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I Race an Old Man

February 22, 2011

In an effort to give my body some relief from running, I decided to work out on a Stairmaster today.  I have never used a Stairmaster before, but figured it really couldn’t be that hard.  As I started my workout, an older gentleman (we shall deduce his age to be around 60+ based on wrinkleage, knee cracks, and minimal hair count) got on the Stairmaster next to me.  While I watched him get on his machine, I felt a little lazy for working out on a machine that old men use but decided it was still good to give my body a rest from running.  Yes, I thought as I began to climb stairs – I am being so kind to my body.

I glanced over at the old man’s machine.  He set his Stairmaster to a level 6.  Aww, good for you Old Man, good for you.  I set my machine to a level 12 and, coincidentally, my patronizing thoughts bumped my pride to the same level.  I started climbing at my increased pace, and realized within seconds that I would not be able to take my eyes off the stairs for the remainder of the workout.  The stairs were coming at me fast.  One misstep, and I would fall backwards off my Stairmaster.  It started to freak me out.  As the stairs came down faster and faster, they all began to blur together and I panicked at the thought of missing the next stair, falling, and having my leg trapped beneath the machine as each step rolled over it.  There would be blood. I could already see the scar across the entire length of my shin bone.  I would need enough gauze to cover my entire leg from my fall.  Is there a company that even makes leg-gauze?  All right, all right.  I calmed myself down.  Decrease to level 10.

While I was increasing my own heart rate due to leg-gauze paranoia, the old man next to me was doing just fine.  He had been consistently climbing at the same speed and rhythm for the past ten minutes and showed no signs of the stress I was clearly having.  That’s okay, I told myself, he clearly uses Stairmasters on a regular basis.  He is comfortable with their flow.  I am still young, strong, and climbing 4 levels ahead of him.  Bring it on.

5 more minutes went by and I suddenly felt like there wasn’t enough air in the room.  I was winded.  It was like the first day being back in Colorado and ascending the stairs to my bedroom for the first time.  I have to stop at the top and hold onto the banister to catch my breath every time.  Pathetically, here I was at good ‘ol sea level, and I was death-gripping the Stairmaster railings while I tried to get enough air.  Was I breathing through a straw?  I looked over at Old Man.  His demeanor had not changed.  Still climbing at a 6.  No trouble breathing.  Damn.  What was wrong with me?  Yesterday I ran 4.5 miles in 35 minutes, and I can’t breathe on a Stairmaster?  I geared down to level 9.  I stayed there for two minutes.  Level 8.  Still ahead of the old man, but barely hanging in there.

I was a little more than halfway through my workout and feeling comfortable at my level 8.  Clearly my performance was sub-par today but at least I had regained my composure.  I couldn’t taste blood in my mouth anymore, which suggested my breathing had returned to normal.  Old Man was cruising along next to me too, obviously unconcerned about the progress of the 20-something next to him.  I kept climbing, wiped the sweat off my face and arms (yeah, that happens to me), and hung my hand towel back on the railing.  I placed it unevenly and, before I could do anything to stop it, it fell off.  It landed on the top of the Stairmaster – right over the ledge where the stairs come out.  The towel dangled there menacingly.  With every movement I made, the towel shook, threatening to drop onto the stairs and completely derail my next step.  The towel could ruin me.

I geared down to a level 7.  I quickly threw a glance at the old man to see if he was watching me.  He didn’t seem to notice anything I was doing.  I went in for my first grab at the towel.  I missed.  I quickly recovered, and sheepishly geared down to level 6.  Old Man and I were now on equal playing field.  He had me right where he wanted me in the workout race.  I tried to reach my towel again and almost lost my balance.  Crap.  It wasn’t going to work.  There was no way I could keep climbing and bend down to get my towel at the same time.  I am just not that coordinated.  I decreased my machine to an embarrassing level 4.  Finally, I was able to grab my towel.  But I was spent.

I eventually lowered my Stairmaster to a level 1 and then simply gave up.  I had been defeated.  The Stairmaster had won, and because of that, Old Man next to me had beat me too.  In my warped competitive mind, I lost to an old guy.  Awesome.  I cleaned off my machine, did my stretches, and walked out the gym door to sulk about my weakness at home.  As I was leaving, Old Man was on his way out and held the door for me.  I passed him and said “thank you,” but was caught off guard when he said, “you know, I would have just kicked that towel off if I was you.”  He smiled, “that was some good perseverance you got there.”

Why thank you, Old Man.  I may not have dominated today, but nonetheless, I had persevered.  He better be ready for me next time.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Courtney permalink
    February 22, 2011 7:06 pm

    Something very similar happened to me at the gym today – how appropriate.

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