A perky thirty-something on one of the machines caught my eye. Perhaps it was 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 mirror. 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
I started getting the hang of it, but after 90 seconds, my quads were screaming 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 engineer 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 gauze 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.”
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
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 throw 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
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 thrown 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 trusty 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