Look. Everyone hates the gym. Where else can you work self-consciously on your inept body under the watchful eye of old high school acquaintances while simultaneously picking up a myriad of diseases from greasy exercise equipment?
Gyms aren't exactly my thing. Nor do I expect them to be anyone's thing.
Prior to my brain's epic fail I was a moderately athletic individual. You should be shaking your head in agreement right now because you know deep down this is not so hard to believe.
Believe it or not, there was a period of time when I could squat lift something weighing more than a box of pizza. I played competitive ice hockey for most of my life. I even played twenty minutes in college once.
Big deal, everyone. Big. Deal.
Anyway, what I'm trying to impress upon you is that I used to be somebody.
"I coulda' been a contendaaaa..."
I never considered myself to be exponentially good at anything, but at least I could run without a pebble nearly ending my life and could stop a flying hockey puck every now and again. And not being exceptionally "gifted" at sports allowed me to develop a healthy sense of humility when I got rejected from sports teams. I knew I couldn't rely on natural ability so I worked harder to make up for it.
I was doing alright for myself.
Then we had a tiiiiiiiny lil' brain bleed and all nonexistent athleticism went directly out the hospital window. It's kind of hard to run a half-marathon when you can't walk, it turns out. Who knew.
I certainly didn't.
"I'll be out of rehab by like October 16th...that's still three whole days to train for my half-marathon..." I said casually to my physical therapist one day as we were working on walking a straight line heel to toe.
"Come again?" She said laughing into a grin.
"What? I signed up for the Denver Half Marathon for the 19th. I should be able to run that by then, don't you think?" I replied as I lost footing and had to restart my exercise.
Walking and talking at the same time was a skill set I did not yet possess.
During my rehabilitation I often became frustrated at my body's inability to act its age. My physical therapy consisted largely of balance activities that you would normally encounter if pulled over for a sobriety test. By the time I left Spalding Rehabilitation Center I could walk heel to toe straight lines while counting backward from sixty in threes.
What was not so fancy was the toll the injury took on my body. The athletic legs I had spent so many years fine crafting became withered and skimpy, chicken-like even. Because the injury occurred in my Cerebellum, motor functions and the ability to walk became temporarily impaired.
In the span of a month and a half I lost a tremendous amount of muscle mass in my legs and arms. So imagine my surprise at learning how to walk again after years of being able to do it just fine.
We really don't give babies enough credit. This stuff is hard work, people.
But I made it out of rehab fine with my own creative version of Amy Winehouse's famous song. I regained mobility and was cleared to run again in December granted I stay away from the half marathon until I could walk without running into walls.
Pebbles still felt like death-traps, but I slowly worked my way back up to full exercise and public gym visits.
But then I remembered that regular gyms, the non-hospital kind, suck.
Friendly elderly rehab friends were quickly replaced with people from high school that I didn't care to see.
Nice and clean balancing machines were now greasy exercise balls and malfunctioning treadmills.
I had become so accustomed to the splendid rehab facilities and kind encouragement from therapists and nurses that I could hardly recognize my neighborhood gym.
Why is no one clapping at the fact that I just did a push-up without falling directly on my face? Is everyone looking at my chicken legs in disgust? Why is my therapist not here to give me tips on how to get on and off of this treadmill machine correctly?
Of course I had never cared for public humiliation, but now I really didn't care for it.
I've come a long way since my tiny hand weights and heel-toe walking, however I'm still unsatisfied with the status of my chicken legs. So I run a lot. And every one in a while I go back to the gym and remember how much I absolutely hate it.
Yesterday I went to the gym. I did a quick lap around the track and made my way to the leg press.
Here we go, chicken legs. Time to be less chicken-leggy.
I did ten leg presses with 110 pounds and felt awesome about it. I would be back to physical mediocrity in no time! This was when I was interrupted from my awesome by a 16 year old girl who asked to use my machine. Like now. Like this second. Like get off of it.
"Well I'm kind of on it right now, but when I'm done you're welcome to use it. It's not like I own it. It's a free country." I said, thinking she would come back in a minute once my chicken legs got some work done.
She just stood there. Starring at me.
So I continued my reps and hoped that she would take a hint and not pressure me off of the machine that I so clearly needed in order to not have chicken legs anymore.
After about a minute of making awkward eye contact with her I gave up and got off the machine peeved at her inability to see just how badly I needed this machine more than her.
This is why I hate this place. No friendly old people encouraging me, no gait belts to hold me up just in case I fall on my face.
I mean regaining muscle mass after a brain injury is hard enough, people. I don't need you pressuring me off of this leg press. I don't need you gawking at my pathetic excuse for legs.
I don't need that kind of negativity in my life.
Ah well. Back to lifting pizza boxes in the privacy of my own living room.