Isn’t exercise supposed to be something you look forward to?

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Was I ready for a physical therapy center?

I thought my suffering was over when my fractured hip began to heal. But that was before my doctor insisted that I needed physical therapy.

Next thing I knew, prescription in hand, I was in the midst of bizarre multi-armed machines that threatened to undo any improvements I had experienced so far. My hip hurt again at the very sight of them. “Run,” it said to my legs, “let’s get out of here.”

I’d postpone my appointment for another year, I decided, and was halfway to the door when one of the therapists snatched my shoulder.

“Hi there,” she said cheerfully. “I’m Wendy. What kind of problems are we having?”

The first was the dent she was making in my shoulder. The second was how many therapists would block my way if I tried to get out of there.

“Hmmm,” Wendy said, as she looked over the mechanical monsters, “what should we start with?”

“The bike?” I asked, pointing to the only recognizable thing there.

“Oh, of course,” Wendy said, “for warm-up. Let’s put you on that for 10 minutes, and go on from there?”

Fifteen minutes later I wondered whether Wendy had gone to another borough for some coffee. I was exhausted after pedaling for five minutes and was trying to relax on the bicycle seat that seemed to have been designed for a 5-year-old, a slim one.

“Well, there you are,” Wendy said suddenly, as she remembered where she had left me. “I think now we’re ready for the treadmill.”

What was this? She might be ready for the treadmill, but I was ready for a nap.

“Here we go,” she said, yanking me off the bicycle. “Watch me first. Then you do it.”

My first mistake was breaking my hip. The second was not knowing how fast I had to move my feet to stay on the treadmill.

“Hold on!” Wendy yelled, as I started to fall off but was caught by the man on the treadmill next to me. “I’d better adjust the speed.”

“OK,” she said, helping me back on. “Now, just put one foot in front of the other. That’s it, great! I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

While clutching the bars, I turned to thank my neighboring savior, who had shut off his treadmill and looked ready to flee if I started falling his way again.

But whaddaya know! I was finally keeping pace, and even feeling better about the treadmill. That is, until I saw the huge mirror in front of it.

Good lord, was that me? I stared back at a haircut that still seemed shorter than the Marine’s in the recruiting poster and an old Polo shirt and sweats that I use for cleaning out the basement. I thought that casual clothing was what you wore to these places. Why did all these women look as if they were going on a cruise?

As soon as I reached home that day, I got out of my “good” sportswear and made sure I had enough makeup on hand. I might suffer as I worked these machines, but I wanted to look my best while doing so.

I’ve learned a lot since working out at the center.

1) Avoid any machine whose fine print reads “Mishandling might result in serious injuries or even death!” (Or, at least, learn what mishandling means.)

2) Don’t get locked into a machine with a bar across your torso that you don’t know how to release.

3) Don’t count and talk at the same time. You’ll lose track of whether you’ve kicked backward for 30 times and will be too worn out to even climb onto the lat pull-down.

4) Don’t hesitate to ask anyone who will listen (especially the owner if he’s walking by) why you’re getting leg cramps you never had before, and could they please call your doctor.

5) Don’t get a machine for use at home. A leg curl or a bench press was never meant to be in the same room with a Louis XV settee.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t even have to get dressed to exercise. And then I could always sell it. That is, if anyone’s interested. Hey, would I have a machine for you!

Posted 7:08 pm, October 10, 2011
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