The Decline

For many years I’ve enjoyed working out on the elliptical at the gym.  I’ve also enjoyed tracking my results with Polar fitness equipment.  I targeted a heart rate zone of 121 to 145 beats per minute, roughly 80-90% of my maximum heart rate.  Overall I’ve had no problem maintaining an average of 125 bpm for 60 minutes, burning around 600 calories during the session.

Then came Covid.  I haven’t been at the gym since March and instead have used the cross-country ski machine in the basement, an old friend whom I had sadly neglected.  During the past several weeks, I noticed a downward trend in the fitness numbers, but no big deal

Then came today.  I hadn’t exercised yesterday so I was looking forward to feeling strong on the Nordic Track.  Warming up for the first 10 minutes, I felt fine.  My heart rate had reached 119, with an average of 112.  What an athlete!

I was schussing along with a good rhythm in the legs and arms, expecting the numbers to slowly rise.  Instead 112 felt obliged to fall to 111.  I didn’t increase the effort because I knew that would put my 60 minutes in peril.  “No sweat.  Just a momentary glitch.”  The sweet flow continued … for a short time.  By 20 minutes, the legs were heavy and the breathing was laboured.  110.  

What?!  This is impossible.  ‘Fraid not.  It was not only possible but the reality of the moment.  By 30 minutes, I was gasping and 109 appeared on the display.  I limped to 40 minutes and 278 calories, and dismounted from my usually faithful steed.

I sat down on the couch, my mouth curled into a sneer.  This was by far the worst I’d done on an elliptical or ski machine in a couple of years.  Grrr!  And then … the world stopped.  I just sat there, and a warmth came down from the top of my head.  Something was moving in me.  The sneer evaporated, and a few seconds later the corners of my mouth were turning up.  A smile was soon replaced by a laugh.

The voice tried to protest: This is serious stuff!  No it isn’t.  This could be the beginning of the end!  Bullshit.  What?  Look, you idiot, don’t you see what this means?  It doesn’t mean anything.  I didn’t exercise yesterday and still I did horribly.  You didn’t do “horribly”.  You did.  As in that’s all this body had today.  Why are you laughing?  Get a grip.  I don’t want to get a grip … I want to let go.

I’ll take tomorrow off and then get back on the Nordic Track on Sunday.  

My friend and I will ski together
fast or slow, long or short, virile or exhausted
And all will be well

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