Monday, October 12, 2009

The Octopus Elliptical from Hell

I sauntered into the gym yesterday as I have done for the past 20 years, with all the confidence my saggy T-shirt could give me. “2002 District Sectionals.” The multicolored tennis balls on my shirt were cracked and faded, but yes, I had been there. Once.

A perky thirty-something on one of the machines caught my eye. Perhaps it wa
s her toned, tanned Barbie-like arms. Or maybe her Barbie-like blond ponytail swinging with each graceful stride. Or was it the glistening sweat rolling past her trendy UnderArmour onto taut Barbie-like hammies? I watched her with that “I’ll have what she’s having” look and decided it was going to be a tough workout.

I know the gym equipment as well as the crow's feet in my 10X mirr
or. I had been involved with the initial start-up for the Wellness Center. My very first request was for petty cash for a Jane Fonda aerobics album. Album, as in vinyl. Legwarmers. Terry cloth sweatband. That was when we were jumping and stretching to Billy Ocean, Jimmy Buffet, and Boz Scaggs. Hawt. And we served punch after class.

We eventually got real gym equipment and I became quite comfortable with it. Treadmill: forward and up. Elliptical: forward and back. Cybex: up and down. Barbells: uh and oh. I had pretty much christened every piece there. Most of them were my friends and had served me well.

But Barbie was on a new torture device, and it intrigued me. I couldn’t wait until she left for the stretching corner so I could hop on this new-fangled machine, because surely I could capture her same stride. I situated my iPod earphones. Right ear - check. Left ear (no sound, but lets me hear the right ear better) - check.

My first step up (way up – it was a tall machine) was a surprise. The foot piece went straight down, not forward as I had expected. I managed to catch myself after whacking my elbow on what was apparently an upright hand grip. I firmly planted the other leg into place. There were a dozen buttons on the console, none of which said “defibrillator” so I was fairly certain I wasn’t on a suicide mission. There were three different places to put your hands, and I envisioned this would be quite simple for an octopus, but now I had a decision to make. Straight in front and stationary? Down to the side and slightly pumping? Or swinging at my side and really trucking along?

I started stepping, but the up and down motion was something that was not in my muscle memory. I tilted sideways to the right and nearly fell down the 18 stories inches to the ground. I hit my hip on a railing, but kept stepping. My stumble had forced me a bit to the left and my hip bounced off the railing on the other side. I now have matching hip contusions, all to the tune of TobyMac singing “…fall to the earth lik
e a crashing wave...” in my right ear only, of course. My pride wouldn’t allow me to stop stepping, so I forged ahead.

I started getting the hang of it, but after 90 seconds, my quads were s
creaming for mercy, and I realized then that I had the machine on the highest resistance setting. I hit a few more buttons to relieve my suffering. I switched my iPod to some Andy Stanley for a little inspiration and perhaps some divine intervention.

I’m in the groove now, and it’s time to be like Barbie. Let’s see what these guns will do with the other arm options. I reached up to grab the gliding arm things and lost my balance again. This time I lurched forward, and my right foot slipped off the foot piece, which in turn made me whack my right knee on the middle rail piece some brilliant e
ngineer thought was necessary to put there, just because he could. And I’m sure he’s in cahoots with the orthopedic surgeons in our town.

Keep moving. Just keep moving.

I’m settled into a groove again. Me, Andy, and the Perky Octopus Elliptical from Hell. My right foot is getting sore, mostly from compensation because of the wad of ga
uze that I use to pad a thin spot in my well-worn shoes. The gauze is now wadded up in the toe. And Andy’s in my right ear telling me “don’t judge and measure God by your circumstances.”

Oo--kaaay then.

That’s when Barbie walked by and gave me a perky, toothy smile. “Don’t you just love that machine?"

Have I mentioned how I hate “perky?” And that youth is so wasted on the young?

“It’s great,” I lied, perkily. It’s amazing how much energy you can fake muster when someone is actually watching you.

I very quickly found out that speaking, even two words, while stepping and arm-gliding and balance-keeping and message-listening – two words were enough to thr
ow my rhythm and balance off again. Clunk. I fell forward, this time whacking my left knee on the same doggone rail. My arms flailed in the air, grasping for anything that would hold me upright, but I wasn’t smart enough to stop stepping and as such, the right arm handle came back and whumped me in the forehead (which could only mean I was doubled over in pain before it hit me). Praise God nobody had given me a stick of gum. This could have been ugly uglier.

Barbie skipped out of the gym and I glanced over my shoulder to make sure she was gone. I stopped the machine. Four minutes and fifty-five seconds of being thr
own under the exercise bus.

I went to the stretching corner and licked my wounds. Caught my breath. Told Andy to take a hike. (He was not meant for such a time as this). And when I was able to move again, I adjusted my high-tech shoe gauze and went back to my t
rusty treadmill - my safe, happy place. Forward and up. To the tune of “Burn for You” (thanks, Fee Band), fire in my bones and all.

This morning I woke up in the middle of a dream where I was playing at Wimbledon in a pair of steel-toed work boots. It was one of the most painful crawls out of bed since Jane Fonda bellered “Feel the burn?”

I hate perky.

Tea tonight: Young hyson


Annie K said...

Thanks for the laugh this morning (even though it was at your expense). You made it way longer than I would have..and I probably would've flattened Barbie on my way off the machine...

vanilla said...

o o
- 0

Eyeglasses & Endzones said...

Uh that sounds like a perfect excuse NOT to exercise if you ask me!!! Sorry about all the ruckus...some of them need better instructions!

Helen said...

How are you feeling today? You have my deepest admiration for your perserverence.

Anne L.B. said...


(laughing too hard to say more)

katdish said...

Oh, Candy! I'm laughing with you, not at you...

Okay - I'm totally laughing at you! Snort!

Jeanne Damoff said...

Wow, Candy. This is one of the funniest stories I've read in a while. I laughed out loud numerous times. 200 points for you! I hope they help soothe some of the bruises (on your body and your pride).

gitz said...

ok, woman... i so need to see a picture of this piece of equipment! [and am suddenly grateful i can no longer go to the gym...]

Beth E. said...

Now THAT'S dedication! lol said...

I don't even like Barbie! Love the machine...bragger!


Love that last picture :)

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