I slap my alarm off and sit up with a sigh. It's not even a matter of debate. I pull on my workout clothes and flex my neck and spine in an attempt to limber up my creaking body. The cats try to sit near and underneath me in hopes of morning snuggles. I give them quick strokes, but I won't linger. I grab my water bottle and go.
I rouse the little girl, hand her a cup of milk, diaper and dress her. I coax tangles out of her hair and hair clips, in, stuff some breakfast into her and myself, and off we go into the admittedly late morning.
I walk into the fitness center just a little late. I have little more than an hour before the nursery closes for break. I wave my membership card at the scanner and wait for the beep before crossing the rest of the lobby with the little girl running along side. She runs as lightly and smoothly as I would wish to. But she is merely two and has loads of energy, while I am *mumble-mumble* and need to heave myself forward in the mornings.
The little girl scampers into the nursery and smiles at a young woman with long dark curly hair, her favorite caretaker. She warily notes other children, then starts forward again to investigate a new toy. I sign her in, plop down her bag, and slide back out the door. "Bye, Sweetie! I'll see you later! Have fun!" On a good day, she doesn't even notice I am leaving.
I pause in the hallway to shed outer layers, clip on my ipod with music cued up, and apply a generous layer of lip balm (to my lips) before heading up to the mezzanine, taking the stairs two at a time.
A wave of white noise hits me as I heft open the heavy door. It's the rattle and hiss of piped-in dance music, the thump of feet on treadmills, and the squeal, beep and clank of machines in action, with the occasional ringing of loose weights being dropped at the far end of the hall. I pause to top off my water bottle, scan the rows of exercise machines and quickly locate one of my two favorite machines. I hop on, place water bottle and towel conveniently, and press a few pad keys to select the preprogrammed workout and time for the day. Sometimes it asks for my age or weight. I don't bother too closely with specifics. I key in the basics with good humor, and I am off and running. Or at least moving, since I don't really run.
Some days I like to do a long program on the treadmill, much of it uphill as if I were carrying a backpack up a steep grade. Lots of good sweat trance there. My mind drifts to epic hikes I've done. Some days I do twenty minutes working up a sweat on the treadmill, then shift to an elliptical machine for some "sport intervals" for a while. Figure skaters practice leaps and glides below, or it's hockey time and young men (or little boys) race and putter around the ice. Some days all I stare at is the advertising on the opposite wall - Even the refs can see this is a good meal deal! - or the lights of the readout telling me beep! It's the next ninety seconds at incline 7.5 !
Recently, I've been doing faux runs on the elliptical. I key in ten minutes of rolling hills at a medium-high resistance and start moving. My heart rate gradually climbs to the target zone and stays there. I love the hand grips that gives me a HR reading in progress. A cool 135 is nice, something in the mid-140s feels good too. Then I switch to twenty minutes of running up and down a tall mountain. My HR climbs and my pace gradually slows, but I'm grooving steadily with another song in my ears. Every so often, I squat as I run for 15 seconds of quad killers. Straightening my legs after a quad killer is a sweet relief to the muscles. Other times, I'll lift my whole foot on the uphills to give my toes a break. I check in with my heart rate every few minutes, sometimes dropping or adding resistance to keep me within sight of an efficient range. Then without pause, I'll add another ten minutes of rolling hills at whatever level of resistance I'm in the mood for, then cool down for a couple, letting my heart rate slow as sweat drips off my hair.
It feels good to get my body moving, to go into an endorphin trance. I'm glad for the tunes in my ears that keep me awake and on pace, although if I haven't gotten much sleep, it's more of a sleep-jog.
I used to feel a little self conscious about going to work out, until my husband reminded me that most people are caught up in their own world and can't be bothered to observe me. I choose to believe that's true, but still, I often go to the front row of machines so I can see the ice skaters instead of being distracted by other people or the silent bank of TVs overhead.
I let the workout summary run as I mop off and pull on the water bottle. I get a kick out of racking up the numbers. 1.6 miles and approximately 192 calories burned. x minutes in my target heart range, and a maximum HR of 210. What?! Well, sometimes the monitor gives me unreasonably high or low readings. I know those are outliers.
I step off, stretch briefly, and retrieve a sani-wipe to wipe down the machine. I could have kept going, but time is a-wasting and the weight machines are calling me.
I was doing long sets of low weight for several months, then I got bored of that, and moved toward shorter sets of higher weights to maximize my time before I'm due to pick up my daughter.
"3" for seat length, "3" for shin cushion angle, and something near "1" for the starting angle. I clank into gear. Two sets of 8 reps at twenty pounds for the quads! Okay! Then the hamstrings! Then go for the squats - better throw in an extra set, there, then my new fav, the abductors and inductors. When I get a chance, I'll hop over to the abdominals and upper body weights. Some guy is tearing through his sets with great grunting and wheezing. A couple of elderly women are being given coaching by a personal trainer, and another couple of people are trading the machines back and forth with me.
I've got a little more time, so now over for some chest presses and killer flys. I throw in a couple sets of incline/decline presses which gets my core muscles involved. Wheee! I rarely have time to do chin ups or the leg press, but it's a nice variation. A small pack of men are making much ado about their workout. But today I am running short, so I skip the lats and go to the upright rower. The seat is still slightly damp from the previous users wipe-down. I take over a mat for a couple of sun salutations, enjoying the feeling of my body doing its thing.
Annnd now it's five til, and I grab my bag and walk the length of the hall in a pleasantly weary forward-motion, past the people still running, walking or cycling. The retired gentleman who I often see there waves as I pass him on the treadmill.
I'm grateful that I am able to enjoy this movement and sweat. And then I go down to hear Mommy! Mommy! I had fun! I had fun too. And now it's time for hand washing. The little girl runs lap after lap around the broad changing room bench, and then dances through the lobby and out through the doors into the day.