An Eighty-eight Year Old Goes to the Gym

Why was I running five miles daily on the track at Spring Valley H.S.? What brought me and my sneakers five miles and back on the the asphalt of Route 45? Since I played football for Doc Weidman at James Monroe H.S., physical fitness was my signature.

Now, 70 years later, I am at Blink Fitness Center being grilled by a member,

“You’re 88? Cut it out. You probably forgot your birthdate.”

“I forget a lot of things. Ask my wife. But my birthdate is firmly fixed in my mind.”

When I turn on the overhead light in my bathroom, the glow skids off my baldpate and forms grotesque shadows in the folds and furrows of my face.

Powders, creams or cosmetic surgery can’t deceive Mother Nature. She is aware of all these deceptive tactics. So I joined a fitness center to try and rescue the remaining shards of a once well-toned body.

A combination lock, a phone, a pint of water, and a towel are in my backpack. I’m off to the gym. I select a locker adjacent to a wall in order to get maximum support when I slip into my gym shorts then I’m off to the stretch area.

A chorus of “OOs”s, “Ows”, “Oys” and “Ahs” fill the air as members try to unlace the knots that have accumulated in their muscles.

After I had a quadruple bypass, my cardiologist warned, “You are to lift no more than 10 pounds.”

The weights lie neatly in their cradle. Behind these weights is a mirrored wall where young men stand, turn and flex. Next summer, will one of them be the Adonis on the beach? This mirror also reveals the familiar furrows and folds in my knees that litter the surface of my face. No cosmetic surgery Danny, just get longer short pants.

OK, so I lift 10-pound weights 40X, 30X then 20X.

It gave my biceps a good workout, but is there any piece of equipment that will challenge me?

An innocent-looking apparatus is standing between a group of ellipticals and treadmills. Most members pass it by unaware of its function. After I became familiar with it, I was convinced that in spite of its innocent appearance, it was probably designed by a sadistic engineer who was inspired by the demonic torture tools of the Spanish Inquisition.

It has two bars, approximately 5’ tall, connected by a wooden-backed inflated cushion. Five-inch tall hand grips are in front of two forearm pads extending outward. Connected to the bars, 6” from the floor is a footrest. To get maximum abdominal muscle workout, the forearms are placed on the pads, grab the grips then remove your feet from the footrests and hang suspended. If my mother saw me lifting my legs at right angle to my torso, she would yell,

“Stop. You’ll become a cripple!”

After a few years at the gym, I am able to complete this torture 40X, rest, 30X rest, and finally 20X. After a wipe down of the pads and back, I go for a “ride” on a recumbent bike for 20 minutes at resistance of 5.

For dessert, the choir is gone. I do my solo of “AHs” and “OYs” then the curtain comes down.

On the trek back to my locker, I try to memorize the combination to my lock. When my memory fails me, I lean against a treadmill and lift my right leg to find the combination I had inscribed at the side of the heel on my right sneaker.

Upon my return home, my wife asks, “How did it go?”

It’s usually “Swell,” or “As usual,” but my body knows the truth.

I collapse into my comfortable recliner in an attempt to recover. Next Wednesday Blink Fitness Center will greet me in my sneakers and shorts. Why? Throughout the years, in spite of pain or fatigue, I have always pushed myself to complete a physical task.

I leave the high school track to the students. The soles of my sneakers are no longer abraded by the asphalt of Route 45, and I have successfully memorized the combination to my new lock unless I forget it.


This torture device was inspired by the Spanish Inquisition