I was halfway through the first giant set on the TRX, a
bondage exercise device that allows you to either work with or offset your own bodyweight, when I felt a looming presence at my left shoulder. I was already burning it up hard enough that my arms looked as if I had just hoisted myself up out of the pool, but I could sense the radiating body heat of another large person. Arnoldo was checking out my form again.
I have written elsewhere about Arnoldo. He is as harmless as they come for a former Salvadoran guerilla who once hid out in the jungle with a machete in his belt and sports an array of jailhouse tattoos. No, really. He apparently met Jesus in the Salvadoran jail (I hear Jesus hangs out in jails a lot) and became a man of peace, a giant, thigh-armed pussycat, the sweetest-natured motherfucking jacked side of beef ever to scare the crap out of a spindly gym manager just by walking in.
“You getting better,” Arnoldo said.
We go back years. People who speak good Central American Spanish tell me they can barely understand him, he comes from so far back in the woods where the cradle tongue is Quechua or something. He likes everybody. He greets everybody. When I explained by simple word and gesture that I was having surgery, he was concerned and gave me a hug. When I came back, leaning on the walker, he met me in the free weight section, grinning like a pumpkin. It would give small children nightmares.
He always asks after the Engineer, who only works out with me on Sundays. If he sees the Engineer without me, he’s concerned. Arnoldo is a role model.
I explained I was finally able to handle some real intensity (“I can work hard now”), and he watched carefully as I got through the rest of my giant set and nodded approval.
This is going fairly well. I am not real zippy getting down on the floor, for example, like if you drop something that rolls under the desk, but I can clock nearly three miles in an hour and kill a hill that is about a one in three grade without stopping. Then I have to apply ice packs, because my thighs swell up, but it’s worth it to see my heart rate dropping and feel the exhilaration, the sky-riding buzz that comes with every limb asking if you maybe want to stop this and your heart saying Fuck No. The physical therapist seems all over it. Last time she had me display my speedwalking gait and gave me exercises to expel the irregularities in it.
She gives me assignments about gait in general. This results in a Python-esque neighborhood spectacle that probably already has various folks in the local civic associations keeping an eye out in the mornings; first I walk sideways, then I perform a zigzag lurch that unplugs the tendency of the inner thighs to clench against instability, then I do it backwards, which requires a scouted stretch of even sidewalk and the absence of, for instance, dogs. Probably the most amusing of these is the high-stepping march which I do with my walking poles balanced before me like a kid playing at being a Wallenda. I am all ready to explain that I am from the Ministry of Silly Walks.
The other day the trash collection guys spotted me sidewinding and one remarked “Never thought of walking like that.” “New hips, breaking them in,” I explained. “Lady told me to do this.” He gave me a thumbs up.
I am aiming for the Hill Of Death, a nearly one-in-two with a heart-sinking switchback that fools people into thinking they are at the top instead of about to angle onto an even steeper incline. Secret path up from the parking lot at the nearby nature center. The lot is actually adjacent to the place where my PT winds up in two weeks, and I am having thoughts about showing up for my appointment straight off the effort. Probably won’t quite make it, but wish me luck.
What’s your stretch goal this week?