Archive for the 'Exercise equipment' Category

The Blue Thing

The piece of exercise equipment had been in the same place in my backyard for over a year. I’m not even sure what it was called. A six-foot-long, two-foot-wide, six-inch-high strip of blue plastic with a rubber tread running down its center.

It was owned by Robert, my exercise trainer. I had used it to improve my balance by stepping on it and raising my left foot. I’d balance on my right foot for fifteen seconds and then, if I was lucky, lower it gracefully and repeat the process with my left foot. If I managed to complete the routine without falling off the blue thing, Robert would say, “Good, very good.” If not, he’d be silent. Like other faculties, balance is a disappearing act for the elderly.

Robert was my trainer for several years. Twice a week for thirty minutes we’d meet at the Ojai Valley Athletic Club, and he, like an orchestra leader, would put me through a routine of ropes, balls, weights, and sinister looking machines. I came to know the devices and the routine and often wondered why I was still paying for Robert’s services. Maybe it was because he was my psychiatrist as well as my trainer.

And then Robert fell ill. No big deal at first. He could still manage nicely while he was going through his own escalating routine of invasive surgery, lethal radiation, and destructive chemicals. But his absences from the club multiplied and he eventually stayed home.

Both of us suffered his absence and we often spoke and texted. It was during one of those phone conversations that he suggested coming to my house where we might find a quiet spot to continue some sort of training.

He lived ten minutes away and was still able to drive. He’d arrive at my place around nine. I’d anticipate his appearance and go to his car to help unload his bag of tricks, a few hand weights, elastic ropes, and that blue plastic thing. As his health deteriorated, my share of unloading the equipment got bigger while his time sitting in a comfortable patio chair grew more frequent.

It was the highlight of the week for both of us. I got a little exercise, and he increased his self-worth. I had a psychiatrist who made house calls, and he got closer to the old athletic club setting where he had once been on top of the world.

I was the only one using his exercise equipment and we both quickly tired of moving it in and out of his car. The biggest and clumsiest piece was that blue thing. It was like sticking a surfboard in his car. So, he suggested that we just leave it at my house until it wasn’t needed anymore.

Eventually the house calls grew less frequent, and then they stopped. The blue thing stayed on the patio.  Jackie wondered if I should find a new trainer, but I procrastinated. I had made myself a promise that I would not look for a new trainer until either Robert died, or he came back to get the blue thing.

The silent blue thing sat there, unused. Through summer and winter, I expected it to fall apart from exposure to sun and rain. I half hoped it was invincible, like Robert.

And then he died.

Jackie and I debated the fate of the blue thing. I was inclined to further procrastination. But a promise is a promise even if I’m the only one who knows it.

The blue thing is gone now. And I have a new trainer.

I ache all over.

Tread lightly

I’m waiting for the repair guy to finish and deliver his verdict.

My Trotter treadmill has served me well for over 20 years. First, in our Northridge home. Then in the Upper Ojai. Finally, three years ago, it made the trip to the Andrew house where it stands like an ancient warrior in the contrasting company of a sparkly Precor elliptical machine and a high-tech Peloton stationary bike.

Before my Trotter, I used a rowing machine. Built for light duty home use, I religiously spent an hour on it every day until it began to fall apart. Like an old car, it simply wore out; I unceremoniously dumped it in the trash, like the inanimate object it was. That was 1995.

I began a search for a new rower with a trip to a high-end sports equipment store in Encino. Like a Mercedes dealer showroom, it was filled with glitzy boy toys (women were yet to fully come of age and sport tight tights in high end athletic clubs where they now blessedly outnumber ill-clad men.)

I attracted a salesman’s attention, probably because of my well-developed pecs, and said, “Where are your rowing machines?”

His name was Ron and didn’t look much different than my chunky, out of shape bookkeeper. He stared at me like he hadn’t heard my question. I repeated it slowly and loudly, just like my old Rabbi insisted when he coached me on my bar mitzvah speech.

“A rowing machine. You know, one of those things you sit on and try to look like a member of the Princeton rowing club.”

He caught my drift, stuck a pudgy index finger in the direction of the back wall, and said without enthusiasm, “There.”

So, I went there. And I found a total of one rowing machine.

Sure that I had misunderstood his pudgy finger, I worked my way back to Ron who was on a snack break, probably induced by the heavy lifting he experienced in handling my request.

“Ron, is that the only rowing machine you have?”

Taking time out from munching his chocolate M&M’s, “Yes, no one buys rowing machines anymore. I mean NOBODY. Treadmills are the in thing. like this new baby, the Nordic Track; but we don’t have any of those. Sizing you up, I’d say you were a Trotter man.”

Feeling much older than I did before I entered the store and found that I was seriously out of touch with today’s equipment of choice, I tucked my tail between my legs, ponied up serious bucks and went home with Ron’s promise to deliver my Trotter next Tuesday.

Our man-machine relationship has been blemish free, serving me without complaint for over 20 years. With the same routine every morning. Brush my teeth. Kiss Jackie. Lace up my in-thing Hokas. Mount the machine, set the incline angle at four percent and the speed at three miles per hour. Turn on the TV. Dial up an inane news program with tons of unpronounceable products for your lungs, skin, and Crohn’s disease. And try hard to get through sixty minutes without boring myself to death.

Never a complaint until four weeks ago. Then, like a small child, the machine whined. Maybe more like a whimper. I thought, “The machine works. Maybe if I ignore it, the noise will go away.”

I should have known better. The child grew older and became angry. An intermittent rumbling joined the whining. It sounded like a couple of members of the Spike Jones band were stuck under the treadmill playing Spike’s zany version of Cocktails for Two.

The child blasted through puberty and, like an unhappy teenager, turned the whining into screeching, intensified the rumbling, and stomped its feet. It was going to get its way and I couldn’t do anything about it.

And then, last week, it stopped. Not all at once. More like a piece at a time. I tried goosing the running belt by grabbing and rotating the roller at the rear of the machine. It was like cranking an old Model T. That worked a couple of times, but the noise was like being in a lumber mill. I later discovered that people have been dragged under a treadmill doing what I did, never to be seen again.

Jackie’s elliptical and stationary bike continued to perform flawlessly. They seemed to cast occasional sideward glances at the Trotter that conveyed a message, “You’re over the hill. Give it up. He’ll probably dump you in the trash just like the rowing machine.”

My aging adult, depressed and unloved, just sat still, crossed its arms in front of its chest and refused to move. At all. Not a sound.

It was time for action. I had learned my lesson with the rowing machine. I was not junking the Trotter; it had seen me through too many years of loyal support.

I found a guy who repairs treadmills. He’s here now. Says he needs to rebuild the motor. It’ll be back in a week. It’ll look like a senior citizen, but it’ll work.

Meanwhile, I’ll just brush my teeth and kiss Jackie.



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