I stood outside the door for a long time. I stared at the handles, two flattened C's with their openings facing inward. I read PULL, yellow letters on a black background, a sticker daring me to grab on and go inside.
I stood outside the door for a long time.
The air was warm. The sun was just hot enough. I was in clothes I hadn't worn since 2010, frozen in place outside my former home-away-from-home. My gear was in one hand, my cane in the other. Two deep deep breaths and I pulled the doors open and went into the gym.
No one recognized me. There was no greeting beyond the usual perfunctory smile-how-are-you-today as the kid behind the counter reached for my membership tag. I said that I wanted to re-instate my membership, on hold since January, and he smiled, clicked some buttons, and told me to go right on through. He didn't recognize my name nor my status nor the fact that this was the first time I'd been back since I got shot. I was peeved.
Peeved is better motivation for working out than fear. I wrestled the giant purple ball onto the mat, grunted myself onto the ground, lay my towel beneath my head and began to engage my core.
My core was not happy with me.
I found my trance almost immediately. The exercise routine I took home from physical therapy involves lots of slow movements and long holding-in-place. There's lots of time to think while this is going on, over and over and over and over again.
Thirty repetitions takes a long time.
I listened to other members grunting. The mats are near the Nautilus machines so the gasping is different from that which I used to hear on the more serious, free-weight side of the gym. A lot of it is in connection with simply getting onto and off of the machines themselves. I didn't judge, though. Not once. I appreciated the fact that "at least they are trying to do something" much more now that getting down on the ground was, for me, a cause for celebration.
I was back and I was furious.
I wanted to do flyes and bench presses but I was afraid to carry the dumbbells. Getting up and down from the bench looked like more work than I could handle, too. My glutes were engaged and so were my soaz and my abs and I was trying to relax my quads and my hamstrings so that they wouldn't compromise the work that the other areas were supposed to be doing. My brain was in Schwarzenegger-mode, even if my body was still stuck in rehab.
It was exercise, solitary, necessary, right on the edge of painful exercise. It didn't look like much, I'm sure, to the parade of people who glanced my way. But, I stuck it out and did all the repetitions I could manage until I was "unable to keep abdominals braced" at which point my instructions read "STOP." I wasn't too sweaty but I was definitely tired as I made my way over to the recumbent bikes.
10 minutes of real time (3 minutes of game time in the Thunder/Grizzlies series) and I was exhausted. "Stick a fork in me, I'm done" was the name of that tune. I was too pooped to pop. TBG encouraged me to walk proudly past the bikes as we made our way out that front door together. He stood there with me, surveying the scene, his hand resting on my shoulder. He was gym-tired, too, and I was there to hold him up.
It was a lovely way to end the afternoon.