PUMPING IRONY: Rage Against the Machine?

Well, I didn’t get to the gym on Wednesday (worked too late — not enough time for a good workout. . . . so, sue me! Geeze.), but I managed to get downstairs last night for a little sweat-a-thon. I did 25+ minutes on the treadmill while watching CNN talking heads lip-synch something about the… Read more »

Well, I didn’t get to the gym on Wednesday (worked too late — not enough time for a good workout. . . . so, sue me! Geeze.), but I managed to get downstairs last night for a little sweat-a-thon. I did 25+ minutes on the treadmill while watching CNN talking heads lip-synch something about the Obama-Clinton race, which for some reason prompted me to hit the “incline” button a few times. And, about 15 minutes into my session, I inexplicably broke into a run. Was this a sympathetic response to Hilary’s uphill battle for the nomination?

Anyway, my heart rate was creeping into the mid-140s (coronary territory???) and I was sucking wind and Wolf Blitzer was segueing into a story about John McCain’s medical records (71 is old?), all of which kind of took the wind out of my sails. Defeated, I slowed to a walk, pondering my own mortality and the civic value of soundless TV news, before switching off my virtual runway and moving on to better things.

Last week sometime, a dizzying array of new resistance machines arrived at the club, so after nearly eight months of learning how to use the old machinery without hurting myself, I’m suddenly back at square one. For most people, this does not pose much of a problem. The hulking, tattooed denizens of the weight room seem to instinctively know which machines do what to their impossibly buff bodies; they simply bend the machines to their iron will. Other, less imposing specimens seek out a nearby helpful personal trainer and simply ask their advice.
I, on the other hand, wander aimlessly amid the shiny white monuments, squinting at the inscrutable hieroglyphs designed to explain the machine’s proposed relationship with the user’s body. It’s as if I’d stumbled upon a trade show for tool-and-die machines or the latest in Romanian commercial bakery appliances.

No, I do not ask for directions.

Instead, I climb on the most familiar-looking pieces of machinery and crank away, marveling at how smooth and silent the transaction feels. Poundage that felt oppressive on the old machines I can hoist almost effortlessly. I did have pasta for lunch (see “Superfood?”), but that can’t entirely explain how easy this feels tonight. I pile on an extra 10, even 20 lbs. more than I’m accustomed to, and, 10 reps later, it’s: Whoa! I’m da man!

It momentarily occurs to me that different resistance machinery could register different results, but I quickly dismiss that thought and consider, just for the briefest instant, venturing over into the free-weights area, where the real men and their tattoos lurk. I even think, for the tiniest of nanoseconds, that maybe, just maybe, it wouldn’t be totally out of line for a guy my age to get a tattoo. (Why should my daughter be the only one in the family with one?)
But, just as suddenly, the thought fades, and I’m back on the ab cruncher thingy, wondering about this new pain in my lower back.

Way across the room, Obama’s on CNN again.

Skinny guy, I’m thinking. Probably no tattoos. Someday, maybe, the most powerful man in the world. Hmmm. . . .

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