Posts Tagged 'treadmills'

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.

Three Jews on a Treadmill

Sounds like the beginning of a joke…There were these three Jews on a treadmill

Two months ago, I moved from Sulphur Mountain Road in the Upper Ojai to the more gentrified mid-town. Prior to moving, my drive time from the mountain to town was eighteen minutes. After Ila died, I made the thirty-six-minute round-trip to the Ojai Athletic Club every day just to get out of the all too quiet house and find social interaction. It was lonely up on the hill without someone to share my life.

I had used a rowing machine at our mountain home nearly every day. Five thousand meters of rowing in thirty-five minutes, that got me nowhere. A nagging shoulder injury caused a forced migration from the rowing machine to the treadmill and, thanks to Jackie, membership in the athletic club.

My daily routine on the hill was religiously repeated day after day. Up at 5:45. In the car by 6:15 and at the club by 6:35. Flash my membership card at the electronic reader and react with hidden glee at its assurance that I was still welcome.

Exchange pleasantries with the ever-changing person behind the front desk. Enter the men’s locker room. Change into my Lulu Lemon shorts. Grab the headphones that Jackie bought for me…got to be careful what I wish for, or it will surely end up in an Amazon box at my front door.  March up the stairs to the second floor without the aid of the handrail…it’s a macho thing…and deposit myself on one of the six treadmills that line the far wall.

Moving to mid-town replaced my old eighteen-minute car ride to the town epicenter with an eighteen-minute walk. But old habits are hard to break, so I still hop into the car for a three-minute ride to the club. Not enough time to warm up the innards of my car on cold mornings, necessitating the wearing of a wool cap that sometimes draws giggles from the club’s front desk.

Even though my shoulder has healed, and the club sports two rowing machines, I am still on the treadmill. To further cement my place on it, I sold my own Concept 2 rowing machine last week to a nice guy who schlepped to my house from Glendora, a one-hundred-fifty-mile round trip.

The club opens at 5:30 am and draws people who exercise indoors or, god forbid, swim outdoors in near freezing ambient hell, then head for work. When her teaching responsibilities require it, Jackie often prides herself at being first in line at the club’s front door, in the dark, with little to wear but a very pretty smile on her face.

The sweet spot for me is between 6:30 and 7. That’s when the locker room empties, and parking spaces open up close to the club entrance. Finding an idle treadmill is easy. Sometimes I get the pick of the litter, the one on the end in front of the windows that open onto the pool where crazy people do laps. Or, in a pinch, I take the one next to it. My decision whether to turn on the overhead fan is challenging. Shall I suffer a cold draft until my body warms up, or be an overheated wimp.

Each of the treadmills has its own video monitor. I can watch live TV, but I nearly always opt to sign into my Netflix account where I am entertained with mindless comedies, serious documentaries or, my favorite, the Great British Baking Show. I avoid the news which, I have found, generally provokes me to mumbling angry epithets that attract the unwanted attention of those within earshot.

The same faces regularly populate the area around the treadmills and the other, sometimes fathomless, exercise equipment. It’s comforting to see these faces nearly every day. It brings order to an otherwise chaotic and all too often sad world.

My sixty-minute treadmill routine at a four percent grade generally starts before the others arrive. About fifteen minutes into it, Sheila appears. My age, but not yet aging, Sheila is a whirlwind of activity both on and off the treadmill. We are also members of the synagogue where she leads the Friday night service on alternating weeks. Her petite, bouncy, figure and perky cropped hair are a welcome addition to my sixty-minute trip to nowhere.

Norm, also in the octogenarian category, is a lot less bouncy. But he makes up this unfortunate difference with a strong torso, friendly smile and a blessed sense of humor. I relish our conversations which, on occasion, include prolonged inexplicable laughter over a comment that often has its grounding in something Jewish.

Silence, or the soft-spoken word, is the desired state when in motion. This unwritten treadmill rule is often violated by heavy footed young men and women who strive for unattainable recognition by generating massive decibels that offend nearly everyone in range of them. Fortunately, a good pair of over-the-ear headphones tends to mitigate the otherwise mind-numbing racket.

This morning, Sheila, Norm and I find ourselves together on three of the six treadmills. The other three are unused and blessedly quiet. Norm correctly notes, with some humor, that we are three Jews on treadmills, which seemed to me apropos of life as a Jew. Moving with determination to escape stereotyping, and maybe worse, with only a modicum of success.

Ojai has a significant number of Jews who have blended into the community. Except for the synagogue, we find ourselves fully integrated in the life of the town. Yet there is something special when three of us find ourselves on the treadmill. A certain comfort, often indescribable, takes hold. A certain calm descends and allows us to enjoy a moment devoid of tension.

Perhaps it’s genetic. Perhaps it’s our strange customs that have been etched into us over thousands of years. Maybe it’s the same for people of other faiths. Maybe they relish time together on the treadmill. I hope so.


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