Come with me
On a journey without form,
Having little regard for time,
Taking a trip into the routine,
Each step forced upon us by uncertainty.

Come with me
Through the darkness,
Where sight has no value,
Where experience
Only matters if it is shared.

Come with me
To the other side,
To see how our time will be valued,
To feel how our experiences create new routines.
Together, this is our way.

Sometimes it’s all a waste,
Sometimes not,
The drive, the traffic
The memories,
The cold,
The dark mornings,
The same songs,
The same breakfasts,
The same coffee,

But I’ll be damned
If I let the routine
Creep into my life,
Stealing the hope
From any seismic activity or
Continental shifting
Be it prophesy or heresy
I’m living this life to get faster,
Kind of a Santino way
Except I plan on getting past the toll booth
And LIVING a long ass time.

Give me that coffee,
Give me those breakfasts,
Let me listen to those songs,
Wake up on the darkest of mornings,
Even when they’re cold,
So I can create new memories,
Beat the traffic, whether driving alone or on the smoothest road
Because none of it, not one bit
Is a waste.

The second day
Brought new adjustments,
The wheels spun freely,
Balance returned to the challenges,
The end became clear.

Squats were finished,
The miles nearly run,
Only one month to go
Before the laps would become wet,
The fingers would ache in the cold,
And the adjustments would have to pay off
If all the hours on the bike
Would somehow get ridden.

The end became clear,
It was over,
The marathon, done,
If not physically, mentally finished,
Run the damn thing already,
Get out before the sun is up,
Before the crowds, before privacy is lost,
That all important alone time,
The hours of running without music,
Solo, only a partner to the thoughts
Coming and going
Like a quiet meditation
On a bench or in bed.

Soon the future will become foggy,
The hours of training,
Oh, those hours of training,
For what, for the challenge?
To see what is possible?
No, to know capabilities,
To get to another end,
So more fog can get in the way,
So more fog can be passed through,

So it is.

Rains fell in that biblical kind of way yesterday,
They cleared out just about the time
We all started to run this morning.

We kept a pace that was too fast,
I dropped back, alone, until the turn for five,
When my bud slowed and brought me along for seven.

We talked, walked, never balked,
It was the good kind of run that happens
When the pace is right and the company solid.

We mentioned emotions and mechanics,
How important they are in triathlons,
Really, in everything we do.

He and I recognized that part of the journey
Is so important, maybe even more so than,
The pace, the distance, the medals.

When we were done,
I felt alive, ready for more, and
With work what it is, today, I was off to lift.

I have a rule, never exercise angry,
That’s the ingredient for tension,
Tension is what gets me hurt.

I got to work and hit the weights,
No distractions, no waiting for equipment,
My music, it was heaven.

Until the crush of gossip information
Entered the sanctity of the glorious grind.
Someone shared “compensation” information with me.

Why should I care what others make?
Why does it matter how people act?
I’m only in control of me.

And I could feel myself losing a little control.
My heart rate went up a couple of zones,
Literally, orange if you’re counting.

The sets and reps got checked off.
An old shoulder injury reminded me that it might still be there,
But I didn’t care, anger is tough to undo. Anger will not be denied.

Guilt too, I suppose, as I talked shit to myself when I finished,
Why did you listen?
When will you grow up?

After a super cold shower, by choice, it’s supposed to help something,
The anger was broken, a new realization was upon me, and
A renewed sense of emotional and mechanical purpose had been inspired.

Listen… Don’t own…
Deadlifts rock!
I’m mostly all “growed” up.

The wagon made it to New York City. Miss Moon foresaw the journey ahead for Rory and reached into a mini-fridge for a bag of arugula. She tapped the actuator on a modular culinary preparation machine and reduced the salad to liquid. She reached back into the fridge and pulled out a nearly frozen Piels beer. The bottle sighed as she twisted the top and poured the beer in with the green liquid. She handed the mix to Rory. He gave her a little smile and sipped a little.

“Save the rest for later,” said Memphis Minnie, “you’ll need it.” That struck Rory as weird, but he did not have time to ask her what she meant.

“We are leaving you now,” said Miss Moon. “You will see New York differently. You won’t notice the commercialized and sanitized version you’ve always known. You will experience the past in a futuristic way. the drink will give you energy to escape static ways. Your journey of discovery is turning into a battle beyond the present. Notice everything.”

“Wait!” said Rory, but it was too late. The Trio of Memphis was gone. Rory and Allen were in an unfamiliar New York. The skyline had lost its shape. Concrete was cracked and cars choked the streets. The steam was made by a fancy capacitor combined with a thing-a-ma-jig. There was so much steam that hair got frizzy, clothes stayed wrinkle free, and rust seemed to be taking over the abundance of metal that was everywhere. New York was a downtrodden warehouse district instead of the neon and glass mecca that Rory and Allen knew.

“Allen what year is it?” said Rory.

Allen picked up a newspaper and said, “June 16, 1935.”

Neither could comprehend the look of the city. Post apocalyptic would have been a good cliche to start with. Thoughts of Escape From New York and The Warriors ran through Rory’s head. “Well, what happened on this date back then?” he asked.

Allen said, “The students at Cornell graduated yesterday and heard from a Dr. Bixler.”

“Is that a big deal?” asked Rory.

“On this paper it is,” said Allen. It was the only story in the paper.

“Let me see that,” said Rory as he took the paper from Allen. Dr. Bixler told the graduates, “To fail to recognize how completely we place ourselves, at such times, under the influence of the unconscious, drives us to fail to the see the plane upon which free and creative spiritual activity can take place.”

“What’s it mean?” asked Allen.

“I don’t know, but lets start walking, see where things take us,” said Rory.

They started walking and paying attention to the way people were dressed. There was a common theme, clunky boots, leather pants, dark shirts, heavy duster coats and goggles that looked suited for mountain climbing. The clothes had angular cuts and hung off the people who moved like robots. The aura was cold, impersonal, and far removed from cool industrial chic. It was as if there had been an elimination of the human spirit and these people were just walking around as organic machines.

“Everyone is the same” said Allen.

“Why?” asked Rory. “I say we head to the Williamsburg Bridge and cross into Brooklyn to see what’s there.”

They walked to the bridge and as they were crossing a little kid who was dressed in a white suit came up to them. He said, “Find the cooper’s daughter,” before running away.

“The cooper’s daughter?” asked Rory. “Memphis screwed things up for us. We were heading home to live an easy life. No more thinking, no more discovery.”

“Hush, buttercup. I know who the cooper’s daughter is. I can’t wait to see this.”

“Tell me,” said Rory.

“Not yet.”

They walked into Brooklyn and asked people where they could find the cooper’s daughter. People would only look in one direction and finally after what must have been fifty people, Rory and Allen found the Cooper’s Shop. The smell of cedar was everywhere due to the wood shavings on the floor. The smell took Rory back to the Cooper’s Shop in Colonial Williamsburg where a black cat used to hang and the jokes of the coopers were great. This shop help that old world charm, but here too, rust was everywhere. Then there was the music, haunting and beautiful, techno smashed right into a nothing groove, Nine Inch Nails singing, Skin.

Allen rang a bell and stepped behind Rory. The cooper’s daughter came out and nearly knocked Rory over. She was beautiful and full of grace. She was also expressionless until she realized that it was Rory and Allen. A slight smile formed for just a second, but as the song changed to “Shred” she became a blank slate again.

“You’ve moved on. Drink and forget,” she said.

Rory did. He drank every drop and felt himself escaping the containment of his past. With the steam rising around him and Nine Inch Nails hammering his nerves with “Singe,” Rory prepared to let go. The cooper’s daughter helped him, “You can’t go back into the past.”

Rory woke in his bed. Allen was there. “What happened?” asked Rory.

“Dude, you’ve been tripping. Two nights ago you were dancing in the field yelling ‘I gotch you, Dr. Bixler’ and the next night you were insistent that Mr. Cooper was hanging around. I was about to put you in Eastern State.”

Rory looked around his bedroom. Everything was just right, peaceful. “What about Arizona, Memphis, and New York?”

“Nothing but a dream, killer,” said Allen.

“I need a beer,” said Rory.

“On the porch,” said Allen.

Rory walked through the house and out into the six thirty sun. He was struck by how beautiful the sunlight coming thought the trees was. He stopped short of taking a beer. There, in a cedar bucket, doubling as an ice chest was a six pack of Piels. Rory looked back to Allen who just smiled.

pexels-photo

Playing sports and exercise has always been an important part of my life. I grew up in the era when lifting weights meant getting muscle bound and not being able to perform well as athlete. There were a few people who understood the value of using weight training to get stronger, but mostly weights were thought to be bad for sports. Despite all that, I was able to appreciate the positive aspects of working out and have continued to exercise with and without weights. It’s funny though, being muscle bound has never interfered with me being able to play sports. Maybe there are two reasons for that. First, I’ve never been muscle bound. Second, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve cared less about playing sports. Anyway, here is the “official” Williamsburg era fitness timeline.

William and Mary  (9th grade)

If you wanted to play sports in the 80s there were token happenings that a person had to do to be part of the team. One was lifting weights. I used the word “token” because there weren’t any formal lifting programs for high school kids and we still were seasonal athletes, yet to specialize in one sport. Each winter between the end of basketball season and the start of baseball our coaches would arrange for us to meet at William and Mary Hall and use the weight room there. The weights consisted of a Universal machine and rickety benches with rusting plates and bars. It was there that I learned that the “Bro Principle of Training” states, “Max out every attempt.” The adolescent ritual of figuring out who is the alpha male based on how much he can bench press was in full force in the weight room. Every exercise was a two-plate or full stack challenge. The room was saturated with teenage testosterone that was easily distracted when the women’s gymnastics team walked by, so very little actual conditioning ever went on.

The experience did get me thinking about getting stronger since I could not bench nearly as much as the other guys. During the off-seasons, I would lift a little over at Blow Gym. I liked the leg exercises, but they could not complete with the sound of a basketball pounding upstairs. After a couple of sets I was off to shoot some hoops. Those early years of lifting in the ‘Burg did little to enhance my strength or physique.

Nautilus (11th grade)

In eleventh grade, I hit the Nautilus for the first time. Back then the Nautilus was in a corner store in a strip mall. The front of the gym was a glass wall and the machines were stationed along the wall. My friend worked there and convinced me that I should come to an aerobics class to help me get in shape for basketball. He sweetened the motivation pot by mentioning that the English student teacher would be teaching the class. I couldn’t say no. It did not matter to me that I was working out for the wrong reason, I was at least working out. The class would sort of suck. It was embarrassing to be off the beat all the time right in the middle of the room while people were working out on the machines. I imagined them laughing at my inability to follow the choreography and then cringing at the thought of me falling into their laps as the worked on the abductor/adductor machine. I would never return to this Nautilus, but I would go to the Baskin Robbins, the student teacher also worked there.

ODU and Military Highway

One day in college, I decided to go to the gym with my roommates. They had been lifting for the whole year and with nothing else to do in January, I figured I would go with them. College aged guys lifting is about a pecking order. There are the super strong, the finely chiseled, and the wannabes. Because of my newbie status and lack of serious weight lifting experience, I fell into the last category. However, I refused to accept that I was a beginner and went right into the workout that my friends were doing. Two or three days later I was back to being able to lift my arms. Before CrossFit ever caused a commotion and haters began talking about rhabdo, I’m pretty sure I had rhabdo. I was sick, my muscles felt broken, my pee was not it’s normal shade of Milwaukee’s Best. I ached.

But I went back to the weight room with a new plan, the Nautilus machines. That was tough because they were a lot lower on the pecking order than evena weak bench press, but I needed to ease back into lifting. It worked and within time I was back in the free weight room doing what all college aged dudes do in-between sets. I was checking out the ladies. There was one who was very strong and muscular. A guy from my intramural teams who was nearly thirty leaned in my ear and said, “There’s a point where beauty and bulk clash.” I suppose, but who can be a judge of that, especially him. He only took classes so he could play intramural softball. Think of Robin as a real life Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused.

I also took a job at a Nautilus off of Military Highway. Coincidently, it was owned by the same family who owned the Nautilus in Williamsburg. Working there showed me the glitz and hypocrisy of the fitness business. This club did its best to be LA. with fancy lights, chrome, neon, spandex, this place had it all. I heard stories of professional wrestlers attending high school proms. I watched people work their best lines in an attempt to meet the woman in the hot tub. I was horrified when a guy who was spotting his girlfriend on the bench press was paying more attention to the aerobics class across the gym and missed his catch. She paid for his visual indiscretion with her teeth. Quite gross.

Nautilus 2

Soon thereafter, I moved back to the ‘Burg and joined the new Nautilus which had moved down a few stores to a larger space. The new club had a free weight room, aerobics studio, and a proper Nautilus circuit. I joined. It was there that I accepted the gift of a weak bench press and substituted a decent squat for ego gratification and a medium place on the weight lifter’s hierarchy. I would also learn about the power of friends in high places when Mr. Trimble called his friend, a Mr. Ferrari, so that the Ferrari dealership in Norfolk would truck his new car to him rather than drive it. I saw what it meant to be a legend when William and Mary basketball players were asking me to hook them up with girls just out of high school. And these were guys with real jobs, houses, and cars.

What I loved about the new Nautilus was the sound. There was something about the old Nautilus machines, their chains, and brushed metal cams. There was a cadence to the lift as if the links where counting out the reps. It was easy to know if I was lifting too quickly because the clicking would become one smooth sound. The smell of 3-in-1 oil fought off the body odor stench and the carpet added a color in the most 1980s way.

It was also where I lost my Swatch. Damn…

Sanitized Fitness

While my career in fitness has moved to education, it started in the resorts of Williamsburg. The first fitness center where I began thinking I might make a living at was the Tazewell Club. Colonial Williamsburg entered the fitness craze with the air pressure resistance fad. The machines were clean, sleek, and versatile, but not so popular. Neither was the club. There was confusion as to whether it should be a full service spa or a place to get a workout. In the end, service could not replace sweat and since no one was using the gym it went the way of any struggling fitness business.

Kingsmill was a different sort of resort. There was a strong neighborhood presence to support the tourist end of the business. It, too, though, suffered from a lack of use. The Nautilus machines were shiny, the weights immaculate, the beer infused pockets deep, but the club was nothing more than a brochure amenity meant to help sell the resort to potential conferences.

So ended my fitness journey in Williamsburg…

And now…?

It’s many years later and I just walked into the weight room at my local YMCA. The free weight room is packed with current and former students. They are all young, mostly high schoolers and a couple of college students. I wonder if they would lift if the mirrors were gone. The have their conversations, sip their protein and energy shakes, sneak in a couple of sets, and always check themselves out in the mirror. They carry their heads high, shoulders back, lats flexed, and eyes casing the walls for the best angle to catch a peek of their youth. I see mine, too, just without the bulging muscles and cut-up shirts. There is an invincibility to their collective aura that comes with being young and having the rest of your life to live. I’m past that and on to living the rest of my life with modest sets and Mickey Mouse sweat stains on my shirt. It’s all good because I feel much better about where I am now. That high octane testosterone fueled life style is one I gladly out grew.

Two weeks later…

Today (May 14, 2016) I ran my first race since about 2008. That run eight years ago went really well because I was still training for running marathons. After that race, I pretty much gave up on my fitness quests until my wife introduced me to Cross Fit. I loved the craziness of Cross Fit for awhile, but the rigor of the workout began to wear me out. However, my interest in Cross Fit has never waned, it just comes with a bit of moderation now.

Today’s 5K reminded me of my first race that destroyed about every bit of running confidence I had. It also inspired me to run more frequently, faster, and longer. I thought the eight years off wouldn’t be a big problem, especially since the foray into Cross Fit, but fitness has a way of humbling you in a way that golf cannot. Golfers speak of the mental grind of playing golf and how missed shots will attack a player’s confidence like nothing else. I’ll give them that, but they should recognize that their hearts and lungs are still in check. Hitting a hill and charging up it while running makes breathing a chore and maintaining pace nearly impossible. It’s humbling to chili dip a chip shot, but it’s worse to be in the middle of thousands of people and unable to breathe while they all leave you behind.

Well, this 5K was humbling. It was an illustration of how far I had fallen in terms of cardiovascular fitness. It was an affirmation of “use it or lose it.” It was also a testament to experience as I knew from past awful runs how to survive. It was also a call to action. I probably won’t go for the muscular madness of Cross Fit or the stereotypical approach of long distance training.

“To real journeys…”

 

Photo Credit: snapwiresnaps.tumbler.com via Pexels

RORY:

What’s that on the floor?

ALLEN:

Mac and Cheese, Patti Labelle, I think. In my opinion it’s really good, try it.

RORY:

Let’s go back in the woods to eat and drink some of that stuff. Something crazy will happen.

Rory and Allen headed back into the woods and did exactly as the menu said. This time, though, they added in the mac and cheese.

RORY:

Allen, do you think there are narcotics in this? I hope not.

ALLEN:

I doubt it, but it kind of smells like a margarita. I think I’m going under its influence.

RORY:

Me, too…

The message from the goats would be different this time. Rory and Allen were taken from the James River and transported to the 9th Ward in New Orleans.

RORY:

Why are we here?

ALLEN:

I don’t know. Is this a bayou? I’m kind of clueless about this stuff. Look at that guy selling t-shirts over there.

RORY:

He looks like the carpenter from my last trip. I’ve got to know.

Rory and Allen crossed the street and approached the man selling shirts. He was wearing loose clothing and orthopedic sandals. He will not speak to Rory or Allen, but he directs them towards a fire hydrant.

RORY:

I wonder why he didn’t speak to me this time. Last time he told me about empathy. This time he blew us off.

ALLEN:

I don’t think so. Look at the fire hydrant. There is a hawk there. That has to mean something.

RORY:

Man, this is confusing. At least the goats took me right where they wanted me to go.

The hawk landed on the fire hydrant and eyed Rory and Allen like he was an assassin aiming for a shot.

THE HAWK:

Rory and Allen, I speak from your past to inform your present so that your future may influence the world.

RORY:

He talks?

THE HAWK:

Yes, I talk. Stay here (points to his eyes). Both of you know the value of shade. Both of you can see the failures and corruption of the 9th Ward. Neither of you has yet seen Marvin Gardens. Go, your “principles” are ready.

The hawk flew away and Rory and Allen awoke back in the woods at Carter’s Grove. They felt clean from their auras to their colons.

RORY:

You know what this means?

ALLEN:

We’ve got to get more mac and cheese and my goats are copacetic.

RORY:

Yep and we’ve got to go to James Blair. Something is happening there.

They got in Snowball, the old Dodge, and headed across town.