Monday, December 19, 2011

Taking Out the Trash

This past weekend, while I used my hashbrowns to sop up the last remnants of hollandaise sauce from my eggs benedict and the spicy remnants of buffalo chicken dip lingered from the night before, I realized something had to change. My wife put gas in the car on our way back from breakfast club and, God forbid I sit there with my thoughts for two seconds, I pulled out my iPhone to check e-mail only to find further confirmation from my uncle: “Get in the weight room, slug.”

I’ve likened not running to that Seinfeld episode where George stops having sex and he suddenly becomes a genius, whereas when Elaine does it, it has the reverse effect. Jerry explains to Elaine that for a woman, sex is like the garbage man. When the garbage man is on strike, the trash piles up and it’s hard to think straight. At this point, I need a dumpster.

And so, with renewed dedication, I laced up an old pair of running shoes and went to the gym hoping to toss some of those garbage bags away. I noticed, however, that the rules of running simply don’t apply at the gym. First of all, my shirt had sleeves and my shorts came down below mid-thigh…lest I suffer this humiliation.

I project my own insecurities onto the much bulkier dudes in the gym. You know, the ones who rip off pullups the way I rip off mile repeats. I fantasize about one of them saying something snide about that 15 pound dumbbell I’m carrying around, something that will let me say, “Well, Meat, we could step outside and have ourselves a race.” Of course, that would do me little good now because it’d have to be a one-legged race, carnival-style.

Anyhow, I walked out of the house yesterday evening to two of my neighbors chatting. They know about my ankle because they were two of the people I cornered last week on my journeys to and from the mailbox, desperate for human contact.

After the, “How’s it feeling?” formality, one of them chimed in with, “I just don’t know what time it is anymore. I used to know it was 5:30 when you’d run by my window.” That sound you just heard was my heart breaking…or my ankle popping. They sound eerily similar.

When I walked into the gym, one of my “gym friends,” i.e, a person I only talk to when I run into them at the gym, pounded out some miles on the treadmill. She threw a wave at the window having seen my reflection. We caught up on races past. “I saw you at Hot Chocolate a couple weeks ago,” she said. “You didn’t see me, though. You were in the zone!” Ah, a shadow of my former running self. She asked what I was training for now to which I lifted up my warmups and showed her the ankle brace. This elicited that face-pucker-response, the one where the person looks like they just bit into a lemon and sucks in the air around you, as if to say, “Ewwwww.” Then they offer useful commentary: “You must be going crazy.” I am. But it just means I can write snarky blogs.
“What are you going to do here?” she asked.

I gestured at my chest and ran my fingers over the ribs I’m normally so proud of in any running environment. This is one of those strange juxtapositions though between gym world and running world where, as Tom Petty would say, "You don't have to live like a refugee." I briefly considered that Quentin Cassidy may have lied to me when he said, “Gaunt is beautiful.”

“Well, considering I have this massive upper body,” I said, pausing for sarcastic effect. She looked skeptical as I let it sink in, then I got an, “Oh, haha. Right.”

Thanks for playing along. I almost pulled out the John Stamos as Uncle Jesse and remarked, "Of course, I'll just be toning tone." I know, first Point Break and now Full House? They said it couldn’t be done.

Finally, I got on with it. My good friend who I’m helping with a 5K program is in turn helping me with some strength training.

I did a little bench press (moving the pin from 230 lbs to 150 lbs), some pullups (with the weight assistance), and some dumbbell rows. I finished with some Jay Johnson core work, i.e., the exercises I’m more familiar with but would probably get me made fun of to the tune, "Check out twinkle toes over there."

By the end, there were whispers of that satisfying exhaustion that comes at the end of a good run. I felt traces of endorphins coursing through my body and thought that for now, this will have to do.

The strike may not be completely over, but service has resumed on a limited basis.

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