Monday, January 16, 2012

A Carnivore’s Guide to Cardiology: Exercise to me is like standing still, only faster

Ever since my knees and calves have informed me in no uncertain terms that we would no longer be doing this running thing anymore, life has become a series of pieces of equipment designed to cause me sweat and discomfort in order to elevate my heart rate while remaining in one spot.  This recumbent bike is the latest example.
I would have moved it to a spot not in front of any superheroes...but I don't have a spot like that.

It started with a rather poorly designed shock absorber stepper, bolted in the least aesthetically pleasing fashion to the back of a rubber band resistance gym set my folks gave me for college graduation. There was one day that it gave me the greatest cardiac exercise of my life.  That was, of course, the afternoon I had to haul the monstrosity up three flights of stairs to my condo when I first moved in (or out, depending on who tells the story).  Afterwards, not counting several sporadic and incredibly boring attempts to use the stepper when it was too cold to run, that side of the machine served more as a staging area where new comic books would sit until I filed them.

After running was simply no longer mechanically possible, I had an epiphany.  While I couldn’t read regular books while bobbing up and down on the stepper like a drunken Muppet, I could read comic books I’d previously been through.  Establishing a venue to reread old tales gave me the incentive to continue regular exercise.  Over time, the lifting side of the gym broke down, and became the comic storage area.  Around the same point as the steps finally gave out under my weight, the room needed to be repurposed as my daughter’s nursery. (Albeit it was a nursery with a great deal of books and action figures in it, but a nursery none the less.)  The gym provided one more great day of exercise by needing to be carried down the three flights of stairs on bulk trash day.

My wife’s Aunt provided us with an old and rickety stationary bike, which had similar drunken Muppitude to it.  However I must admit, initially for fear of waking my newborn, and then for fear of never getting any sleep myself because we had a newborn, my commitment to regular exercise began to wane. 

Once we moved into a house, my wife bought me a much sturdier bike, and since I could use it on another floor without disturbing sleeping family members, I got back into somewhat of a routine. (Translation- It was not what could be called truly regular exercise, but I wasn’t a total slug either.)  During this period we also got a treadmill for her, which I avoided since I couldn’t run anymore.

Then something very cool happened, I needed knee surgery. (That wasn’t the cool part; although the baseline chart helped to identify that my ECG changed later, allowing my catheterization to be preemptive rather than after an event, which is pretty cool.) While going to physical therapy after the surgery, my body remembered how good it feels when it gets used to regular exercise: y’know, past that whole sore, tired and crappy part at the beginning.  Once my knee healed, every other night when it wasn’t my turn to read to our daughter, I went downstairs at her bedtime to bicycle.  Many people have expressed distress that I would be too pumped up to sleep after exercising that late.  They, however, are not reckoning with my over booked schedule, and my Frissora Italian male genes allowing me to sleep any place, any time, under any conditions.

Another pair of amazing discoveries occurred shortly thereafter.  Looking for some variety and rest for my back I tried the treadmill.  The first discovery was my long legs and insane New York blood induced walking speed allowed me to get a mighty workout without having to break into a run.  The second discovery was I could see the downstairs TV from the treadmill, and now had a time and place to watch all the DVD commentaries and “making of” special features that the rest of my family doesn’t give a rat’s patootie about. Since I spend more than enough time rereading old comics by the fire Up the Lake, I could enhance my work out time in this fashion.

I continued mostly using the treadmill every other day and occasionally filling in between days with the bicycle to make up after a trip or other interruption.  Then, following the unpleasant birthday surprise stent, I went to alternating back and forth on the two machines every night no matter what.  All this treadmill use was despite a phobia which apparently I alone have to deal with. Every time I stepped on the device, I faced a near overpowering fear that we’d have a black out, and I would suddenly crash head long into the console, flip over it in the dark, bounce off the couch, and crash through my daughter’s train table.  (My paranoid fantasies are extremely lucid.)

By that point I had figured out how to move the bike in line with the television as well, and was supplementing the DVD commentaries with occasional horror or action films that fit into the “family not giving a rat’s patootie” category.  On evenings when extra motivation was needed, old Wrestlemanias and other WWF gems from my youth were called upon. It’s hard not to break a sweat when the Macho Madness Explodes, the Heart Foundation is Attacking, or Hulkamania is Runnin’ Wild…BROTHERRRRRR!

It was going fantastically well. I would lean more toward the bike if any joint or limb got sore and more on the treadmill if I was trying to push my weight below a point that would score me a brief return visit to one of my long lost food friends.

Of course, that was when my Achilles tendon decided I was adapting to this whole healthy lifestyle far too easily, and tore.  This left my only exercise option for quite a while as a hand bike.  No matter how cool the DVD selection of the evening was, to use a technical definition: HANDBIKES SUCK!  Once the summer hit and I was also swimming, conveniently the aches in my upper body made me start to forget the torn tendon pain.

I was finally cleared to resume biking again, when the accident happened. Unsurprising to anyone who saw me in middle school gym class (where I managed to not only fall off every piece of gymnastic equipment, but also invent the Three Stooges Dismount from the parallel bars) I had a Stationary Bike accident.

At some point unbeknownst to me, one pedal slightly unscrewed from the crank.  As the genius designers made the pedals out of excessively harder material, the pedal was slowly but surely coring out the crank as I rode. The end result was that at full speed there was suddenly nothing to hold the pedal in place and it shot across the room.  The conservation of momentum was in full force that evening and I shot off the seat in the other direction. (Fortunately, despite previous fears, AWAY from the train table…only bouncing slightly off the foosball table.)

The most embarrassing part is that it was, in fact, my SECOND stationary bike accident.  The first being an extremely rare stationary equipment collision.  Quite a while previously, I was attempting to reattach one of the treadmill arm bars which had come loose.  The internal fitting was broken, which meant when I thought it was locked in, the arm was still free to swing down and smash me on the head.  This caused me to stagger off the back of the unmoving treadmill and fall onto the stationary bike where my hand went through the readout panel.  This didn’t prevent use, but locked the panel at an odd and hard to see angle. (And you all thought the flipping over the couch fear was farfetched.)

With the stationary bike now doubly damaged, it was time to get rid of it. (Using a trick I learned from Radar O’ Reilly, I took it apart and threw it out a piece at a time to avoid the “bulk trash” fees.)  We replaced it with the recumbent bike which:

A) Gives a more productive work out
B) Puts less stress on my back
And most importantly
C) Is in the shape of a vehicle I longed for as a child but was never cool enough to own…
I wonder if I can paint mine?

By the way, to anyone recognized the reference in the title…
You did maaahvelous!


longbow said...

A kid in my hood had a Green Machine. Oh it was great for spin-outs! going strait... that took a lot of skill and patience.

Jeff McGinley said...

Thanx for posting, and congratz! That has to be the first time "my hood" and "Green Machine" have been used together.