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

Exercise at the Speed of Light

I wanted to squeeze in an hour on the elliptical today.  Funny word, “squeeze”.  It feels like wringing out a dish rag until all the juice is gone.  And who would want to be such a rag?

After a early morning meeting, I hadn’t had any breakfast.  So off to the Belmont Diner I strode, on a mission:

“I need to be out of here in an hour (even though I love visiting).  If I finish eating within thirty minutes, I should wait an hour and a half before getting on the beast.  But this time, I’ll only have an hour.  Not good but it’s all I’ve got.  Get to the gym.  Wear your shorts and t-shirt there so you don’t waste time changing.  Forget stretching beforehand … and afterwards.  Wear your sweaty shirt home in the car, and blast that speed limit.  Then you’ll be home right at 2:00 to welcome your friend.”

I rolled into my driveway at 1:57.  “Jessica” was happy to see me.  And I was so proud of myself for getting the job done.

But at what cost?  Stomach sore, muscles tight, in-car sweat dripping down my face, just tuckered out.  Given today’s events, wouldn’t it have been wiser to skip the gym?  To let go of my “Tour du Canada training stats”?  (Sigh)  I think so.

It takes such a long life to learn so many things.


My head has been swimming most of the day.  I know I’m not physically sick but I have some theories about what’s wrong with me.


I rode my bike hard yesterday for over an hour.  It’s been a long time since ta-pocketa and I have done that.  I have a cool cycling computer from Polar that records stuff like speed, calories burned and heart rate.  As well, it gives me my “recovery status”, showing the amount of stress I put on my body and how many days I should wait until I ride again.  The results?  “Extreme” and “3 days and 3 hours”.  Ouch.  That’s a long time.

Today is Day One of those three and my body feels heavy, like my internal organs have gravitated southward.  No exercise today, thank you.


I’m in the midst of weaning myself off sleeping pills, something I’ve wanted to do for years.  This week and next, I’m taking half a pill every day instead of a full one.  Sleep has been short and interrupted.  This morning, it felt like my brain was on a slow-motion treadmill.  Conversations seemed to have big spaces in them.  This afternoon I tried meditating (Good luck!) and then slipped beneath the covers for an hour.  I was just as vacant upon arising.


I asked a woman to be my girlfriend last night, and she’ll answer when she’s ready to do so.  Take your time, my friend.  Many years ago, Jody told me that sometimes people would get curious about her, and visit her spiritually when everybody was sleeping.  And later I noticed that, after I had done something unusual, my head would often get hot and sleep wouldn’t come.  Well, last night felt pretty unusual and my head’s been hot.  Could it be that I’ve had a few visitors?


So the mind is warm, absent and plodding.  And so what?  More seasons are on their way.



Such a simple little body part until it becomes complex.

I’ve sure enjoyed strength training over the last few months.  Globally I feel stronger and my biceps, triceps, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, chest, back and glutes are all thanking me.  Up till a few days ago, my left shoulder was singing my praises as well but then something went wonky.

There’s one exercise called the lateral raise where I pull 5-pound weights up to the sides, so that my arms are level.  I think that’s what did me in (momentarily).  Last week I could do less weight on that one than previously, which I suppose should have been a red flag.  I guess moderation and caution are not my middle names.

It hurts when I’ve tried to lift my left arm to shoulder level.  I can only imagine what I’d feel if I had a dumbbell hanging off the end of it.  So no lateral raise, thank you.  I thought of the chest press machine and figured that was worth a go.  My hands were on the handles ready to push forward at a far lower weight than before.  I brought my energy to fierceness.  Ten seconds to go .  “Explode, Bruce!”  I pushed … and nothing happened.  The handles didn’t budge.  My mouth dropped open.  For a few seconds, the horror of it all washed over me but then I watched that fade towards peace.  A minute later, I was smiling.  What an elusive creature this human body is.  A motion that I never think twice about suddenly becomes impossible.  It’s humbling.

I also can’t swing a golf club, and that’s something I so much want to do.  It’s strange how last week I dreaded hitting a shank, where the shaft of the club hits the ball, sending the little white guy veering way off to the right.  Now I’d love to shank the ball or do anything else to it but the clubs are staying in my golf bag for awhile.

I changed course yesterday, mostly doing leg exercises at the gym, and walking several holes at Tarandowah.  I put myself in those places and did what I could.  No way is that joint at the top of my arm going to dictate my well-being.  That’s my job.



Faster Than A Speeding Bullet

I set off today to do some rediscovering.  I started with the gym.  Two weeks of bronchitis have left me weak, lethargic, and constipated.  I know that balance is key … physical, emotional and spiritual.  And that man does not live by Buddha alone.  So off to the  elliptical I went.

As I packed my gym clothes this morning, I selected a vibrant t-shirt that Nona and Lance gave me for Christmas.  It’s a greenish lizard flashing a peace sign on  a mottled purple background.  So cool!  But my reaction today?  Fear.  Fear of what the workouters will think of me.  How strange.  I love wearing funky clothes, especially t-shirts with funny sayings on them, and today’s purple shirt went exceedingly well with my bright orange shorts.  Has Bruce gone on a vacation, sort of missing in action?  I guess I’m allowed that once in awhile.

Happily, I didn’t adjust my wardrobe, and apparently went unnoticed by varied exercisers.  Soon I was flinging all body parts around on the elliptical.  I could feel stats rearing its lovely head (such as total distance covered in 30 minutes), and I tried to get my convalescing body to take it easy.  I was doing a moderate pace on the machine when I realized that I was feeling good.  “But, Bruce, what about an hour later?”  Ignoring this well-meaning but irritating voice, I sallied forth, and ended up doing 4.22 kilometres, the most I’ve done since Jody died.  “Okay, Bruce.  Now moderation.”  Well …

A few years ago at Gold’s Gym (now World Gym), I started loving Jacob’s Ladder.  You strap yourself in and step on a wooden rung, then the next one.  Basically you climb in place.  And it’s a workout.  So early this afternoon, there I was – attaching the belt.  Back in the good old days, the max I had been able to do was 400 feet.  Today I decided that 100 would be a worthy goal.  “Oh, Bruce.  Don’t wreck yourself.”  And I didn’t.  But I did do the 100 feet.

There’s the experience of being in the moment and then there’s pressing towards a goal.  This nice little Buddhist guy has decided to embrace them both.  Why not?  The world of Spirit (what I’ll call the formless) and the world of form (all the people, places and things we run into every day).  Let’s celebrate it all.  So yay for 4.22 and 100.  Nice round numbers.  And they look so good on me when I’m a lizard.