Saved By The Barbell

The gym is friend, consoler, physician, Zen master, chiropractor, confessor. This is true even of the appalling Easter-egg-colored dump where I work out, with its clashing ambiance of op-art trendiness and structural decay. You cannot trolley quarter-ton pieces of stack equipment over ceramic tiles without turning them into a relief map, and the Vietnamese restaurant upstairs still has not replaced its faltering fish freezer. We won’t even talk about the plumbing leaks that turn the ceiling tiles into faded medieval manuscripts. Never mind. It is the still center of the Universe.

What I did was lose my patience with the space under my sun porch. Back when David the gardener dug in, literally, on my property and staked out three rows of tomatoes and broccoli and beans, I gave him passe-partout regarding the porch space, where he keeps not only his lawn mower but enough stakes to perplex Vlad the Impaler, along with assorted tools, tomato cages, chicken wire, and a jumble of plastic plant pots. He never tries to organize this shit or clear any of it out and hoards the stakes, especially, like little old eccentric women who have never thrown out a magazine or egg carton and have to eventually be rescued from their homes by firefighters with a ladder truck.

Sunday the Cute Engineer was beavering away with a masonry bit, mounting an exterior light on the brickwork by the cellar door, and when I saw him having to root around in all this horticultural debris for a dropped screw I plotzed.

L’Enfer beneath the porch is about a yard in height. Feature me swinking and sweating in hundred-percent humidity from nine till noon — heaving mutated lumber, writhing masses of heavy-gauge wire, and nameless drogits out onto the lawn, and raking out two seasons’ worth of leaves. The parging on the basement stairwell was developing algae, which I bleached; the deaths of several astonished earthworms will be on the debit side of my ledger when I go to my accounting. Alas.

Try this. Bend double at the hips, keeping your back straight more or less, and promenade about the room without ever quite straightening your legs, making occasional swimming motions with your arms. See how long you can keep this up.

After three hours of this kind of crap most people would stop at the hot shower. I could feel my sacral fascia turning into a time bomb, not to mention my entire back turning to stone, and drove over to the Easter Egg Slum.

In case you would like to try this approach to back pain, here is what I did:

-Twenty minutes on the recumbent bicycle

-A couple of sets of Kata-type moves holding five pound dumbbells, and seventy Good Mornings

-Pole twists from four different angles

-Twenty barbell rollouts

-Leg raises hanging from a chinning bar

-Trunk crunches on a stack machine

-Abdominal board leg raises and open-closes

-Cable side bends

-Stack machine trunk rotations

-Glute-ham extensions with a 45-pound plate

-A wrestler’s neck bridge

and my ever beloved ab crunches and handstand pushups off a Smith Machine.

What did pop, cracked and what didn’t crack, unraveled.

I will be fine in the morning.


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