Tuesday, August 03, 2004

A hard day at the gym

So far, I have been working out every other day but, since helping someone move on Saturday, I skipped two days (at least) instead of one this time. On Monday, I had been looking forward to my workout all day. When I went last Friday... maybe it was Thursday... the chemicals in my body started pumping around while I was on the treadmill and I thought to myself, "Yes, this is my reward." I'm not saying I got a total endorphin high and was totally giddy about it but I felt good.

We had only driven one car to work yesterday so I had to take my wife home before I went to the gym. I decided to go ahead and change at the house. I grabbed my bag out of the cab of the truck, took it inside and immediately changed into my shorts and T-shirt. No sooner had I hit the cab of the truck on the way out when I suddenly had the urge to go back inside and forego a visit to the gym.

What was wrong with me? I was actually enjoying this, looking forward to it, and now, all of a sudden, I don't wanna? My past failures with workouts have been because I've found it too much of a pain in the ass to get ready and actually "go" to the gym. 100% of the time, when I actually made it to the gym I felt good about the experience while I was working out and once it was over.

With the thought of avoiding that pitfall this time, I fired up the pickup and headed for the gym. With every revolution of the tires, something inside me was saying, "turn around. go home. skip it this time." I knew I couldn't yield to that temptation because once I do, I tend to keep yielding to it and my payment to the gym quickly turns from usage fees into a donation.

It being the first of August, some students are already beginning to return to campus and since I arrived shortly after work the campus recreation center was understandably a bit crowded. Every one of the dozen or so treadmills was in use. Fortunately, most of the stationary bikes were available. After some initial adjustments and sliding along the learning curve for how the thing operates (it's a BIKE for crying out loud - why are there so many damn buttons to push!), I was pedaling my way to a target heart rate... but I wasn't having any fun.

Within about 5 minutes, I was bored with the bike, didn't like how it operated, and noticed that one of the treadmills behind me was available. Naturally, I stopped pedaling and hopped on the treadmill.

I really hate machines that think they're smarter than you. I discovered that, in certain modes, these treadmills will switch from a programmed mode to manual mode if they can't determine your heart rate.

Good feature: There is section of the handles that, when grasped, will read your heart rate. (you can also use a "telemetry cable" according to the display)
Bad feature: The spot you have to grasp is in such a position that people over six feet tall will develop a permanent slouch.

So, I slide a little further down the learning curve. Eventually, I just pushed the "random" button and let it change the elevation and speed while I trotted along.

At any rate, I was ten minutes into the 20 minutes I'd requested from the treadmill and just wanted to get off. My back was a little tight, my ankles hurt and I just wanted to go home... but I stuck it out. Wearily, I wandered back toward the front of the building then down the ramp to end up at the weight machines just underneath where I had been using the treadmill.

My normal routine is to warm up with 20 minutes on some sort of cardio equipment, such as a treadmill, then work the weights a bit, alternating between arms and legs so I don't wear either out too quickly. Honestly, the weights are my least favorite part but I suffer through them because 1) I'm there and 2) it's good for me. The only problem on Monday was that the machines started bothering my shoulder (I've had problems with my shoulder on and off for a couple of years). Basically, everything on Monday felt bad.

Although I spent my normal hour or so at the gym, I have to say this was the worst workout I've ever experienced. I don't know if I'm fighting off an illness or, perhaps, the August heat is getting to me (it was in the upper 90's yesterday) but my time at the gym sucked. It was like salivating for your favorite restaurant all day then being disappointed with the food quality once you get there (odd how I used a food analogy for something that's supposed to help you lose weight and get into shape).

As bad as it was, it didn't kill me or anything and I'm glad I didn't opt out. Tomorrow Kevin and I are going in tandem (I hesitate to use the word "together"). I hope the workout is as rewarding as it normally is. I'm not sure I could handle it if going to the gym started to totally suck. I mean, I'm avoiding the scale because it might be too disappointing to put out this much effort and gain or not lose weight. I don't need the activity to be a source of stress - especially since it's supposed to be a stress-reducing activity.

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