The New Year brings a migrating herd of new people to the Y. Like the salmon swimming upstream some will reach their destination and some will not. Some of them might actually find someone to mate with because when it gets right down to it there really isn’t a better reason to stay in shape than the opposite sex. For those of us who have been around for a while we face this flood with resolve. We have seen this before. Sometimes, it isn’t pretty. At other times, it is downright ugly, particularly in the locker room when someone who hasn’t worked out in three decades undresses. Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Gut I fear no lipo.
I get on a treadmill and wonder what speed to run. I just had a wreck so maybe a slow pace….
New shoes are a dead giveaway. The guy on the treadmill next to me, and honestly, with so many machines you have to wonder why he picked that one, anyway, he has new shoes. His workout clothes look new too.
“HEY!” he says far too loudly. “HOW DOES THIS THING WORK?”
I mouth instructions without saying anything. He unplugs his earbuds and asks again. I tell him how the treadmill works and he smiles.
“What level are you on?” he asks, as if this is a video game.
“Six point eight” I tell him and because I know he can see my readout, I go up to 6.8. (yes, I’m a guy we have to do these things)
New Shoes nods, puts in his earbuds, and he starts running, too. This man is figuring he’ll keep up with me because he’s half my age and that has to make up for the fact that he’s twice my girth, right?
I haven’t tried running since the wreck and I can feel the sore spots. But there is something inside me that needs this run. Something inside of me needs to feel exhausted and tired after a hard workout and nothing does this better than a hard run.
Six point eight miles an hour is a mile every eight minutes and thirty-four seconds. This will get me about three and a half miles in thirty minutes, give or take a tenth of a mile or so.
I start trying to find that zone runners get into and I realize this is the first time I’ve had a chance to work out all year.
Squeak! Squeak! I tell you!
New Shoes is having problems with his new shoes. They’re dragging on the treadmill belt and squeaking. He can’t keep the pace up and he can’t figure out how to run slower than the belt is moving. He slows the machine down to a walk and puffs. New Shoes is discovering that new shoes aren’t all he needs right now. He cuts the treadmill off and wanders away.
It’s been a while since I ran at this pace but I like the push. Go! Run as hard as this pace will let you run for as long as you can. Thirty minutes minus, hey I’ve been at this for nearly a mile now, and that’s nearly one third of the way. My breathing falls into a rhythm and for the first time since the wreak I feel nearly healthy. The seconds ease by like water in a slow creek and I feel soreness leaving my body.
New Shoes is back. He takes a machine across the room from mine and cranks it up again. Again he squeaks. Again he can run only for a short time and then has to slow down. The frustration is clear. The man wants to run but his body isn’t capable of keeping pace with his ideas. He walks for a few minutes then gives up again, doing a minute or so on an elliptical before totally abandoning the workout.
A pair of women take two machines and they walk for a while but only of the women is serious. They have new shoes, too, but the serious woman is pushing it. I give her four miles an hour at her best and her friend is getting bored. I look down long enough to see that I’m nearly half way to thirty minutes and the Pony Tail Girl arrives. This is one of the asphalt burners, the true Speed Merchants, and one of those people who can throw down miles like a drunk doing free wine. Her pony tail rocks as she runs, bobs with the effort and if this one was outside I suspect it would be trailing behind her like a true pony’s tail. I’ve seen her a few times before and I know that an hour from now that woman will still be at the pace she is right now and not done yet. Thirty minutes comes and goes and I want to get that last tenth of a mile, to make it a three point five miles run. Pony Tail would pass me if I stayed any longer, I think.
There’s a new person in the locker room and if the locker room was the size of Nebraska he would have an item of clothing in each county. There is X amount of space for everyone to change in and Nebraska's taken X+15. Getting dressed and undressed and out of the locker room is an Olympic event for some of the guys and this one can’t seem to figure out there are other people who have to use the locker room too.
Honestly, the Y has the best locker room I’ve seen so far. The last gym I went to had a locker room the size of a broom closet and most of the lockers were broken. The Y does damn good maintenance. The whole place was under four feet of water during a flood a few years ago and the new people will never know it. They don’t get a lot of new employees but do very well indeed with the ones who have been there for a while.
Running is addictive but my body is older than it once was. Pony Tail was once a slow runner for my best speed and now I couldn’t catch up to her on a bike. New Shoes may or may not stick with it, but he’s got a long way to go. I think the serious walker will be back. But Nebraska, oh god, that guy has to go.