9/23/2004

Workout Man!!!

My first workout and orientation and took place Tuesday night at 7PM. Going in I was in a very distracted state. When you don't have a routine down, every step feels conspicuous and self-conscious. And boy was I self-conscious: clean underwear? Check. How high should my socks go? Should my legs be so paper white? Sure, it's New England.

Once I got there I realized I forgot my lock. I memorized the combination and told my wife where to find it just in case. I brought the combination, but forgot the lock. D'oh.

My interview was conducted with a well-conditioned staffer who seemed to listen and adjust his "ideal" workout to my needs. He seemed surprised by the amount of time I said was able to devote -- perhaps his other clients are in a much greater hurry. I listened carefully, and he seemed to reciprocate.

I was worried about a lot of things. I'm a tall man and, decades ago, I found the equipment to be poorly sized for me -- grips in the wrong place, seats too high or too low, etc. I was afraid after all my psyching up, I'd not be able to use a few key pieces of gear. Turns out I was wrong -- with the settings at maximum, everything worked the way it was supposed to.

The next fear was of looking like a completely unconditioned pussy. I mean, I am a completely unconditioned pussy, but I didn't want a lightweight setting on the bench press to telegraph it to the world. (Perhaps the next big fitness idea will be a merger of a gym and a porno video store: all the weights will be wrapped in brown paper so no one can see what you're lifting.) I soldiered on and tried to immerse myself in the arcana of technique and muscle groups.

Some of the initial settings were too low, others seemed low but on the 15th rep got harder, and still others felt good after 5 and killed me after 8 reps. The instructor was exactly what I needed: clinical and professional and without a whiff of judgment as I tried to gauge my ability.

My lower back muscles are in terrible shape and I may only do the lightest exercise down there. I found my left leg going numb and the "tender" area of my lower back to start throbbing -- clear signs, if I were moving televisions or pushing wheelbarrows, that I was overdoing it and should rest up. This is something I have to watch out for. It really woke me up to how these machines target specific muscles.

I took my first ride on the elliptical machine -- the whing-whang device you see in rows of 12 with svelte aerobicizing women using in complete asynchronous rhythm. The thought necessary to coordinate all those motions pushed out any feelings of looking stupid. Are there "masculine" and "feminine" pieces of gym equipment? "Free Weights Are From Mars, Elliptical Machines Are From Venus"? I'll have to keep an eye on that.

At the end of the lengthy visit I did not exactly have a good workout, more like a runthrough of one. Yet that night I slept more deeply than I have in a long time, and the next day I was literally exploding with energy. Partly a physical release, partly an emotional release. Now I need to craft a schedule: one early morning session, one after-work session, and one weekend session.

Oh, one more thing about the shoes. It turns out my shoes are running shoes. They have little cleats on them, but look otherwise like sneakers. They are Nike Air BRS 1000s (go look them up yourself, I'm not your goddam search engine). I may have to buy real cross trainers.

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