Monday, February 22, 2010

So I Went to the Gym....

I was on the elliptical machine. Pedaling (or whatever you call it on that contraption) and getting nowhere. Slowly. Allen, the trainer, had given me a sheet of paper which outlined the "Cardio" workout. 25 minutes on the treadmill at various speeds and inclines, followed by the dread elliptical. 25 minutes, Resistance 7. I had been at it 2 minutes when I was ready to quit. I'd already done 30 minutes on the treadmill (speed 3.2, incline 3.0). I was watching Dr. Oz on one of the several big screens in front of the various machines. You have to have a radio tuned to FM 97.5 to hear it, though, so I was reading along with the closed captioning. The people around me seemed pretty tuned in to their workouts and unaware of the woman who had gained 100 pounds since losing her job. Armbands with mp3 players. Sleeveless T-shirts. Speed 7.0, running, getting nowhere. Where am I?

Before I got on the treadmill I walked into the locker room looking for the trainer who told me to meet him at 3. It was 3 and he didn't seem to be around, same as last Friday. He was there in the locker room and looked surprised to see me. Looking more surprised, however, was the man of, oh, I'd guess 58 years, standing at a nearby locker, naked as a newborn. It's strange. We have this cultural juvenility when it comes to nudity on our various glowing screens, but in person it's no big deal. Can't square that one. Anyway, the naked man cowered and the trainer told me he'd go get the cardio workout sheet for me.

Maybe I misunderstood. I thought he meant he'd get it promptly. This is when I jumped on the treadmill. Figured I'd pass the time and look ambitious. 18:45/mile the machine blinked at me. My heart rate was 168. 174. 179. 164. I walked and walked and walked. Or at least I thought I had. After 20 minutes the machine tells me I'd walked 1.3 miles. Prove it, StarTrac. I'm exactly where I started. Nevertheless, I felt like a vague sense of accomplishment. (Please note: A sense of accomplishment does not always accompany actual accomplishment.). But now what? And where is Allen? Not seeing him anywhere, I jumped on the treadmill again, this time at the other end of the row, to watch Brett Baier on Fox News. According the closed-captions he thinks President Obama wants to "jam health care down our throats". Is this the only applicable metaphor? I began to sense futility seeing the timer back at 3:15, 3:16, 3:17. A faint whisper crept across my mind, "What are you doing?" Over by the door, there's Allen! No time to be caught slacking. I turn the speed up from 3.0 to 3.2 just in case he finally comes over. He doesn't. He's at his desk, chatting up one of the other trainers. 6:21, 6:22, 6:23. What is he doing? Did he forget I was over here? 7:55, 7:56. Here he comes! 8:10. Nope, there he goes! 9:25, 9:26. Here he comes again! 9:58, 9:59. "Here's your cardio workout".

It's been 4 minutes on the elliptical now and I don't know where to look any more. I can't see outside nor can I see the TVs and I don't know that I'd want to anyway. I close my eyes and try to see if that helps. It doesn't. I can't concentrate with this Rihanna song blaring out of the hidden, but ubiquitous speakers. "The wait is over, the wait is over." No it's not, I'm still waiting for this song to be over so I can think! It ends and Green Day starts whining about something or other. I open my eyes. 10:11, 10:12. How am I supposed to do this for 25 minutes? Then, there it was again, "What are you doing?" I try the eyes closed thing again. Sweat. Now my eyes burn. 12:10, 12:11. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!?" I get off this ridiculous roller-coaster of an exercise machine, go down the stairs and leave. How long have I been here? I get in my car and drive home. What was I doing in that place? What were any of those people doing there? Really, what? How are you supposed to think in that place, all that noise, all those people? And no windows, the view never changes for mile after mile (or in my case, mile after .6 mile). If you can't put these things outside, at least give me a window. Where was I?
Exerting all of that energy, getting nowhere in particular, TV after TV after TV, incessant pop music, wasting whole swaths of time because "experts" tell us this is what we need to do. Fits with the rest of life. You haven't truly known existential dread until you've spent an afternoon on an elliptical machine while trying to figure out why.

I'm meeting Allen at 3 again tomorrow. Shoulders.