Archive for January, 2011

A Touch of Jade

January 26, 2011

Something about Mission Valley Center location just unsettles me. Don’t like any of the machines: they have none of the newer combo stair/walker/run ellipticals I like, and none of the newer Ab crunch machines. Also, there’s always a ton of people in there. It’s only a single floor and the space is small. Reminds me of the gyms in high school and college, where they had a small auditorium-sized space with machines and free weights jammed right up against each other. It must be incredibly expensive to lease that much space in a shopping mall. So I should give them respect for paying out. But it just doesn’t appeal to me. The people there are also more plastic than usual. It’s a mall, after all.

The only reason I go at all is the Tuesday night Cycle class. Nice to be able to make it to a class after work and not rush through the locker room suit-up. At the Imperial location, I’m usually walking into the class after every one else is on the floor already. Mission Valley is ten minutes away, National City is almost twenty.  It makes a difference.

So anyway, I walked into the cycle room last night and saw a sharp-faced younger guy setting up in the instructor area. Something about him was familiar. When he flicked on his wireless mike and told us his name was Jade, I remembered him. I caught his set at Hillcrest in December. He wore a ball cap that time. Last night, he was hatless, his thick mousey brown hair cut medium-short, like John Lennon when he cut his long hair for charity or protest right after the Beatles broke up. Jade was subbing for Cody last night. Cody takes a lot of time off, apparently.

Jade was typically energetic. He led us is running sprints, seated sprints and heavier climbs. Very disconcerting to look over and see his legs moving in a blur no matter what the drill. He really is just muscle and bone. He told us–as we were setting up our bikes–that he grew up mountain biking in Colorado. His quadriceps are cut on both sides of each leg. He kept up a constant running commentary, on every thing from correct riding position to the methods used by instructors to hook up their iPods to the club-supplied stereo system. One instructor apparently brought in a mini television which had RCA jacks to allow the line-in hook-up.

He worked us pretty hard. The women, usually amongst the most gung-ho in the class, emitted groans when he called out for resistance and pedal speed increases at the fifty minute mark. Sweat dripped off my nose and upper chest, hitting the floor for the first time in a long time. I usually gauge my work out by sweat. Last night was a return to the strong effort and heavy sweat.

Walking out, I saw Jade standing in the gym’s fitness counselor area, lining out the pass cards on a counter like he was playing Solitaire. I wonder if the instructors get paid off the number of cards they collect. It would make sense: a commission based on how many take the class. I need to ask one of them: maybe Steve K. when I next see him.


Tonight We All Got A Brazilian

January 24, 2011

Climbing the stairs at Imperial, clock overhead almost reading 7:30, and the Zhumba crowd clumped up waiting to get out through the door: a little four-foot woman in cycle pants and a ball cap stood talking in the doorway. Not really getting in the way, just kind of holding the door open and talking to several of the female regulars in the class. After she went inside, I held the door open for the streaming ladies–cuz they’re ladies, they work out to keep in shape and hey, you just never know.

Once inside, grabbing for a bike, jockeying for my favorite floor position, I noticed the little woman in the cycle pants and ball cap setting up where the instructor usually spins. Whaa??

“Good evening, my name is Sonia, and I’m subbing tonight. How many of you haven’t taken my class before? (most of the hands went up) Well, I like to push you, and I will get in your face. If I say ‘heels,’ you need to make sure you are riding with your feet flat, if I say ‘knees,’ you need to make sure your riding with your knees straight. So come on, let’s get started!”

She wasn’t kidding. She broke her patter several times to call out slackers.

“You!” she pointed, “increase your resistance. I can see you don’t have enough on the wheel.”

At one point, during a standing climb, she rolled her bike over to face myself and 8 other riders clumped in the front/middle corner.  She mounted the bike and started churning away.

“All of you here,” she made an encompassing sweep with her raised hand, “need to increase your resistance. You’re cheating, and I don’t like cheaters.”

Finally, an instructor who uses the open plane of the wood floor to her advantage. She could never have rolled her bike over in one of the dedicated rooms.

She has an accent, Spanish sounding. Three quarters of the way through, she started playing Salsa music with a hyper-extended beat.

“Is anyone here Brazilian?’ she called out.

She likes to sprint. When she does, her legs churn at an incredible rate, double the speed of anyone else in the room. When she rides intervals: standing to sitting and repeat, she doesn’t really sit. She stays suspended just above the seat, hanging in space with her legs churning lightning fast and her knees almost fully bent. At four-foot, and not an ounce of fat, she can’t be holding too much weight up, but it’s still an incredible feat.

She thrashed us all and then thanked us. As she was taking us through cool-down at the end, she warned us not to skip that step. Don’t get off the bike too quickly, she said.

“I see too many people downstairs—-” and here she clasped her hands in a prayerful triangle and pantomimed keeling over.

I can imagine.

Just Like a Line to Buy Concert Tickets

January 23, 2011

Got up early and motored down to Imperial. Walked into the gym at 6:45 a.m.  Nobody in the lobby waiting, but my name was number 9 on the list when the counter girl wrote it down for me. So I asked her how early the first person showed up.

“I’m just curious,” I said, and repeated it reassure her. She looked worried, like she was being asked to give out Non Public Information.

“I would say, 6:35,” she replied.

Thanked her for the info and went upstairs to set up my bike. At five minutes till 7 a.m. all the regulars stood in the lobby, clumped in a loose line up to the counter. They huddled in little conversations of 2 to 3 people. They act like they’ve been coming to the Sunday class since time immemorial. I don’t  come to the gym to socialize or interact with people on any level, but it would be nice to feel accepted into their club.

The counter people at Imperial know me now, and call me by name. And I don’t mean they’re looking at a screen to read my name before they greet me. It’s a bit un-nerving. While standing under the pre-swim shower, the one counter guy (out of all the females in that position down there) walked by and greeted me by name. And I didn’t know his. Suppose I should just make some self-deprecating remark and ask for his name. It takes an effort to be a human being. I just want to remain isolated in my work out.

Jeff B. went heavy on the disco and 70’s MOR rock today: Foghat (original mix “Slow Ride”), Journey (a dance mix of “Don’t Stop Believing”) and A Taste of Honey’s “Boogie Oogie Oogie” revamped into a club mix.  It was fun. Some sang along. I didn’t sing, but followed along line by line in my head.

In other news, I retitled the novel again. Whenever the work pace slows, I retitle it or change the cover picture. Nevertheless, it fills 2.5 notebooks now, not counting several stray Word and Lotus docs. Just need to get it done and move forward. It’s scary. I’ve had something on the burner most of my life. But it’s time to get it out there. I’m gonna be fifty in June, and that’s my drop dead deadline. Gotta make it happen.

Tommy, Can You Hear Me?

January 20, 2011

Went back to Grossmont this morning to catch Steve K.  Could’ve caught him yesterday at Rancho San Diego, but I refuse not to sleep in on my first real day off. By ‘real day off,’ I mean a day of no work with another to follow. So yesterday, I ended up taking Timothy’s class at Imperial. What a gray day it was! The sky looked like dishwater. Was half afraid it would rain, but it did not. Timothy was a different animal. He warmed us up for 10 minutes of seated flat road style resistance, then punished us for the remainder of the hour. He’s very big on standing up straight and pedaling with no head and shoulder movement.

“Position 2,” he calls it.

It’s tortuous, and the Geneva Convention should look into it. But we all went along for the ride. At the forty-five minute mark, my right toes started cramping so bad I had to stop several times, and literally limped across the finish. Dialing the resistance down a bit, I was able to huff it out, but just barely. It made me feel old. It made me think of Tommy–the tall, skinny, shave-headed, bespeckled guy who spins at Grossmont. Tommy always starts the class, and seems to want to keep up, but he never finishes. Is that to be my fate? An old, broken down version of an athlete who only gets points for making an appearance, for putting up an effort, no matter how predeterminably doomed it may be?

And yet lo, Tommy made it out this morning for Steve K.  Cranking out ab crunches with a view of the parking lot, I saw him come up the walkway. An older, gray-headed man came down the walkway, leaving the gym as Tommy was coming up. Tommy greeted him and they exchanged cordialities in passing. Tommy seems to be well-liked and moves well amongst the gym population.

We all set up our bikes and began grinding away. Steve K. did give out his usual “this class is different, it’s more like an actual road ride” spiel. He doesn’t dispense this speech at Rancho anymore unless he sees enough new faces in the crowd. He did make us work, but nothing like his fabled Wednesday class. Getting kind of sick of hearing that class put up on a pedestal.

Tommy vanished around the halfway point again. I didn’t see him leave this time. Usually, I spot him as he dismounts and rolls his bike back against the wall.

After fifty minutes of fitful torture, Steve K. made one last reference to his Wednesday class.

“Back off the resistance and flush those legs out,” he said, still pumping away himself.

“If this was my regular Wednesday class,” he added, “I’d make you keep going.”


Cat Walk

January 19, 2011

Saw my disowned cat this morning. He stepped through my open screen door and stood just inside my place. The door was open because I was rushing out to get on with my day. His name was Pumpkin when I paid $80 to a rescue lady/society/club for the privilege of giving him a home. He hid under my son’s bed for the 1st five days he lived with us. When we lost the house, he came with us to the apartment. All was well until he started staying with a carpet bum friend of the landlord in a studio apartment off the wing of the building next to mine. Kym was the guy’s name. He was living in my apartment when the landlord showed it to me. Kym started sleeping in a hammock out in the grassy common area in front of the apartments after I moved in. I saw him out there, bundled under several sleeping bags in the early hours before sunrise.

When the heavier winter cold hit, the landlord let him move into the vacant studio apartment. He didn’t work until the landlord started making him pay rent. Then he started overhauling automobile brakes and suspension in the dirt parking lot. He liked to use his cell phone on speaker function. So everybody got to hear the conversation. His calls to his customers were memorable.

“Well, so you think I should replace the master cylinder?”

“”Yeah, I think you should replace the master cylinder, if you don’t want to die!” 

Kym took over my cat gradually, first seducing him with food handouts from the meals he frequently cooked for the landlord. He renamed the cat “Morris,” after the 9 Lives advertising icon. Not only did he presume to rename someone else’s pet, but he boasted to me about it.

“I call him Morris,” he grinned, “he comes to it [when called].”

That was probably his only way of getting to me. I used to walk away from conversations with him. If I hadn’t, he’d be talking to me still. Tall, skinny, with blonde hair growing long around the open skin of his balding pate, he looked like Jimmy Buffett might if he’d just kept drinking without any ambition to entertain or succeed. He spent thirty days in jail for a “misunderstanding” in a bar down the street. The fellow that Kym pulled a knife on didn’t understand that he was only playing.

So my cat began staying in Kym’s studio apartment. He has a distinctive yowl. He doesn’t meow; he makes an insistent squalling noise. Every time I walked by Kym’s apartment, my cat yowled at me from behind the screen door.

Then, predictably, Kym was gone. Moved out or kicked out, it doesn’t matter. He once told me he inherited forty acres of land in Virginia from his father. Obviously, he prefered the life in Southern California to Virginia. But maybe he finally decided to take the land over the outdoorsman life.

Just like that, my former cat was homeless himself. He started huddling on the doormat outside my apartment. But now he had fleas: a fact manifested after he spent a night indoors at my place. The couch and the rug were on fire with the tiny biting pests in the morning. So he couldn’t stay. And anyway, he had chosen his own course when he moved in with Kym. I have prefered cats over dogs in my adult life. But a cat chooses you, and that’s that.

So now, I see my former cat huddling 3 doors down outside the Mexican family’s apartment. They already have a cat, but the little girl who lives there puts out a bowl for him. He should probably move on, but he’s apparently too domesticated to go feral. Maybe he thinks he’s got nowhere else to go.

New Favorite

January 17, 2011

I really like the Imperial Ave 24Hr location. It’s very clean, which must be a challenge considering all the humans sweating inside. It’s one of the most fully populated locations.

Its popularity sometimes makes it challenging. Drove down there yesterday morning to catch Jeff B.’s 8 a.m. set. Got there at 7:53 a.m. and found the lobby full  of familiar faces. The whole crew was there: Whoop Dogg, the Blonde Housewife, the super skinny Asian Guy, the Obese Black Couple and 6 or 7 other regulars. Told the desk girl my name so she’d write it down on the priority chart. Ended up snagging the last pass that wasn’t reserved. Guess I’ll have to start getting there at 6:30. I refuse to pay another reservation fee, especially on the one day I’m guaranteed off from work.

One class I do and will continue to reserve is the 7:30 Monday class with Nicole at Imperial. Walked through the gym door at 7:20 and had to fight my way through the Zhumba departees while climbing stairway to classroom at 7:28. Nicole brought some new music tonight. Kind of embarrassing to get singled out while she did her usual pass  collection walk-thru at 8:03.

“Looking good right here!” she yelled into her mike while pointing at me. Was a foot away from her at the time.

She led us through some seated ladders tonight. She did bring us up to standing during several drills, but the emphasis was on seated power climbs and lighter resistance sprinting in the saddle. Had  sweat beads forming and running down my biceps. And that’s good.

Tomorrow night, I need to finally take on Cody’s class at Mission Valley Ctr again. Been putting it off, calling in and moving my reservation back and back again. Not tomorrow. It’s gonna be on.

Ever Since High School

January 14, 2011

The thing about Diane B.’s class is: it’s  a little like high school. All the cool kids know each other by name. And they talk about things that happen outside of class: people they know, tail gate party incidents, etc. And Diane B. is up there like some Amazon, her six-foot frame spinning away and calling cadence and ordering resistance changes while all this inside shit is going on.

“Carl, I saw you got a new car,” she says into her headset mike, “how much did it cost?”

Too much,” replies Carl with a laugh.

“I can’t hear the music over the sound of Carl’s ego!” calls Jackie from the corner.

“Teacher, Jackie’s picking on me,” Carl calls in reply.

And all the while, the music is pounding, and we’re up and down in time, pushing and pedaling, sweating and breathing heavy. The verbal interplay darts around us like flies.

Wish I could catch more of Diane B.’s Wednesday and Friday class. But I leave after only a half hour to get to work on time.  This morning, I actually made it through all of the Us vs. Them standing drills. Because she squeezed them into the first half hour. Usually, she starts those drills at 6:40.  Had to blow my nose for the last fifteen minutes of class, but I didn’t dismount. No wasting time for clear breathing when there’s only a half hour available to work out.

One nice thing about a class that starts before dawn is: no worry entrance. You can breeze in 10 minutes before class time and get a pass at the front desk.

So, I got a half hour in today.  Better than I’ll do tomorrow. No dawn patrol or after work classes on Saturday. Guess I’ll have to get to Imperial on time Sunday. For a change.

Night and Day

January 13, 2011

So good to catch Sandy’s set last night, 7:30 pm. That little guy rocks it hard. He changed his game a little last night, but still had us breathing heavy by the halfway mark.

“Come on, bitches!” he yelled into his headset mike, “get dirty with me!”

And we did. He brings so much energy to the room, it’s hard not to grin like an idiot when he’s up there calling us all out and driving us by example. He’s so light on the pedals, he could easily go another hour. Apparently a friend of his returned to class last night, because he made repeated reference to the “crazy bitch is back,” etc. while looking over to a new female I never saw before. Whatever it was, he was on fire and it was a treat. He told us after the set–while we pushed our bikes across the hardwood against the wall–that he’s gone next week. I went down and tried to sign up for his first class back–two weeks in the future–and it’s already full! The man is truly a rock star.

Woke up this morning with the tickling urge to make Annette’s 5:30 am set at Mission San Diego. That’s over by the stadium and directly on the way to work. So I thought I could make it there–catch her class–and still make it to work on time. But I dawdled actually getting out of bed and it cost me. Didn’t make it into the cycle room till 5:50 am. Still got sweaty, and had the added bonus of watching a fine pair of sweats slowly slip downwards in front of me. Nice.  Annette was typical. She kept the lights all the way up, and it was very bright. Guess that helps keep us from going back to sleep, but who can sleep at 85 rpms? Overall, not a bad workout. Just have to resolve to make it there on time.

Perception and Reality

January 11, 2011

Didn’t work out too much in front of Steve K’s 8 a.m. class @ Rancho San Diego. Just happy to have made it there for a pass with ease. Did find an heretofore undiscovered Ab Crunch machine in the corner. Good to know. The lack of Ab machines was always a mental tick against Rancho when weighing work out options.  Didn’t want to work the biceps, delts or any other muscle that gets plenty of isometric excercise holding my balance on the cycle in standing position. Mainly, I spent the hour stretching out my quads, calves, hamstrings and Achilles heels. Did jump a little rope. Scored this great Spaulding heavy “Sport Rope” on eBay before Xmas.  Cost me sixteen bucks and an hour hour of furious, dog-fight style bidding at a Starbucks. With the kid egging me on. Jeez, what am I teaching my son? How to win an auction on eBay during the final seconds, apparently. Anyway, it was totally worth it. The rope swings around with real purpose: the weight works out my wrists, too.

Steve K. was in brutal form. Wednesday is his flagship class. Since this was Tuesday, one can only assume that he was treating us as boot camp grade fresh meat. Two long ladder climbs to start, both fifteen minutes each, both featuring up and down positions with incremental increases along the way. Almost through the first one, I looked over at the wall clock to see it was only 8:14. At that point, I realized it was only 8:14. Survival skills kicked in and I stealthily spun the knob to lower resistance, taking care to wait till Steve K.’s head was turned. He’s a hard lecturer when he catches someone turning down the resistance before he calls for it.

Overall, just a punishing ride. Mr. K. eschewed the usual intro about how his classes are structured differently than others: how it’s more like a road ride, with hills and flats indicated by his stories. Instead, he just walked the walk, taking us on hilly climb after climb, worthy of the Tour de France’s fabled Alpine section.

“You’ve made it to the middle of the pack,” he said halfway through, “but don’t lose your position to any of the riders you passed up to get here!”

Very few of us were with him in the end, including myself. Very disheartening: struggling to keep cadence to the beat and look over to see his legs always going faster than my own.  Was encouraged by the surprisingly strong tension I felt on my wheel after a climbing off to find tissue for nasal passage clearance. Had to lighten it up just to get the pedals to come around for remount.

My weight is back around 223, which is what I took to my Baja carbo-loading vacation extravaganza. So restricting the carbs these last 5 days off worked. But I need to find a way to eat for energy. Can’t keep running out of twenty minutes into the class. Left during final cool down and stretching. Ten yards from the exit, I spotted a man seated in one of the chairs by the front door. He held up a square object in front of his face, like he was reading. The sun streamed in through the windows behind–throwing him into silhouette. I assumed the square was an iPad. But then, since he was in reading posture, I thought maybe it was a Kindle. This internal discussion took three seconds, the entire time it took me to walk past him, look over and note he was actually holding up the morning paper, opened to the crossword and backed by a good, old-fashioned clipboard.  Amazing how technology has taken over everything, including internal processing of visual clues into belief.

Tiny Dancer

January 10, 2011

My true Gym Dog nature–submerged first by injury in the early 90’s, then buried deeper by a 10 year doomed marriage–has reared its beautifully hoary head again. If I don’t make the gym every day, it feels like a gyp.                In college, I went every day and sometimes twice. That little old gym located on Fletcher Parkway just before the drop into El Cajon is now a Barbecue joint. And we are blessed with a proliferation of much bigger gyms in every city. Time does improve some things.

Caught Tiffany’s 9:30 set at Balboa today. Was standing at the front entrance at 8:15 trying to make a phone call on behalf of a client when Tiffany herself breezed past. She looked different in daylight. It’s always interesting to see instructors on the outside. They truly are minor celebrities. They attract followings and certainly have a fan base they actively cultivate. And why not, they frequently are the reason to show up. The energy level in a Cycle class starts with the instructor. The participants also need to contribute, but the instructor has the lead.

Energy output is no problem for Tiffany.  A kinetic force of nature–she’s up and down on the bike, dismounting to demonstrate position or walk the front aisle exhorting us to push “faster!” and bopping over to her iPod to change the music to “this really cool song .”  She’s like a mini nuclear reactor.

Tiffany led us through a challenging set of ladder drills today: standing, then sitting at ascending, then descending intensity levels. She kept playing with the lights, taking them all the way down till we were practically in the dark then bringing them up to half bright. Only do I get that she was using light to control and intensify energy. At one point she saw that we were all flagging.

“Come on,” she called out, “think of something good you’re going to do today!”

“I’m going to see my dog,” she giggled.

Left right after the final drill. Tiffany was still leading them through stretching exercises when I scurried out. The object is to cool down. But I didn’t want to. I wanted to take that energy out into the rest of my day.