I joined a gym that's a few blocks from home, has ample parking, is never busy, and has clean modern equipment that is computer-networked so when you swipe your electronic key, the computer guides you to each machine where you're instructed on how many sets of how many reps at which weights to do. In addition, there's a readout on the machine that shows if your form is correct and your range-of-motion is right. Basically, it's like the gym Drago worked out in, only instead of Swedish body-builders, it's old black bluesmen and neighborhood kooks working out. And it's owned by three Boston Southies who are amused by nearly everything and very enthusiastic about people setting and meeting realistic fitness goals. Guidance for your regimen is built in to the club price, and you never have to wait for machines. Also, your results are published to a personal web page where you can track your work.
And then there's Kinesis.I believe that's Greek for "nerd-killer" - it consists of a series of tubes (like the internets!) sort of like a Star Trek transport pad with cables running from floor to cieling. There are weight-stacks in the walls attached to the cables. The exercise consists of moving through a series of calisthenics such as as lunges, kicks, squats, etc - while simultaneously lifting the weights with military press, shoulder lifts, butterfly lifts, etc. There is no assistance to balance, all must be done by one's own core muscles. So it sorely tests not just strength, endurance and balance, but also coordinating all of the above, at once, while suffering.
An odd thing happens. The world gets awfully small. There's no way to be thinking about what happens next, or what's for dinner, or anything else. There is movement and breath, and that's it. It's like a good day in Aikido class, or a night recon - the body is so fully engaged in what it is doing that the mind can't be anywhere else. The spirit is sufficiently punished by the suffering one endures that is slinks off and hides in a cave, where it plays with finger puppets and imagines itself in happier times, but is not heard from. If it knows what's good for it.
The exercise lends itself to the unification of breath and movement - exhale on the lift, inhale on the return. The breath sets the pace for the exercise. The heart, hammering like a spastic monkey locked in a garbage bag, tries to keep up. This Kinesis thing, it's good, but it's really, really hard.
So now I am hurting in places that have long since stopped reporting their placehood. Several of these muscle-groups have been hanging out at Satriale's pork store like the old mobsters in the Sopranos, spending their days playing cards, drinking espresso and eating bialis. Then some bully rounds them up and herds them, sweating and puffing across an obstacle course, until at last they collapse in a heap smelling of cigars and grappa. That's my places and parts right now.
Painfully I shuffled through showering and changing - putting on my sneakers has rarely been harder...and the socks? Like shrugging on concrete blocks. While tied up in a straightjacket. I was red-faced and even after showering, still sweating. When I got in the car and started towards work, I cracked the window and the breeze felt like the breath of life. It was like this one time in Basic Training when we went on a forced march through the hills and dales of Kentucky in August. It was a sweltering, breathless, humid day. Hell is probably like Kentucky in August, the heat and humidity is stultifying. So on this particular day we strapped on 80 pounds of gear and climbed the three hills of Ft. Knox - Agony, Misery and Heartbreak (also known as "Motherfucker" due to the inevitable expletive that occurs when one reaches what one believes is the summit, only to find it's a switchback leading even higher and even steeper.) After trudging over some magical terrain designed by Escher that somehow goes always up and never down ... we finally had a few seconds to rest and drink water. Without a breath of air, it was almost pointless - but then a dark raincloud gathered over the mountain peaks, and a cool breeze at least 20 degrees cooler than the air we were suffering in swept away the heat. Life came with that breeze, like a bolt of lightning that straightens the spine, opens the eyes. Breathe deep, feel the life. That's what the breeze in the car this morning was like - and the spirit put down its finger puppets and crept out of the cave where it had been hiding and reported for duty.
Which is good, because the body is done. DONE, I tell you.