PUMPING IRONY: In Praise of Anonymity

Wednesday’s workout left me with some nasty DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), so I decided to take it easy Friday night – avoiding The Pit in favor of some serious cardio work. I found a vacant Elliptical Death Machine facing a TV screen showing Hardball with Chris Matthews and settled into burning off the burrito I… Read more »

Wednesday’s workout left me with some nasty DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), so I decided to take it easy Friday night – avoiding The Pit in favor of some serious cardio work. I found a vacant Elliptical Death Machine facing a TV screen showing Hardball with Chris Matthews and settled into burning off the burrito I had for lunch. I cranked the resistance up to 10 and waited for something to go wrong.

But unlike my last bout with the EDM, when my knee didn’t seem to want to travel in a straight line above my toes — angling rather in a (coincidentally?) elliptical pattern accompanied by a mysterious jabbing pain — tonight it pumped up and down like a well-oiled piston. There’s no explaining such things without an MRI, I suppose, so I decided to just chalk it up to the added lycopene in the pico de gallo that spiced up my lunch. So I cranked it up to 15 and then all the way up to 20 and kept at it for a full 30 minutes while Matthews let Ron Reagan Jr. wax poetic on how Obama was getting rolled by congressional Republicans.

Seeing the former president’s namesake on the screen reminded me again how easily celebrity waxes and wanes in our culture, and I was momentarily struck by the fact that I was probably never going to ascend even to the modest level of notoriety that would earn some B-list politico like Ron Jr. 90 seconds on CNN. This delivered a glancing blow to my ego, until I recalled how I’d once been interviewed by someone at the Star Tribune, who asked me what I’d wish for if I could wish for anything and I said something about taking batting practice with the Twins or having lunch with Barbara Flanagan. The Twins, of course, never called, but Flanagan, the legendary society reporter/schmoozer, did and we wound up having a lovely lunch at a now-defunct bistro on First Avenue, after which I could never make fun of her again.

All of which is just another way of saying how great it is that the gym has these big flat-screen TVs lined up in front of the cardio machines. They can just transport you out of your aching body in a way no other appliance really can. Was my knee aching? My calves cramped? Who knows? I was back at a table at Faegre’s in 1986 grazing on French fries and listening with great interest to the gravely-voiced Flanagan describe her days on the crime beat and how back then every editor had a bottle of whiskey in his desk drawer.

Nostalgia can be a wonderful thing, even without flat-screen TVs.

But my calf was beginning to cramp up, so I ambled over to the stretching area and decided, quite out of the blue, to try rolling out some of the kinks in my hammies and calves with a foam roller. For those of you unfamiliar with the foam roller, it’s a cylindrical piece of fairly stiff foam, about 6 inches in diameter. The idea is to kind of sit on top of it and pass your cramping muscles over it, a motion that, I’m told, will smooth those knots right out.

Regular readers of these pages will know that I’m not the sort of guy who tries a lot of new things in the gym. Just not the cut of my jib. Find a routine that works and just keep doing it until you hurt yourself — that’s my motto. But once you make up your mind to strike out in some intriguing new direction, it’s imperative that you do so in such a way that appears that you do this all the dang time. So, when I strode confidently into the closet where I assumed they would store the foam rollers and found only a short, semi-circular chunk of foam, I naturally picked it up as if it was the precise piece of equipment I needed for my well-practiced routine.

I set the hunk of foam on a vacant mat and placed my hamstring atop it in what I guessed might be a strategic location and with some effort scraped back and forth between my gluteus maximus and the back of my knee. After a few futile repetitions, I happened to notice a few foam rollers tucked neatly into a nearby shelf and, taking the time to complete my “routine,” I put the useless hunk of foam to the side and replaced it with the real thing.

Most fitness experts will tell you that no matter how dumb you look trying to do stuff at the gym, most folks tend to ignore you, unless you’re a celebrity or something. I always try to hold onto that thought when I’m working out. Anonymity is not such a bad thing after all.

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