Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Day Sixty-four

You gotta love Saturday at the pit. The weekend brings out some interesting characters, me being one of them of course. I scored a half rack right off and thought it would be fun to try something different, so I scanned the list of preprogrammed workouts and decided on Crosstraining 1. I had no idea what this would entail, but I figured I could do it, at least for a while. I know where the stop button is and more importantly, I know how to use it. The problem with these computerized programs is that they ask all kinds of intrusive questions before deciding on how strenuous your torture session will be. I’m tempted to lie, but I’m not sure which way I should go with the lie. Should I tell the machine I’m younger and weigh less, or should I go the other way and tell it I’m older and fatter? Which would make for an easier workout? I have no idea and I’m not feeling that adventurous, so I punch in the truth, hoping no one can see over my shoulder.

The program starts out well enough. I’m doing a pretty good job of keeping up so I check out my fellow torture enthusiasts. Hubby is on a treadmill and next to him is this little dude who I can’t figure out. He has the machine on some variable speed program and he’s doing well enough on the slower times, but as soon as the belt speeds up he hops off and stands at the end watching it spin away without him on it. Once he even walked away, to where I have no idea, and left the thing running. I thought perhaps he’d given up, but he left his cell phone and water bottle so I figured he’d be back. Sure enough, back he comes and hops on when the belt slows down. Odd behavior, to be sure.

I’ve got the hang of this new program, or so I think. I glance down at the computer and it flashes me a message – Pedal Backwards, it says. Are you freakin’ kidding me? Yep, that’s what my brain flashes back at it, but I come to a stop and reverse my foot shuffle. This takes some getting used to. My suck, tuck, relax philosophy doesn’t work going this direction. I’ve got to shift my center of gravity, or I’m going to be on my keister on the concrete floor post haste. It takes me a few minutes to figure out I should suck, push out and lean in, but give me credit, I figured it out and remained upright. Another few minutes and I’m an old pro at pedaling backwards. Back to looking around.

I can’t help but notice the C +5 on a treadmill in the front row. He’s wearing his sunglasses, a less than effective disguise, a brand new charcoal gray WalMart sweatsuit and new silver and blue sneakers. He’s still got on his gold ID bracelet, not a medical variety, and he’s listening to something on an iPod. I’m pretty sure he’s listening to the audio version of the NYT Bestseller, How to Get in Shape in Thirty Days without Breaking a Sweat. A desert tortoise could out run this guy. In contrast, the guy next to him is walking circles around him and carrying on a conference call at the same time. Now I’m all for the resolutionists getting in shape, but I have to wonder what this guy is doing. It’s a beautiful morning out there. If you’re going to stroll along at that pace why not do it outside and enjoy the fresh air and mother nature? Why come to the pit where the air is NOT fresh and your scenery (from the front row) is a parking lot. I don’t get it.

My computer tells me to shift back to forward motion and I take a few seconds to figure out how to do that. Not bad, I tell myself. I can do this. This isn’t near as bad as the fat burner program. I’m back to looking around for inspiration and my eyes land on a guy over in the free weights who appears to be contemplating the sanity of bench pressing the 180 pounds of donuts he’s loaded onto the bar. I’m skeptical. This dude doesn’t look like he can do it and he doesn’t have anyone there to catch this thing if he can’t. I’m grateful there are a number of firefighters in the place. I’m sure they will know what to do if he drops that bar on his chest, or his neck. The guy wheezes through two reps and manages to get the bar back on the rack. He’s laying there probably having a coronary when he jumps up and pulls a cell phone from his pocket. He presses the phone to his ear and walks off. He’s a lucky guy, saved from having to try again by a phone call.

The computer says I’m done. I agree. I head for the lounge chair bikes and spend another twenty minutes climbing random hills at a leisurely pace. I’ve survived another interesting day at the pit and burned off a few M&M’s. I’ve resisted the urge to eat donuts all week. Maybe I’ll have one tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Day Sixty

I want a doughnut. I would settle for a donut. What’s the difference? Very little I suspect. The latter is the phonetic spelling of doughnut, a compound word that is descriptive of the delectable little darlings. The phonetic spelling is helpful for those who flunked phonics in first grade and find it hard to distinguish which sound to choose the complicated vowel combination ‘ou’ should make. Since dough is made with flour, it is an understandable problem. However, my first grade teacher, Mrs. Adams, was a skilled teacher and I have no trouble choosing which sound to assign the pesky vowel combination.

What has this to do with the pit? Nothing. I’m about midway through my fat burner program on the half rack and the dew is falling pretty good. I think the perky girls at the front desk are cold and have turned the heat up even though the place is packed to the rafters this morning. The body heat alone would be enough. Someone is going to have to mop up later today and I assure you, it won’t be me. Anyway, I can’t help but notice that even the free weights are over run with people today. Every piece of equipment is occupied. Not that these people are doing anything. Every once in a while someone will do a push-push, a pull-pull, a lift-lift, and then they sit around looking at all the other guys who are sitting around trying to look macho. Occasionally one of them will roll their shoulders or rub a muscle. “Yeah, I’m tough. Look at me. I lifted that fifty pound doughnut…”

Perhaps this is the source of my sudden doughnut craving. The free weights do resemble doughnuts, in a Picasso sort of way. I still haven’t located the secret doughnut stash, but a few of these peeps look as if they know where to find a mouthful of cholesterol, so all hope is not lost.

Did I not just spend a week on a floating monument to gastronomical excess, you ask? Of course I did, but now that I think of it, the food service on the ship was lacking in one respect. Not once did I see a doughnut. Not that I was deprived, or exhibited any sort of restraint when it came to the food, but you would think they could have come up with a few doughnuts.

I will admit to a eating a few croissants and maybe a muffin or two, but those can be justified. Most breakfast type foods can be. Think about it. If you have a muffin you can always say it was high in fiber, or had some fruit or nuts in it. It was a healthy choice. Croissants, by virtue of their fancy name must be healthy. How can anything so light and lacking in substance be fattening? Stuff it with some fruit and you’ve just upped the nutritional value. Slap some bananas on top of your waffle and, voila, it’s now a healthy meal. Wash it down with a half gallon of orange juice, which we all know breaks down cholesterol and flushes it from your system, and you can tell your cardiologist you were a good girl on vacation.

You cannot justify a doughnut. There is nothing redeeming about the tasty treats. Doughnuts symbolize the spirit of vacationing. Vacation is all about pleasure. We derive pleasure from lots of things, eating being one of them. Sure, we could all exist on tasteless food pellets, but eating is one of the true pleasures in life and if you can’t indulge your taste buds when on vacation…, then when? So where were the doughnuts? I’m seriously thinking I need to send an addendum to our post-cruise satisfaction survey in order to point out this grievous oversight.

I can’t tell you the last time I had a doughnut. That is a sad state of affairs if I ever heard one.

Have you noticed that doughnut places don’t advertise? There is no need. Humans are born with the knowledge that doughnuts are good. Why do you think teething rings are shaped like that? Sure there are a few, well one, doughnut place that advertises, but they don’t advertise their doughnuts, or to be more accurate, donuts. They talk about their coffee and all the other stuff on the menu, but not the donuts. That’s because we all know donuts are good. We don’t have to be convinced, it’s something we are born knowing.

I think perhaps I’ve had enough for one day. I resolve to stop at the front desk on my way out and ask if tomorrow they could maybe turn the heat down and direct the ones who complain about it to the sauna, instead of all of us getting a steam bath. Maybe I’ll ask about the secret stash of doughnuts while I’m at it.

Thanks to all of you who have stuck it out with me thus far. This post marks two months of insanity and somewhere out there a doughnut is calling my name. Yes, I hear you. I’ll be right there!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Day Fifty-eight

When Daughter #2 was five she had a ballet teacher who constantly harped, “Suck in your tummy, tuck in your tush, and relax.” Daughter #2 hated her. Nearly two decades later I think perhaps the witch in the leotard may have been on to something.

The pit is crowded today with a mix of resolutionists and seasoned veterans of the workout world run indoors by the snowcapped mountains around our little valley. I’m one of the lucky ones and score a ¾ rack without waiting. My latest insanity is to program the fat burner routine into the computer and go for the ride. The machine lures you into a false sense of accomplishment with a few minutes of easy going strides and then jacks up the resistance from none to ball and chain and keeps you there until you are about to collapse before it really throws you. I mean this literally and figuratively.

I’m doing my best to keep up and wondering if the JPL in Pasadena has looked into this thing as a possible new source of rocket propulsion when the resistance level plummets. Eight, Seven, Six, Five, Four, Three, Two, One….. Houston, we have lift-off.

I’m catapulted into space. The computer shows my gravity impeded RPM (reps per minute) at 125, 140, 155, 160 and finally levels off at an atmosphere free orbit of 170. I remember the ballet teacher’s mantra. I suck in my tummy, tuck in my tush and relax all my hinges, hoping to God I can hang on to the rocket.

I can see for miles and miles and miles, or maybe it’s a hallucination. I HOPE it’s a hallucination. There’s a marshmallow on a treadmill. He’s wearing a camouflage cap (which is not working because I can still see him) and sneakers he paid $100 for fifteen years ago when he told the hot chick in the office he ran five miles a day. Two months later she left and sued the company for sexual harassment and the he’s worn the shoes to walk the dog every day since. Five years later he joined the ill fated inaugural (and final) season of the company softball team which explains the faded yellow t-shirt and too short shorts that are bunching up between his spongy thighs. His hand moves toward his crotch. His legs bow, he reaches…..NO! DO NOT DO THAT!

Houston, we have a problem. Send the aircraft carrier for me. I’m done.

Whatever wild ride life takes you on today just remember – Suck in your tummy, tuck in your tush, relax, and hang on for the ride.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Day Fifty-six

I’m back from Margaritaville folks. I was a good girl, limiting myself to only one of said frozen concoctions (see photo evidence). So what if it was a large one, it was only one, I swear. That’s me on the left accompanied by Daughter #1 and Daughter #2, both of legal age in all fifty states. I wanted to save my extraneous calories for more pleasurable things, like the chocolate buffet. I showed considerable restraint that night (see photo evidence). That tiny plate of food, coupled with three multi-course meals a day, plus snacks in between was all the entertainment a foody like me needed to be a happy sailor.

I know I should regret my excesses, but to be honest with you, I don’t. Not in the least. I had fun. I indulged. I over indulged. I gave myself permission to relax and enjoy, and because of that I had a wonderful week of real vacation time. There is nothing like guilt to put the kibosh on a good vacation.

Today is my first day back at the land lubber pit. A little stomach virus set me back a few days, but this morning I donned the stretch pants and rubber soled shoes and off I went. Not even the torrential rains could deter me this morning. I forded flooded roads and took my chances along saturated hillsides poised to slough off and block my passage. I was determined. I was intrepid. This is a gross exaggeration on my part, as it wasn’t really raining when I left the house, but in SoCal you just never know. It could happen.

A few thousand others were as determined as I and I searched the rows of equipment for one of my chosen methods of torture. Lucky me, there was one ¾ rack available. I turned on the iPod and took off on my Magic Carpet Ride scanning the pit for familiar faces. Being a rainy day there were plenty of the ‘keep the membership for days like this’ crowd, a bevy of MOP’s (Mom’s of PreSchoolers), Trance Lady, and a whole new crop of resolutionists. Not a firefighter or hunk in sight. Either I was too early for my usual crowd, or they knew better than to come on a day like this. As I shuffled my feet, more and more people arrived. The personal trainers were doing a booming business signing up new members. Oh goody. Not that I don’t want these peeps to get in shape, I do. I just want them to do it somewhere else.

I’ve got my machine and no one is taking it away from me. I ignore the line of impatient faces along the wall, watching the rows of machines, waiting for someone to either: A) Finish their workout, B) Feel guilty about hogging the machine and quit, or C) Collapse and thereby free up the machine for them. I had the feeling they didn’t really care which of these options netted them the desired result - an unoccupied machine.

I did as the music suggested and closed my eyes and let the sound take me away. Some minutes later the dew was falling harder than the rain outside, which had I admit, started to fall pretty good. I switched my grip from the swinging handle bars to the heart rate monitor. These are handy gadgets if you know how to use them. I understand it is beneficial to get your heart rate up and keep it there for a period of time. I equate this with revving your car engine every once in a while to clean out the gunk building up. Your heart and your engine will run better for the periodic maintenance.

I wrapped my fingers around the sensors and watched the screen for my results. Usually heart rate is measured in beats per minute, and expressed as a numerical value. Zero is bad. I know that much. I wait patiently for my score to appear. Instead of numbers I get fireworks. Little red dot matrix lights flash in starburst sequence. What does this mean, I ask myself? Did my heart explode? Have I won the jackpot? Have blood vessels in my retinas burst? I dart a glance over to the still long line of covetous would-be exercisers. Maybe one of them is going to get a machine sooner rather than later.

Alas, the little red dots settle into a pattern resembling a number. Granted, it is a number I’m pretty sure my heart shouldn’t be beating at, but it’s more reassuring than the starbursts. At least my heart is still beating. I flash a sinister grin at the waiting line. Not yet folks I silently tell them. I’m not done for yet.

By some miracle I’m able to complete my half hour fat burner workout. Thinking it might not be good to just stop cold turkey I head for the lounge chair bikes. I figure allowing my heart rate to come down to normal slowly is better than slamming on the brakes two feet in front of the intersection. I am a cautious driver after all.

Twenty minutes of a slow ride has my heart firing on all cylinders again and I head out. The promised rain is coming down now. Fear not, I made it home where I plan to stay for the remainder of the day. I worked off a bite or two of chocolate mousse today. I’m thinking it’s time for a nice cup of hot chocolate. Care to join me?

Many thanks to John Kay and Rushton Moreve for their lyrics.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fat Lady on a Treadmill- at Sea

Middle age white women should not wear corn rows. Especially if they have a mullet. This is day five of my seven day cruise and my second trip to the pit. My first trip was on day two when we were on our way to Honduras and Neptune was none too happy about us invading his playground. Seas were rough, seven to twelve foot swells, and walking was a challenge all its own. I promised my faithful readers I would make an appearance at the floating pit, so off I went with my good intentions and an open mind.

Since it was still early in our sea adventure lots of other folks had the same idea, so the pit was well populated. Most of these folks were the dedicated pit types with their well worn workout clothes and agenda. I was lucky to find a ¾ rack unoccupied. Hubby found the one treadmill open and we were set. When the balance and coordination genes were handed out I was at the end of the line and like the kid in the back row of the Kindergarten class who only drew pictures with the black crayon because it was all that was left in the box when it finally made its way to him, I, shall we say, got the vanilla crayon. I can barely walk and sip my margarita at the same time, much less do anything that requires more than simple brain to limb commands.

Let me describe for you this wonder of modern torture, the floating pit. There is a room full of yoga stuff and spin cycles (not to be confused with laundry equipment), and a corner full of free weights. The back row is occupied by those mysterious people powered, padded benches with weights attached, a water fountain and a mini bar full of energy drinks and such as (like any of us need more calories or caffeine). The middle row has treadmills, ¾ racks, bikes and lounge chair bikes. The front row, the one with the floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Caribbean Sea has a few ¾ racks and a bunch of treadmills. The only machines with televisions are the ones in front of the windows. My rack is one of these. I’m confused, a frequent occurrence, as to why a person would want to watch television when they could be watching the world go by, but there they are, these personal size screens, strategically placed to block the view.

I climb aboard, program in the easy rider workout, and start peddling. Did I mention the seven to twelve foot seas? This ship is rocking and rolling, and so am I. I hang on for dear life and pedal, darting my head from side to side to see around the television which I have no idea how to turn off, or change the channel. I have my stone dead Ipod and headphones (yep, I forgot to turn it off when I put it away on the plane and we still landed without incident,) but elect not to listen to the audio of the unidentified program playing eighteen inches in front of me. The rack is situated on thick foam pads which add to the rocking motion and will do nothing for my ass when I go flying off this thing, as they are only under the feet, not where I expect to land. An oversight, I’m sure.

If everyone would spend a half hour in the pit every day, the cruise line would go out of business. I’m sure most of their profits come from the sale of alcoholic beverages. I’m not much of a drinker, but I’m swaying like a drunken sailor and trying to get a glimpse of the horizon to orient my inner ear, clutching the handle bars with white knuckles. WEEEEEEEE! Who needs alcohol? Who needs Disneyland?

After a while I get the hang of the thing and my mind begins to wander. That’s when I notice the thump, wreep, wreep, thump coming from the middle row, I think. One of those treadmills sounds like someone clubbing baby seals. To make up for my lack of coordination genes I have a gene that makes me sensitive to screeching sounds. You know the ones, fingernails on blackboards, nail files and emery boards, and baby seals being whacked. Suddenly the pitiful excuse for programming is looking better. I manage to tough it out for twenty five minutes without falling off, or having my skin crawl completely off. I have survived my first floating pit experience.

That brings me to today and trip number two to the pit. The do gooders have either given up, or got up a lot earlier than I did. The pit is only half occupied so I choose a ¾ rack in the middle row where there are no televisions. From my vantage point I have a good view of the water which is somewhat calmer than the last time we came this way. A few of the treadmills in the front row have big' out of order' signs, probably the clubbing baby seals ones, as today’s sound effects are the usual pit variety. Most of my fellow volunteers for torture are C’s and a few C+’s and C-‘s. There is the C in front of me wearing her gold jewelry, capri’s, sailor striped shirt, and flip flops. Yep, flip flops. She’s on the treadmill, walking at a pretty good clip, but not quite fast enough. Every five steps or so she has to take a few little running steps to catch up. There is the woman in her plaid pajama pants and the one that isn’t clear on the concept of leggings being something you wear underneath you outer garments.

There are a few C-25 men running, and then there is the female C with the mullet in corn rows. She and her male companion are moving from one piece of equipment to the other every three minutes or so, clearly not the seasoned pit goers. Luckily she isn’t moving fast enough for all those beads in her hair to clink together or it would sound like a castanet band in here. I suspect this is their first cruise and they have a list of the ships amenities and have decided they will take advantage of all of them while on board. When they leave the pit they will pull out the list, put a big check mark next to the pit, and move on to the next thing on the list. I have reason to suspect it will be the buffet , which I’m sure they have visited more than once.

I have no room to talk. I began my day with waffles with banana syrup, whipped cream, hash browns, bacon, a croissant, and my homage to eating healthy, orange juice. Thirty minutes on the ¾ rack did nothing to negate the effects of that meal, or any of the other similar ones I’ve had this week, but at least I went to the pit and made the effort. All this thinking and writing is making me hungry. I think I’ll see what’s on the buffet and maybe I’ll take a walk around the deck. Or not.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Day Forty

I’m thinking I need a hat. I have several as most people do. I have sun visors and sun hats and gimme baseball caps. I have knit ones and straw ones and once I even had a paper one. What has this to do with the pit? Today there were several women there wearing hats. Not just any hat, but baseball style with stuff on them. Sparkly stuff to be exact. These women had something I do not, and I’m not talking about the hat here, if you get my drift. One of them was on the step machine, not to be confused with the stair thing-a-ma-jiggy, and she was backwards. I assumed she did this on purpose and not because she didn’t know any better as she was, shall we say, physically fit, leading me to believe she knew her way around the place.

Then there's Workout Barbie on the treadmill. She's tuned into something on her iPod and going through some kind of choreographed routine that looked vaguely like cheerleading. Kick, kick, shimmy butt left, shimmy right, shake your pom poms, repeat. This wouldn’t have attracted much attention if she hadn’t been wearing shorts the size of a band aid, a camisole top and those perky little anklet socks with her color coordinated sneakers. Her sun streaked pony tail cascaded from the hat and swayed in tandem with the shaking going on below. I need one of those hats. I’m thinking the crystals on them channel energy waves that I need.

I’ve been brave this week, taking on some new workouts on the same ole machines. Today I started on the stair thing-a-ma-jiggy and tried out the fat burner setting. This is something like jumping from the frying pan into the fire, but I managed twenty minutes on it, a testament to my increased endurance if nothing else. From my vantage point I can see the whole place. There are still plenty of resolutionists, easily detected by their lack of enthusiasm and confusion over how to turn the machines on – most require only that you start moving – and a large group of women who’s offspring are in the baby sitting area, and a whole slew of softball players. One of them is on the ¾ rack just in front of the stair thing-a-ma-jiggies and she and her friend are shaking their pony tails pretty good and talking the whole time. She’s wearing cute little Capri pants and a tank top over a sports bra. Nothing unusual- until she rolls the tank top up and tucks it into her bra, exposing her pre having children, not an ounce of fat, abdomen. The guy on the stairs behind her looks like he’s going to have and apoplexy, however, he recovers before we have to call the paramedics. I’m impressed.

The place is crowded, but I’m able to find a ¾ rack that is unoccupied and off I go. Feeling brave, or just oxygen deprived, I set it on fat burner and get going. I haven’t done this particular one on this setting before, but I kind of like it. It keeps flashing a big red heart at me. As a romance writer I find this rather endearing until I realize it wants me to grip the hand sensors so it can calculate my heart rate. I don’t need it to tell me it’s somewhere near ‘explode’, but I do it anyway. I was right and the machine flashes a slow down message which I know in my nearly ready to explode heart won’t do any good unless I stop completely. This is not an option as I know if I stop, I’m done. I keep going and smile at the pretty red heart.

I’m hoping that the influx of resolutionists will die out(figuratively of course) some in the next few weeks and the place won’t be so crowded, but in case it doesn’t I think I know what I can do. The girl on the ¾ rack gave me the idea. If I roll up my shirt and tuck it in I bet the place will clear out in no time. Or maybe they’ll just ask me to leave. Maybe I should think this through a little before I try it.

Daughter #1 is waiting for me to finish up, so I bid goodbye to the pretty red heart and we head out. As we push through the tinted glass doors a car drives up and discharges a passenger. The woman, a C-30 something is carrying her purse and a rolled up yoga mat. Before the car is past her toes she has her cigarette lit up and is blowing smoke that finds its way into my overtaxed lungs. I’m speechless, partly from lack of oxygen, partly from shock. This is SoCal. Smoking is prohibited just about everywhere except inside your own home, so this display has me shaking my head in wonder. Takes all kinds. Maybe she needs one of those special hats too.

This is probably the last blog for a while. I’m off on a cruise in a few days and as the ship has a pit too I plan to visit it a time or two. I’ll take notes and catch up with you when I get back. I should have a thing or two to say by then. Until we meet again….