Gold’s had kettlebells. Graduated kettlebells, on a rack next to a whole row of the poles that disappeared from my longtime gym over the last several months, and mats, and cages stacked with the variously sized stability balls that have also been proscribed back at the Purple Pansy because “someone might trip over them and get hurt” (??? that was the only rationale I ever got from the Minotaur). You would have to work to fall over a stability ball, so I still can’t think how even the most paranoid actuary could have advised the corporate management to ban the things.
They had a hack sled, and an interesting donkey raise with a movable lower-back pad. They had dumbbells that went up to 145 pounds, no, that is not a mistype. They had two plate loaded sled presses and a row of Smiths and my old friend the T-bar row, which left the Pansy in the first rash of executions. And up front, on a tier above the “functional fitness” array of stretch bands and pullup ropes, was a glute-ham with ankle rollers and a plate resting on its front footing.
“Can I just get in it for a moment?” I asked the bearded young thing in a do-rag who was showing me around. I seized the plate — it was only 25 pounds but it would do — and felt my by-now-frozen back pop like a series of champagne corks, a sensation as euphoric as if actual champagne had been involved.
I had been planning to check the other locations first but I just signed on the line, grabbed my gym bag, and enjoyed the first real towel-wringing, lung-flushing, heart-pumping sweat for months. I had been in danger of forgetting what I had lost, like the boiled frog in the common parable, submerged in warm water and heated up by gradual degrees. Wanting to stay with people I knew, in a familiar place, wanting to prove that I knew enough about lifting to make any gym work, had put me in danger of losing everything that mattered. There’s some kind of moral to that observation, even a geopolitical one possibly. It doesn’t matter how much you know about lifting if you are in a place where you have to sneak real lifting while looking over your shoulder. It’s like hurried, half-clothed sex in the back of a Ford Pinto in a church parking lot. Don’t ask me how I know that.
This morning I did deadlifts, real deadlifts off a platform, for the first time in a couple of years. Back at Planet Pansy the platform was the first to go, then every piece of equipment that I could recruit to pinch-hit for it, then the signs went up prohibiting deadlifts anywhere (we all faked with dumbbells or used a corner that was out of range of the — yes — surveillance cameras). For the last couple months I had been too discouraged for any of these kludges. So I started my first set at about two-thirds of my lifetime poundage. When I lowered the bar I could barely reach my sneaker-tops and it felt like my back was being ripped by weasels. By the third set, though, I was down to the platform and whole tracts of muscle were kicking in that hadn’t heard the phone ring for way too long. I began to realize why, hardly ever hurt and never for long through most of three decades in the gym, I have been incurring this injury and that with increasing frequency, and recovering so slowly.
Just gotta wrap your mind around it. Open a gym chain, make it nigh impossible for its members to give workouts a hundred-per-cent, actually force them to skulk lest they be caught working out hard — discourage intensity, which is the prerequisite for any productive exercise — and set the stage for injuries and deconditioning. If there is a Hell, they gotta have a department that handles that.
On the way out to my car I grabbed a thirty pound kettlebell, jumped on the glute-ham, hugged the kettlebell against my chest and knocked out twenty reps. It was like flying while smuggling a bowling ball. I think I made some funny noises because the woman on the ab board looked at me curiously, but not unkindly.
I got out of there just in time. Ribbit.