutes, rest, run again. Each time he hops off he plants his feet on the side rails and runs a hand through his unruly hair. Uh huh! With such scenery I could climb a skyscraper. Sometime later I am dismayed to find I have climbed a sky scraper, a moderate one at least, 44 floors. My twenty minute workout on the stairs is over. I bid M.M. goodbye, silently thanking him for the diversion and go in search of another method of slow torture.

After riding the lounge chair bike around the block a few times I seek out Daughter #1. There is an open treadmill next door, so I join her for a walk. I’ve just spied M.M. again at the weights. He’s lifting some giant hunks of metal and thanks to more of those wonderful mirrors I can watch from several different angles. Daughter #1 taps me on the shoulder. Am I ready to go? Hell no. However, she clearly has pushed her C-27 body harder than I have pushed mine, so I call it a day.

This brings me full circle to paragraph one. Towels. Believe me, after watching M.M. for a while the scene in the locker room was not something I wanted to see. Talk about Debbie Downer, well, you get the picture.

Tally for the day: 44 floors, 5miles on the bike, one more walking. I’m done for. Hopefully M.M. will be back tomorrow.