I am heading towards the gym’s main door.
I feel the cutting wind freezing my ears. I shiver and try to make myself small, head hidden in the collar of my track suite. I watch every step I take. I am still amazed with the choice of my fluo pink sneakers. I must have been in very good mood when I picked them. This is definitely not my color… or is it? It’s flattering though. In combination with my black pants and an even more fluo top, I look quite nicely. I guess.
I push the door open, I flip my card into the foreseen tray. I enter the lockers. A cloud with familiar smell of warm steam from the sauna, essential oils, shampoo from the shower, floor detergent and sweat invade my nostrils. I unlock one of the lockers and throw my bag inside. I am absent. I do not want to he here. Yet I go on with my routine. I put the headphones on. I choose one track on my mp3 player and turn the volume loud. As loud as my ears can take it without throwing up. I might as well turn deaf one day. I snatch my training key and return to the training room. Not many enthusiasts to be seen today.
I smile at the trainer, a nice – that is not to say handsome – guy at the counter. Years of body building and a sort of shyness mixed with a generous smile make of him the favorite coach of the female hard working out customers. He comes to greet me already carrying my drink in his hand. We exchange amiabilities. I whisper them because of the ear blowing music vibrating in my head. The main computer is down so I cannot make a choice of my desired workout.
“God, have mercy!”
I check the room while performing short head and neck stretching exercises. I do not recognize any of the present ones torturing themselves on the machines. “Now it’s my turn”, I mumble between clutched teeth. “I so do not want to be here, damn it!”
I step on the band. My neighbor, a mature, possibly wise and knowing lady – old, that is – holds desperately the support in front of her. She looks like somebody riding a horse, on the verge of falling down. But she keeps good in her own strange and dangerous rhythm. “Who am I to interfere?”
I arrange the towel in the space foreseen for it. I open my bottle. I have a sip. I push the key inside the machine and I wait for it to start. It is precisely at this moment that the whole drama begins.
“Welcome, blah blah… the training exercises for today…” written in red led lights on the screen of the monstrous device.
Step 1: 2 minutes walk
This is alright, it’s normal to walk in order to warm yourself up.”
I look away and try to guess what is on the TV screens that hang on the wall in front of me. The sun reflects on the screens. I see the shadow of my head, the line of my shoulders. “Good, they are aligned in a healthy position.” I march indifferently on the band.
By this time the level for walk has been adjusted, the speed increases slowly. I walk, hard and with determination. Music is ravaging my ears.
Step 2: 20 minutes run.
“What?” I panic. “No, no, nonono! It cannot be! Crazy engine! This is not what I am supposed to do! I want the other one!”
Too late, I start to run.
30 seconds. I am furious.
1 minute. No calories burned yet. “I hate it! I resent it from the bottom of my heart!” I keep jogging. My shadow still looks nice. I find my rhythm. I focus on my cadence and sing along in my head.
2 minutes 30 seconds. “This is going to take a while, better get used to it.” My heart begins to pump seriously. I feel the blood coloring my chest and neck. I am warm.
3 minutes 45. “It’s useless, I am not going to make it to the end. For god’s sake! I don’t need this! Not after a 10 days break!”
“Whose fault is it that you stayed away from the gym for 10 days? Chocolate cookies take their toll now. Shut up and keep going, you lazy butt!”
6 minutes 20.
“Yeah, ta nah nah nana nanana nah! Nice shape girl! You can do it!”
I sense the vibration of my steps on the band. It rushes through my body only to get diffused somewhere on top of my spine. I force my arms as far as I reach towards the back in a nice 90 degrees angle. I feel this movement lift the pressure from my legs. I become lighter. My mouth is dry. I take a sip. I move the liquid around my mouth to hydrate the gums. I swallow and immediately recover my breath. I breathe in long and I exhale slowly through my nose. I am disturbed. I am out of air. I feel panic infiltrating into my brain.
12 minutes 30
“I was right, this is it. I’ve run for 10 minutes, I guess half of the time is always a good performance.”
“Move your butt, you goose! You can do it! You’re over the half! Split the time! Park the minutes. You’ve run 10, you’ve got less than 10 left. While you are busy trying to knock yourself down, the clock is ticking: tic-tic-tic. One step per half second. Straighten your back! You’re running, not begging! Basic arithmetic: divide the rest of your time by 5 minutes. Round the actual time to the next round digit!”
“See? Two more minutes to go! You can do it! Of course you can! Listen to your music: the conquest of Paradise!”
“It seems Heaven is in reach! I am dying over here!” My lungs burn. My eyes pop out. My heart doesn’t have enough room left to pump. I am red like a tomato. “I can’t take it anymore!”
19 minutes 30
“I will repeat it until it gets to you: You can do it! You can do it! You can do it! You can do it! That’s your mantra: You Can Do it!”
Step 3: 8 minutes walk
The machine adjusts the parameters itself. I am climbing the Everest in a hurry. I have to suffer for 8 more minutes.
“This is stupid, really stupid! You run like crazy when there’s nobody chasing you! You do it with conviction! Crap!”
I march furiously on the running belt. I press my soles on the moving ground and I close my fists. My fingers tingle.
3 minutes left
” Come on! You are almost there…”
“Where? This is the new hype: rushing to nowhere by moving in the same square spot until a timer stops. When it’s done, you’re there! There where?”
“You nagging goose! You reach here!”
With a beep the machine becomes silent. The exercise has been successfully executed. The distance and the number of calories follow. The band comes to a rest.
I grab the sides of the frame with the large smile of the winner all over my face.
“Of course I can do it! I just did it!”