Training days

September 13, 2008

The rumors sweeping the Internet are true: I’ve been working out. On my own and with a trainer. Working out a lot.

The motivations are the usual mix of superficial short-term and serious long-term desires. Top of mind is looking good for my forty-year high school reunion next week. So is losing weight I gained this winter after losing it last summer, wanting to fit into something sold on the same rack as skinny young hipster jeans, increased stamina, shocking my doctor by hitting a seemingly unreachable weight goal. I could go on.

I told my trainer today while he was kicking my ass that I want to savor what time I have left. And having a three-year-old son at my age cries out for me to do what I’m doing. And the last ten weeks of this routine have proved that hard exercise, looking better, and being stronger make everything better.

Sometimes I wonder how I look to other people at the gym, which has plenty of members older than me. Do they see a white-haired, sweating Don Quixote with a frightful grimace, struggling beneath heavy weight (heavy by my standards)? Have they nicknamed me The Grunter, for all my rutting animal sounds?

The work is so taxing I don’t give a damn what people think. Even the attractive young women, or the young dude wearing longish pants with the pockets turned inside out who did so many chin-ups that I lost count and grinned when he saw me gawking.

When I work out on my own, cardio routines usually, I like getting lost in thought, my mind flitting to and fro, sometimes with music blaring in my ears and sometimes to the solo accompaniment of my labored breathing.

Thursday while rotating between running the stairs, doing jumping jacks, military climbs, and jumping rope – with thirty-second rests in between, I kept picturing myself as elite athletes. As awkward as I am with a jump rope, I saw in the mirror not me but Muhammad Ali. Suddenly the rope sped to a blur – without tripping me up.

After the fourth of five sets of stair running, a woman older than me asked, “What are you training for?”

I didn’t know what to say at first and was trying to catch my breath. Then I wheezed out the answer: “Life.”