Monday, March 29, 2010

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Battle of the Dollar Menus

It’s the war of the dollar menus. I just noticed today – okay, so I’m a little slow- that the burger joint across the street has large window cling signs advertising their dollar menu and the pit has their version of the dollar menu up in their window, the grand opening, join for a dollar sign. From the looks of things, the burger joint is winning. There’s a steady flow of vehicles through their parking lot and drive through, while this Monday morning it’s me and one other slightly insane person at the pit. As Elvis sang Jailhouse Rock I heard the bars clank shut behind me and I began to wonder if I’d made the right choice with my dollar.

Of course, there’s nothing quite like spending a half hour or more on the half rack while contemplating a giant photo of a hamburger, to motivate you. The view from the cardio machines includes a busy street, a large discount store, and the aforementioned burger joint. Not much to look at, giant burger photo aside.

I love a good burger, which is part of the reason I now have to spend so much time at the pit, and that picture is tempting. Fantasizing about the burger isn’t going to help me any, but I can’t help myself. I can almost taste its flame broiled goodness as I shuffle my feet to the beat pounding through my headset. Yeah, I can have one. I’d only have to ride this devil’s machine for another hour or two to work it off. Of course I’d want the fries too, so make that three or four hours. That pretty much killed my desire for the burger in the pretty picture.

Twice, a few decades ago, I birthed a couple of beautiful daughters. My body hasn’t been the same since. Not that I’m complaining, I’m just saying things are different. Things spread out. Things shift. Things that were once nice and tight are no longer. (Get your mind out of the gutter; I’m talking about abdominal muscles here) Then along came the long awaited, much anticipated, liberating menopause, and along with it, more changes. Fat from those burgers and fries used to go one place and now it goes someplace different and is refusing to budge.

In an effort to evict this unwanted fat I’ve taken to using the weight resistance machines at the pit. I’m thinking if the fat won’t go away maybe I can at least tone the muscles underneath and do a better job of sucking it in. I know, that’s a lousy cop out, but it’s a motivating one.

I’ve also come to the conclusion that the only living thing that should have bat wings is a bat. I really don’t want to worry about slapping myself silly if I raise my arms above my head. I want to wear a sleeveless blouse and not worry about the wind catching my sails and dragging me off course. I want to hail a cab in NYC and not slap some tourist in the face. This is another of those motivating images.

I’ve become rather fond of the gut crunching machines. They’re much more fun than doing sit ups on the hard floor and it’s become sort of a game to switch the pin and twist the knob and see how far I can push those weights, and myself. I’m taking it slow- a few repetitions then a break, then a few more. I concentrate on the machines that promise to work the core muscles, abdominals and back, and the arms of course. I don’t want to look like a lumberjack, but that possibility is so far in the future I can’t even see it.

As I attempted to shove my 1956 Cadillac uphill one more time, the burger across the street looked better and better. I dug my heels in and shoved as hard as I could as the Cadillac threatened to flatten me on the downhill side. I sucked it up and gave the land yacht a heave ho and back up the hill it went. I had visions of a spectacular crash at the bottom of the hill. I decided then that burger wasn’t worth the buck, the pain, or the humiliation of having to call a tow truck to haul my classic chassis to the repair shop when the carburetor fails or the fuel line becomes too clogged to function. I eased the Cadillac down the hill and parked it safely at the curb. In the battle of the dollar menus I think I made the right choice. I shoved it into gear again and tootled on home to a nice chicken salad.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Rakes and Tasty Cakes

Today was day one at the new pit. Yep, another new one. This one is in Pennsylvania. No kidding. It’s actually just over the river and through the woods from my Western New Jersey home. There isn’t a lot of commerce in my neck of the woods, just a truck stop and the highway robbery version of the golden arches so I usually cross the river (the same one Washington crossed) to do my shopping and such.

Much to my delight a new pit began operation a few weeks ago across the parking lot from my favorite discount department store. This is more than convenient since even in dew soaked workout clothes I’m probably better dressed than most of the other shoppers there. You know the web site devoted to covert photos of shoppers seen at the big box store? I think most of those were taken at this location. No kidding. So, back to my story… This new pit calls itself an express pit. It’s small with only a dozen or so cardio machines, about the same number of resistance machines and a small free weight area. No body builders need apply.

The place was crowded today. My arrival brought the total of peeps working out to five. My fellow torture enthusiasts were all C’s give or take a year or two. A couple were on the lounge chair bikes and the others were contemplating the breakfast croissants at the BK across the street while sauntering along on the treadmills. I glanced at the place wistfully too before I came to my senses. All the cardio machines have their own mini televisions, but I much prefer my own audio mix so I plugged in and tuned out on a ¾ rack.

Thought #1 – Kriminy this is work!

Thought #2 – Don’t I need to be someplace else about right now?

Thought #3 - I think our ancestors had the right idea. They didn’t worry so much about gaining weight. The life they lived was much different than ours. Sugar and meat were luxuries, not necessities. I’m not saying I think we should go back to chopping wood, washing clothes in a pot or a river, growing and raising our own food. I’m just saying, they might have been on to something. Machines do much of our work for us now freeing us to sit long hours interacting with yet more machines to the point we have invented machines to help us exercise off the weight we’ve gained as a result of all this ‘progress’.

The last few days I’ve come to appreciate good old fashioned hand tools as a fitness regime. After a day and a half of raking leaves with a human powered – that would be me- lawn rake, I can tell you there isn’t a machine in the pit that can do what that one simple tool can do for you. Every muscle in my body has been put to the test and I can say – failed. One by one my muscles revolted. Not being one to give up easily I worked through the pain and managed to relocate most of the leaves, but not before I gained a healthy respect for that four letter word – work.

Thought #4 – So what the heck am I doing here? Since it’s raining outside the answer is rather obvious, but I did try to rationalize my way out the door before I finished the half hour pre-programmed whoop a** I’d chosen. I’m sure I won’t get here every day, but I’m going to give it a good try. As much as I dislike moving my body around this much I have to admit I never would have been able to relocate all those leaves in such a short period of time if I hadn’t been torturing myself so often over the last few months. I had hoped the climb up our driveway would be easier too, but I tried it and it’s still a killer of a hill. Nothing short of moving the house to the bottom will change that, so I guess I better stick with the pit a while longer.

I finished the whooping, thanks to a little old fashioned rock and roll, and staggered to my cubby. No lockers here, just cubbies. Just like being in Kindergarten again. I gave a thought to trying out one of the fancy resistance machines then I remembered the one in the garage, and the side yard still covered in leaves, and decided I’d let the old fashioned lawn rake give me another workout when the rain stops. I’ll save the fancy machines for days when I’ve nothing better to do than sit on the deck and watch the raptors searching for a meal. Maybe I should try plugging into my music while I rake leaves. On second thought – no. I’m afraid a bear might think I resemble a Tasty Cake, so I’ll just listen to the sounds of the forest. Better a chicken than a Tasty Cake.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Spring Break

I’ve taken to the road for a week and as usual I’ve been looking for excuses to skip my workouts. My hotel boasted a fitness center on its website, and true enough it has one. What they didn’t say was it’s the size of my closet back home and has exactly three cardio machines- a treadmill, an ½ rack, and a lounge chair bike. I can make do, but it’s tempting to use the modest size as an excuse. Believe me; I’ve thought of more excuses than there are gators in Florida. Some were legitimate, some not so much. I did deserve a break after a cross country trip that along with the beginning of daylight savings time took four of my twenty-four hours away, but that was the only one that had a chance of keeping me from the pit.

I started out my first day with a biscuit smothered in artery paste and a glass of orange juice that everyone knows is the antidote for cholesterol, so I really didn’t need to go to the pit. Lunch was a modest salad I followed up with a bag of peanut M&M’s. Everyone knows peanuts are a good source of protein, so I had nothing to feel bad about there.

Rationalization is something I do very well, but alas, I sucked it up and went to the mini pit. Luckily my fellow transients aren’t much into physical fitness and I had the closet to myself. This had a few unexpected advantages. I cranked the air conditioning down to arctic blast and selected what I wanted to watch on the television. No arguing, no wishing I could change the channel. I was in complete control. I considered locking the door from the inside just in case someone else was into self inflicted torture, but I stuffed the remote control out of sight instead.

In a sorry attempt to make the room look twice its size some moron covered one whole wall with floor to ceiling mirrors. Only a decorator who’s never seen the inside of a pit would do an asinine thing like that. No one wants to see what they look like while they’re working out, especially me. I understand certain dance type classes benefit from mirrors so participants can see and emulate the instructor, but this is a closet. There’s hardly enough room to walk around the machines much less do any sort of dance or yoga moves. So there I was, dewing all over the place, trying to concentrate on a good soap opera but the scary reflection in the mirror kept drawing me back. Egads! There was the breakfast biscuit, the bag of peanuts and a whole host of other dietary indiscretions staring me in the face. It was a kind of scared straight moment. I vowed then and there to give up my wicked ways and eat nothing but lettuce and broccoli from then on.

A half hour later I crawled back to my room, changed into a clean tent and picked up Daughter #2. Of course she was hungry. This little town doesn’t have much to choose from in the way of lettuce and broccoli laden menus so we chose a Mexican restaurant. My cheese enchiladas came with a pile of shredded lettuce with a dollop of salsa on top which I shoved to the side of the plate. It was still there when the nice busboy took it away. My resolve lasted a whole four hours, maybe less. I guess I need to go back to the mini-pit and take another look. Maybe I should put a big mirror in front of me at the table so I could watch myself eat. Perhaps then I’d have more willpower. I’ll be home in a few days and looking for a new pit. Maybe I should look for one with mirrored walls. Or not.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Day One hundred seven

We went to the CCPit yesterday. There’s nothing unusual about that and mostly nothing exciting about it either so I selected a rack, cranked the music up to blast away the pain level, programmed the onboard computer to the cross country setting and glided off. This program mimics flat roads, hills and dales that you are supposed to imagine in all their spring glory as you trudge along. My imagination isn’t that good. I did pretty well for the first few minutes, imagining…, well…., nothing. I was too busy checking out all the different televisions suspended from the ceiling in front of me. What can I say? I’m easily distracted and it’s a good thing too. Without the distraction I would have to notice the nasty pain in my thighs and the fact that my toes were going numb.

A talking head on one screen was telling me about the latest congressional scandal. I didn’t catch all of it as it’s hard to read the scrolling captions and not fall off the rack, but I did catch something about the lack of shower curtains and towels in the congressional gym. I’m an advocate of proper towel use in public places so I was taken aback when the female talking head said women don’t have to worry about that sort of thing. Au contraire mes amis. Have I not harped on this enough? Apparently not since there is an epidemic of inadequate towel usage, even at the highest, or lowest, levels of the pit world. If that female news reader doesn’t think women have a similar problem she should come by the CCPit on Tuesday morning just as the water aerobics class is letting out. I’m sure she would be lobbying congress for stimulus money to buy extra large towels for every pit locker room, male and female- as soon as she stumbled blindly out of the place. A towel in every Pit!! Or something like that.

While I pondered the towel problem I noticed a C and her personal trainer down in the strength training area. He put her on the thigh master machine and walked away leaving her to tone those thighs for a while. The talking heads went from the missing congressional towels to alligator wrestling, and I tuned back in. Seems the sport is gaining in popularity in Florida where I can only suppose there is an surplus of big, really stupid people, and someone thought this would be a good way to thin them out. They even have rules and everything. I’m not sure the alligators play by the rules, but the people are supposed to whether their leathery opponents do or not. I didn’t catch all the rules, but I’m pretty sure rule #1 is – Don’t go in the water with the alligator. This one is usually posted on the fence surrounding the amphibian enclosure and the best wrestlers are the ones who can’t read and thus miss this most important rule. Since alligator wrestlers can’t be expected to read words more than five letters in length, the word alligator is accompanied by a picture too, but still this sport exists.

The C on the thigh master was still there, gradually working those thigh muscles, waiting for her trainer to remember where she was and tell her to stop, either that or she’s hoping to become an alligator wrestler. On screen the Bubba demonstrated his technique- lull the gator into a sense of security, straddle it, hold on like a bronc rider and hope the damned slimy creature doesn’t grab some dangling part of your body, roll you under the water, hold you there until you drown, and then have you for lunch. I can see how strong thighs would be an asset in gator wrestling. A brain would be a better one.

All this time I was slogging through virtual swamps, dragging my reluctant body up those damned hills and dales with great balls of mud on my shoes. At one point I even thought I could hear the mud sucking at my feet, but then I realized it was just me – breathing. If a gator had been after me at that point I couldn’t have outrun it. My thighs were quivering masses and in no shape to wrestle anything or anyone. I fought my way out of a bog and up another slippery hill. Just as I thought I might make it out of the swamp alive a hippopotamus sat on my machine and my feet ground to a halt. Darned swamp animals.

Today we ventured over to the VPit which will be closing later this week for a two week overhaul and expansion. The place is all ready enormous, but in a few weeks will be (so they tell me) the largest Pit in California. Boggles the mind, doesn’t it? In addition to the growth spurt they will be getting all new equipment, and lots of it. This is good news for the people who go there to actually torture themselves as it’s difficult to find a weight machine that doesn’t have a Bro or two hanging off of it comparing Bro truck notes, tattoo’s, or calling their agent to see why they haven’t been offered any auditions lately.

I set myself up on the stair stepper thing-a-ma-bob, you know the one, there aren’t any actual moving steps, just foot paddles so it’s like climbing in place with concrete blocks around your ankles. The spokes-model on the one next to me thinks she’s so cool stepping that fast. I set mine to the ‘kill the old woman’ setting and step it up. Willow the spokes-model is taking shallow little steps at breakneck speed. I’m bottoming out on nearly every step, which is similar to climbing stairs three at a time, and clawing my way back to the top with each step only to be plunged back down the stairwell again. Once I made it back to the top and it let me stay there for a while to catch my breath (like that was going to happen, my breath had run off long ago and I wasn’t going to catch it) I thought about reaching over and pushing a few buttons on Willow’s machine just to see if she could keep up on my setting.

I was really considering doing it until I noticed plumber guy on one of the lounge chair bikes. My mood improved accordingly and I forgot about shallow Willow and our race to the top of the skyscraper. I was winning anyway and she knew it. There’s nothing like the view from the top to inspire, so once I made it the fifty floors I’d set as my goal I headed over to a half rack for some more torture. I chose wisely so I would still have a good view of plumber guy. I took a few deep breaths, selected a good song to get me moving and climbed aboard. Another few seconds and the computer was programmed to ‘kill her in small increments’ and that’s when I looked up and HE WAS GONE. I knew I should have gone over there and tossed one of those people over the rail so I could have a bike next to him, but my Southern upbringing told me that wasn’t nice. So there I was, intermittently killing myself and my inspiration was gone.

To say I was devastated may go too far, but I was certainly irritated. I’m taking this show on the road next week and this was my last chance to get a good look at plumber guy for a while. I spent the next twenty minutes letting the machine kick my booty and doing a pretty good job of it figuratively too. Oh well. Next week I’m going to be in Astronaut –ville and you can bet I’ll be on the lookout for something, or someone, out of this world. Maybe I’ll even find a real life alligator wrestler. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Day Ninety-nine

I’ve got a few disjointed thoughts today in regard to the pit. I could probably write an entire blog on just one of these, but I’m lazy so you’re going to get the condensed version today. So here they are in no particular order.

Thought #1 – Today must have been ‘show your ink day’ at the pit. I’ve never seen so much body art in one room as I did today. At first I thought the C-25 on the stair thing-a-ma-jiggy had on a long sleeved shirt, but on closer inspection I saw that it was a ‘sleeve’ tattoo and a brightly inked one at that. I didn’t get close enough to see what else she had inked. Let’s just say I wondered why a pretty young thing would want to cover up perfectly good skin with ink that won’t wash off. The weight room was full of guys showing off their tats, most of which I wished they would cover up. There is always the exception to the rule and I found it on one of the machines. I don’t think he heard me chanting ‘take it off’ from where I was up in the aerobics crow’s nest because he kept the wife beater on. The shirt allowed just enough to peek out that I wanted to see more – whether more was inked or not. So my mind is bouncing around faster than my feet and inspired by some of the ink around me I start thinking. I know this is a dangerous thing to do when your brain is oxygen deprived, but I did it anyway. Call me curious, but what happens if say you get a size C body part inked and then somewhere down the line the body part becomes a size A? The body part has shrunk or shriveled, so how does that dragon look then? Can you still tell it’s a dragon?

Thought #2 - I recently read an article that said C’s who workout regularly have better long and short term memory than those who don’t. The article attributed larger hippocampi for this increased memory power. I don’t know so much about this. If it’s true, why can I still see my hippobutti but I can’t find my car in the parking lot? Just saying.

Thought #3 – As Daughter #1 and I arrived at the pit we stepped aside to let a young mother exit. She had an 18month old balanced on her hip and a three year old future beauty queen by the hand. Both children had red swollen eyes and tears streaming down their cheeks. As they passed us by we heard the mother say to the whining child beside her, “I know what the other kids said, but you are a princess.” We both smiled and laughed through our workouts. This I have declared is my new motto, the one I will pull out when the rejection letters and emails come in and the bullies of the world are at my door. Now if I could just find my tiara.