On a perfect day, perfectly suited for outdoor pursuits—an afternoon at the beach, 9 holes of golf, maybe some alfresco dining—I went to the gym. I walked right by my pool twice, on my way in to get changed and my way out back to the car, and went to the gym. As Candyce said in an email after reading my post about joining, “You can indeed do it.” She lives too far to go with me this time around, but she encouraged me as she had all those years ago. So I went. I did it. And I didn’t die. But it was a rude awakening.
First of all, it appears the last time I used gym equipment was in the Dark Ages, or at least before the dawn of technology. After my tour of the facilities and signing up for the first of my four training sessions, I thought I would start simply with the treadmill. From there I could use a StairMaster. If I stayed in the cardiovascular room, away from the resistance equipment and ellipticals and the free weights, in that big room where everyone seemed comfortable I could probably fake it, hop right on and act like I knew what I was doing. Um, if it weren’t a treadmill from a science fiction movie! (And I hate science fiction) I might have been able to figure it out. But instead the buttons and arrows and flashing lights made me want to cry. But I didn’t. I got off and remembered that a person with inner dignity is never embarrassed. I found the fitness instructor and asked him to show me. He did. And while I really didn’t absorb it all (partly because after two minutes he sounded like Charlie Brown's teacher), and he was lying when he said once I learned those particular computer controls I could use all the machines (more on that later), I was able to use the treadmill when he walked away.
About five minutes in I was sweating. Ten minutes later the blood vessels in my face had dilated, mixed with my tan, I had a purplish-crimson tinge. I looked away from the mirror and kept walking. I wondered if an alarm would sound when the red heart was flashing, but I increased the pace and kept walking. And walking. I even broke out into a bit of a jog. And eventually decreased my pace before the end of my 20 minutes on the treadmill that felt like no 20 minutes I have EVER exercised in my living room or my neighborhood. And, damn, the calorie burn counter must have been broken, because I barely burned enough on the treadmill to earn a glass of wine with dinner.
So I took a sip of water, wiped down the machine, and stepped on the Stairstepper, as the manager called it, and for the life of me couldn’t figure it out or am clearly not ready to be on that machine. My strides were short and I couldn’t change the pace. But I gave it a go. Then got off after 10 minutes. I went home with jelly legs knowing the toughest part was behind me.