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The Gym


After. Didn't take long to clean up


At the risk of going Uncle Colm on you (who may be the best character ever created, though Sister Michael comes mighty close), this one may be a bit of a conversational wander.


The other night at a dinner party, a guest mentioned that her glasses were always dirty, another that contacts were expensive. I was asked if my contacts were each different strengths, to which I replied in the affirmative, after all these years thinking maybe it would be a good idea to understand why.


I wear them for racquet sports, hiking and the gym. While they're great at helping me see the ball come hurtling at my face, there's a level of detail I've never had while wearing them.

When I lived in Brookline Village, if I there was a person walking towards me, it was likely someone I knew, but couldn't actually tell who it was until they got awkwardly close. Fortunately, most people had dogs, which became an aid to helping me identify them earlier, making for a confident hello with a name and a smile.


One time when the ball hurtled and I didn't see it fast enough. Still have the scar.

Today at my gym, I had to laugh to myself at the ways my life has changed based on this particular identification challenge. In a neighborhood where I know few people, my prior worries no longer exist, now it's the challenge of identifying which young, pumped up white dude I'm looking at when I climb the eliptical mountain. Two things have been a great help: tattoos and hair. The predominant haircut is shorter in the back with a big wavy curtain hanging over their often broken out forehead, perhaps for the purpose of not having to acknowledge other humans. There are (still) also a few samurai mini pony tails with shaved hair underneath. As I move forward in my gym habitat, I will endeavor to begin cataloging the tattoos and report back (I'm not there yet).


While the same chain as the gym I went to in the Village, the luxurious Cleveland Circle branch, at least twice the size, has a whole different vibe. The people who work there are friendly and helpful, always with a greeting and a smile, putting up signs that say KEEP BEING AWESOME in the women's locker room and ONE MORE REP near the free weights. When I began going, I had a pretty bad foot injury which limited my "exercise" to walking, so began with short stays on the eliptical while watching Mujer on the TV to hopefully learn a word or two in Spanish. But I also loved watching the guys and some women pump iron and got it into my head that for the first time, I was going to pay for a personal trainer. I could see where I wanted to go, but knew the road was long and I didn't know how to get there.


I hadn't seen Carlos since pre-COVID, when he had led an Abs class I took for many years in the Village. He was great with us older folk, modifying exercises, never calling us maggots and giving up on including burpees after we refused. He always had a great playlist, sharing his encyclopedic knowledge of music by giving us backgrounds on the musicians and songs. So, I was delighted he had moved over to my new gym and knew he understood my pace and needs. I was thinking free weights, boxing or even jujitsu, which I knew he specialized in. I could wait to get going!


At our first session, he did an assessment, asking me to squat, do a lunge, touch my toes. From there, we began by me doing a toe touching stretch on a wedge, calves one way and hamstrings another. Then there was some other stretching; knees, ankles, shoulders, hips and before I knew it, time was up. Despite what seemed more like PT than a gym session, I wobbled out of there and the next day, thought hard about getting a raised toilet seat for times like this.


I was diligent about doing the things he had taught me every few days and looked forward to diving in the following week. Same thing. At the end of that session, I told him that I had this stuff down and could do it on my own, I wanted to learn other things, particularly core and cardio. Next week, same thing!


So yeah, reality is crashing in hard to my vision of spotting tattooed dues and mop heads on the free weights, but like any exercise I've ever done, I know the secret is to put my head down and put everything into it and have faith that it will get me somewhere. It's mind bendingly boring work, but keeps me out on the courts.


And if you haven't watched Derry Girls yet, you're in for a treat.



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