My free gym membership

One of my “on the brighter side” thoughts when I found out I no longer had a job was that I’d have more time for exercise. I used to bike 100-300 miles a week in the summers, but the hours I was working at my last job made that impossible. I usually logged my very short commute and little more – maybe 25 miles a week (ironic, if you know what my last job was).

For a magic period in 2004-2005, I had a lovely work week. I totaled about 40 hours a week, but because I worked at home and not in an office, it seemed like less than that. I didn’t have to spend time commuting or making myself look “professional” every morning, and I could multitask by eating my breakfast and brushing my hair in front of the computer. I could take my lunch break whenever I wanted, and I had some flexibility about when the day began and ended.

That flexibility allowed me to join a gym – one of those bootcamp-style ones where you’ve got a coach there the whole time barking at you to do one more sit-up. I’d go for an hour every day at noon or 4 p.m.and got the first and only six-pack of my life.

After I got canned, I fantasized briefly about rejoining the gym. But then I saw its monthly fees, which have shot up to $90 a month. (Maybe they’ve got a higher coach-to-client ratio now, to make the yelling more personalized.)

Fine. Today, I realized I don’t need a coach. All I need to do is forget to look at the weather report before making plans.

Let me make a short story long. I produce a show at a local radio station and had planned to go into the studio yesterday to record an interview. But my subject emailed me and asked if we could reschedule today because it was about to storm in her part of the country and she needed to go pick her daughter up from school.

Sure, I told her. I avoid going out in snowstorms, too. So we rescheduled for today. I had an appointment on the opposite side of town in the morning, but the roads have been so dry here lately that I decided it would be an excellent opportunity to drag my road bike out of the basement and zip around as quickly as if it were summer.

Then, many hours after I got off the phone with her, as I was doing my weekly volunteer stint at one of my favorite 1st Amendment organizations, I looked out the window and saw flurries. And if they kept up, I knew I would not be riding my road bike anytime soon.

Rather, I rode my winter bike – a one-speed beach cruiser with 3-inch wide tires – 11 miles today. Eleven miles on a beach cruiser through the snow is nothing like 11 miles on a road bike on dry pavement. It’s like 48 miles. And while I’d rather have fenders than no fenders, they are a mixed blessing in places untouched by snowplows. Slush builds up between your tires and the fenders, slowing you down so much that you occasionally have to dismount, pick up the back end of the bike, and then slam it on the ground to dislodge the snow from your wheel. Then you repeat the process with your front wheel.

Even my arms are sore from biking today – and a cruiser is not the type of bike that usually requires arm strength. Maybe it was all that lifting-and-dropping I was doing.

I’m not complaining. I enjoyed every minute of my ride today. And there was a certain point when I was cranking up a snowy hill and I realized I was breathing as hard as I used to on my 58th sit-up, with the coach yelling at me to do two more.

The difference was that, on my bike, I hadn’t needed anyone to yell at me to get to that point. And I didn’t need anyone to yell at me to continue.

All I needed was the clean air and that lovely feeling of motion.

Thanks, Coach Schwinn.

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: