I don’t even do flying dogs with kettlebells as a rule. Then along comes this.
I am humbled.
Trying to imagine the Olympic event.
Mr. P. — the hobbling, sagacious Master Yoda of my gym — waved me down as I carried my bag of toys into the serious end. Mr. P hangs out there, holding court from a little used stack press, mostly because a car accident several years back fractured his pelvis in three places and left him with muscle spasms that for some bizarre goddam reason he refuses to let me mess with. He may be painfully modest in an old fashioned way.
When he did a double-bicep lat spread it was like watching two guys simultaneously swing open the doors of a Ford F-450 pickup and stand up on the door frames. The twentysomething douchebags in there see an old man who walks with an agonizing limp, if they notice him at all.
“I got a message for you,” he said.
“Am I busted for actually lifting something?”
“No, no, this is nice. You remember the guy who blew out his back a few weeks ago? He was back in. He wanted to tell me he was OK, it was just a huge muscle spasm — “
“Good, I thought so — “
“And he asked me if I’d thank the young lady who was so supportive while we were waiting for the ambulance, if I saw you.”
If Island Guy was forty that was all he was, and I’m fifty-nine in November. I must be doing something right. Maybe he was just being gallant, so I’m trying not to be smug. But some days you need that.
I still wish Mr. P would let me have a whack at him, though.
You all know Felix, right?
What happened was, I was billy-be-damned if I was going to yield an inch to the anathematous NO DEADLIFTS ALLOWED signs that recently went up at the gym , which would edge me ever closer to bailing on the joint if it were possible to find a real gym in the vicinity any more, which it isn’t. Apparently the redoubtable Mr. P — our senior trainer, and a hardcore lifter of venerable stature — was detailed by management to enforce this rule. This is probably something they elected to tell their corporate masters in a show of compliance with the franchise policy. Mr. P, who once sported a physique right out of the pages of a Batman comic, is pretty much disabled these days owing to a car crash, and tends to park his can on a little-used stack leg press when he isn’t showing some flabby civilian around the circuit equipment. You might as well ask Martin Luther to enforce canon law.
I tightened up my trusty belt, seized two thirty-five-pound dumbbells from the rack, and dropped into the stiff-legged jackknife of a full deadlift. Fuck that Romanian shit, hung for a sheep, hung for a goat. The dumbbells came close to hitting my shoetops; if my feet hadn’t been in the way I could have let ‘em drop another six inches, but you go to war with the Army you have. I got a good fourteen reps out of the first set, along with the interesting revelation that staying centered between two respectable weights (think a couple of old IBM typewriters) forced a remarkable task of stabilization on the muscles governing my center of gravity.
My left obliques, the ones that have been recruited to circumduct my left leg during its tedious recuperation from fascial blowout, sang to me for the next few days, and they did not sing fleeting interludes of Top Forty crap, they sang Wagner and Verdi. But after that my leg was longer and went into stance phase without recrimination. I covered four miles of hills in an hour.
Mr. P has agreed never to see what I do with the dumbbells. Today I did it right in front of the wretched sign. No one said anything.
They put up a bunch of vile signs around the gym, prohibiting the dead lift and the hardcore strength training move called the power clean (not to be confused with anything involving water under high pressure or annoying commercials for bathroom scrubs).
They have been dicking with us over the deadlift since my beloved old musclehead gym hooked up with the crocus-colored franchise chain, but up to now no one has posted signs. I gather some clutch of noisy little punks made themselves tiresome slamming the bar on the floor a few days ago (Greg, who talks kind of swishy but could probably hoist one of these manchildren in each hand, said he asked them to tone it down and “they looked at me like I had two fuckin’ heads”). Some show of authority was demanded, I guess.
I already have to park two big plates flat on the floor so I can get some loft doing a good straight-legged deadlift, since — now that my leg range of motion is almost back — I can stand at the top of a staircase and handily fold at the hips to put my palms on the first tread. Now it’s starting to look as if any incriminating ceremonies like that are out of the question. Because I am damned if I will stop doing them. This morning I tried the feel of a dumbbell in each hand, so that if caught bending double with them, I could just feign that I was doing a flying dog or something.
The thing is that there are no hardcore gyms left in easy shot of my house anyway, and all my friends and a lot of clients are at this one, to which I can drive on autopilot, passing my bank branch (where they fold me to their bosoms when I walk in) and a couple other places I do regular business. Gold’s is a poncey meat market selling overpriced gear, at which I am reliably informed that the men, at least in my local branch, are clannish and treat the heavy end of the weight room as a boys club, and the other glossy chains are full of people in leotards. (I am right there with the masterful Dan Savage when it comes to the sins of the leotarded.)
I just have to work around it. But I expect to see a rack of Kegelcisers in there any day now, given the kind of workout they seem to be encouraging.*
*Yes, I know I am the last person to be scorning a gym for asking us all to be “pussies.” We should reclaim the word, and all that, women’s parts are more rugged than men’s when you think about it, yada yada, and let’s not even think of the petition my cats are going to file, but no other word springs forth when the temporal lobe, taxed beyond endurance, loses its grip on gracious speech. Except maybe feh.
Every so often the Minotaur who manages my gym — three hundred pounds of beef who routinely locks out four hundred pounds of weight over his head — goes into training for another competition, and books Friday night appointments three or four weeks in a row. I have to put extenders on the table for this motherfucker. Seriously: they make side pieces for massage tables that slot into the frame, adjusting a bit toward the head or foot as needed. People asked me, back in the day, why I was ordering them when I bought my stationary table. “You know where I hang out, right?” I said.
I cannot close my hands around the Minotaur’s upper arms. Don’t even try to imagine his thighs. I use fists and elbows, mostly. Up either side of his spine are hummocks that suggest a large mole tunneling under there; he does have a neck, but it takes Filipino finger surgery to distinguish it from the mounds of trapezius that bridge the distance between his skull and shoulders. Both of his hip joints make succulent popping noises and shift tangibly when I traction his legs. We talk a lot of shop while I’m working, which makes me notice that I am breathing hard.
My ripped-up, fascia-torn leg — still going from “no problem” to “God kill me now” in a regular rhythm — has been playing merry hell with me for over a week, except for the Friday nights that I work on this guy. After an hour and a half of pummeling what feels like Goodyear tire rubber, my hair is coming unpinned, my glasses are sliding down my nose and instead of broadcasting disabling waves of kicked-balls, hot-wire pain into every reach of my body, my leg feels fine, just fine. (Yeah, I realize I have no balls, as such, but I’ve had the pain described to me eloquently, as one which leaves you sucking wind and unable to focus attention on anything else. For the apogee of the misery that engulfs everything from my sacroiliac joint to my ankle when this thing starts to flare, it will do as a simile.)
I don’t dare tell the Minotaur this, even though part of me just wants him to book time every evening until I figure out what is going on here. He pays me the ninety minute fee, considering I can’t get through that vulcanized bulk in any less time, and I need the money.
This happens sometimes. I was doing alternating sets, going between the hack sled and the Only Good Leg Curl Machine Left (they’re on opposite sides of the gym) when a small commotion occurred off to my right. Someone seemed to want my attention and at first, hearing something about a hurt back, I thought someone was suggesting I whip out my business card, but no, some guy was supine on the bench of the long pulley rowing machine whose look I have never quite liked and it was clear he was not going to vacate it quickly.
“I went too heavy, I was just letting it go back and OW OW omigod OW OW,” he was saying, repeating the last bits with some variation as he held his head in mid-air (the bench was not long enough) and flexed his knees to keep his feet level with his hips.
Chris, who is ripped and tattooed, was on his other side — the victim was a pretty buff medium-brown fella from the islands, judging by his accent — and we offered to help ease him onto the floor if he thought he could make it. The answer was a definitive No. People kept looking at me like I was supposed to do something. This was not like the greensticked metatarsal I was around for a few years ago, when I could help the sufferer hobble out to his truck. Pain this disabling can come from a lumbar spasm, which it very likely was, but you cannot rule out an acute herniated disk by eyeballing it, and if you toss someone around too much you can make it worse. The only thing I was in a position to do was support the guy’s head, which I did. In the nick of time the Minotaur who manages the place showed up carrying a bench to replace my hands and advising us that the rescue squad had been called.
People were still looking at me like I was Dr. McCoy. Dammit, Jim, I’m a massage therapist, not an EMT I got down behind the bench and put my fingertips under the guy’s occiput. This is where the contact points are for cranial work. I don’t do cranial work, but I’ve gotten a good deal of it. The one thing about it is that it can’t do any damage. “Okay, I’m going to try to help back this off a little till the medics get here,” I said. “I fix this kind of stuff for a living, just not usually when it’s this fresh, but we can do this. You’ll feel a very tiny traction on your skin, that’s all. This affects the deep tissues in your spine and reduces tension in the soft tissue.” He kept moaning and saying omigod, except, son of a bitch, it got quieter, and after a while it was more a sigh than a moan, the kind you hear when something eases up. I could feel a little warm pulse under my hands, the way you’re supposed to. It may have only been coincidental and I probably could never do this again, but I think it was worth something just to keep contact.
I went around to his other end and supported his legs since the guy I had asked to do it couldn’t seem to get the idea and had sloped off somewhere. Island Man was resting a bit easier, and I leaned back against the lethal apparatus and rapped my best about the muscles he’d been using, the structures he’d probably strained, the likelihood that he was suffering a muscle spasm rather than a blown disc, how they slide you onto the back board and belt you to the gurney, and the most likely drugs he would get to enjoy when he got on the medic unit. It kept him focused on something besides the pain, at least.
“You think they’ll give him morphine?” asked Chris when they’d carried him out. “Oxytcontin?” suggested his training partner. I opined that a little Valium, a muscle relaxant first and foremost, was probably going to turn the trick, since it looked as if he’d flexed his spine while contracting his lats eccentrically, a slam-dunk way to make your lumbar paraspinals lock up like a Chinese finger trap.
“Or Tramadol,” said Chris. “I might take some of that tonight myself.”
No wonder the bastard can do giant sets on the glute-ham, the deadlift rack and the leg curl. I wouldn’t even know my leg had ever been dislocated if I were keeping shit like that around the house.
Arnoldo seized my Ace bandage when I was about twelve minutes into my bike warmup. He is as dire as ever, though he is probably closer to fifty than forty now: hair still glossy black (there’s a little Jheri Curl or similar involved, I think), shoulders and pecs like polished gourds, grin like a candy skull. People who speak several antipodal dialects of Spanish inform me gravely that they have no feckin’ idea what he is saying half the time, either.
I think he was talking about Christmas and families. I could make out that he has a new pad and his seven brothers and sisters were coming to visit. I explained, more or less, that the Engineer (he always asks after my “friend”) was out of state seeing his family and that I have no family to see.
After I got out on the gym floor he played a cute game of body-blocking my path to the patch of mat where I lay a towel over the germs du jour and do some wrestler’s stretches and Yoga poses before grabbing any serious weights. He wanted to give me a Merry Christmas hug before leaving. I managed to pronounce Feliz Navidad more or less okay. Somehow this all got mixed up with him asking if my hair was really as long as someone had told him (he gestured at his hipbones) and saying it would be beautiful, beautiful if I let it down. I think. I can never really tell with Arnoldo. On any given day he could really be asking if I am up for white slavery or gladatorial combat.
His Merry Christmas seemed heartfelt, so I was not cheap with the return hug. I am pretty sure he killed a few people before getting Jesus, so people tell me, in a Salvadoran jail — there is a picture taken in the jungle, with machetes — and it is the least I can do for any child soldier who can still have the heart of a child, in Godzilla’s body, thirty-some years later.
That slightly asphyxiating perfume that Spanish guys like perplexed my senses at several intervals over the next hour, until I peeled for the shower and whiffed smudges of it all over my gym togs. I guess no one cares to tell him he smells like a cathouse. Would you?
Posted in Life is Dumb, Music, The Gym, tagged Ace bandages, compression bandages, fake orgasms, fascial tearing, muscle recovery, Rocky Horror, When Harry Met Sally on October 21, 2012 | 18 Comments »
So I have gone from the point of ice-packing and medicating my demolished leg
to a new stage involving compression bandages, something I would have thought of days ago if it had been anyone’s leg but mine.
A veteran of numerous twisted ankles (my lawn is full of gopher and rabbit holes), I have a whole library of these Ace bandage things available for changing and laundering. After five initial days of “just shoot me” pain and another week of random spasms and ignominious hobbling, to say nothing of being unable to find a sleeping position that didn’t stress one of the various muscles involved, I realized that what I craved was reinforcement. I broke out a roll and mummy-wrapped the offending thigh, and after an initial quarter-hour of grief, I had my leg back. Back. A little bitching on the warmup bike and calisthenic foreplay, but the hack sled came up goddammit without that “gee it might break” moment of wretchedness in the middle of the rep, and oh jaysis, I could walk. Walk without lurching and causing people to say “You’re limping!” (Really? How about that! I hadn’t noticed! Thanks for telling me!)
Best guess, the fascial inflammation is resolving but taking its own damn sweet time, as white tissue will, and the compression both supports the muscles and keeps the swelling flushed out of the space between muscular compartments. Instead of hitching and squealing (figuratively) when I shift my weight onto my left leg, the adductors just do their fucking job. I can walk down stairs. Or up stairs.
A damn good thing because, as it happens, the Engineer and I had tickets to a performance of the Rocky Horror show, of all things, performed by the Gilbert and Sullivan company to which my late and ex husband once belonged. The Washington Gay Men’s Chorus once did Pirates of Penzance in full blue drag, so turnabout is fair play.
I had never been to a Rocky Horror performance before. They call anyone who is seeing the show for the first time down to the stage, inscribe a V for Virgin on your forehead with lipstick, and require you to fake an orgasm then and there in front of the house. Most of the dozen or so folk in line with me managed to squeak out a bashful “oh my god” or “oh baby.”
I was so excited at stumbling only once on the way down to the stage that, bandages and all, I gave it my best.
I must have aced it. The cast sent me back up to the mezzanine and made the rest of the patzers do something rude with Twinkies.
It was a great show.
Gregory accosted me as I hobbled back to the locker room: “You cursed me,” he said conversationally.
I’ve been accused of various forms of witchcraft but this was new. He indicated his left lumbar region. I protested that I had never sent the imps and elves to help me drum up business.
Gregory works out at more or less the same hours of the day I do. I have already squelched him a few times for swanning about advancing age. He’s a likable, well proportioned, fiftyish guy who is either so campily gay he catches the curtains on fire or has no idea how much he lisps.
“Right there?” I said, sticking my thumb in the middle layer of his quadratus lumborum muscle. A lively discussion ensued about deadlifts and the Roto-Tiller he had rented the previous weekend, and he went off with advice about ischemic pressure on trigger points and stretch protocols. Passing me as he exited from the gym, he thanked me again and said “I’m in the sock business. I’ll bring you a bag of free socks for all your help.”
I am really in the market for some fresh work T-shirts but he doesn’t handle that item. “Pajamas?” he asked.
I have no idea of my pajama size. I stuck with the socks.
I know Ron Paul had this idea about paying your doctor with for instance a couple of chickens but I didn’t know how widely it would catch on.
So I got a set of walking poles, because I was sick and tired of my hip keeping me off the road; I love the gym but there is too much gorgeous air out there and it won’t last forever. (I mean that as a comment on approaching winter, not a statement about fossil fuel pollution, but both factors bear consideration.)
You can look up beaucoup videos online about how to use these things, but I just winged it.
Mile One: I have now adjusted the poles about 8 times. I think they are finally at the right height, which is a lot lower than I expected. They no longer skitter on the sidewalk and I have not impaled my foot once (close doesn’t count). I am ready for a set of pullups on the jungle gym providentially situated along my favorite route. Children look at me funny.
Mile Two: I am more out of breath than I have been in ages. Part of this is salting-in, analogous to the exhausting thrash of a tyro swimmer trying to stay afloat. I collapse against the nearest retaining wall, extract my cell phone and call to notify my Albino Ex, who complained the last time I spoke to him that it was getting harder to get a good workout. Even after a couple of minutes of fumbling with the phone, which kept wanting to send a text, I can barely get the words out. This is a good sign.
Mile Three: I think I have it. The support from the pole means my rehab hip, which reminds me daily how long I walked around with it half dislocated, doesn’t clock out in midstride and overload the muscles that weren’t injured. I have been longing to get back to the fine swiveling butt-swing of a long stride. Dogs move out of my way. My hands are going a little numb from overgripping the poles at first, but that will pass, now that the movement is travelling fluently up my arm. I am getting a salutary burn in the triceps. I have become a quadruped. Look out, cats.
Mile Four: Feck. Left gluteus minimus just clamped down on the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve root. There is a hot wire running down the front of my thigh right to the ankle and it has a friend running to my groin. Over-enthusiasm. I never learn. Going up hills changes the gait, which helps a little, but I don’t like to imagine the faces I am making. I am going to be late for work.
Home: My first client, a lumbar spine sufferer, graciously consents to lie back and listen to the Gregorian chant on my stereo, while I hobble up the stairs and fly through the sprinkler, before dressing and starting his session ten minutes behind schedule. A runner, he knows all about self-destructive workout instincts.
I’m still breathing hard as I struggle into my work fugs.
This idea has legs. Not as many as the centipede, but I am onto something.
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