Thursday, July 31, 2008


DESPITE THE MYSTERIOUS FIRE-DEPARTMENT situation of yesterday that shunted all morning-workout freaks to later or next-day exercise sessions, I did managed to slide in after work, giving a lift to another blah day with some king-hell progress.

Good thing, too. The last time I'd worked my shoulders and legs (I do both on the same day) was last Friday, and I was beginning to feel aches in both. This let me know that muscle was being broken down, or so I believed. In practice, I fulfilled one of my goals for the week by lifting more than I'd anticipated in a couple of exercises.

I felt tired and fatigued by the time I got home from work, and I figured, at minimum, I would get 30 minutes on whichever aerobic machine was available. I assumed the upstairs weight areas were going to be swamped. I typically get home between 5:15 and 5:20, and take about 10 minutes to get dressed and over to the gym in the morning, when there's less traffic through the heart of town. So I took a couple of coins for the town parking meters in case the gym lot was full. But a spot near the entrance welcomed me, which I took as a good sign.

The weight floor was busy, but mostly filled with silent men who weren't using any of the leg or shoulder machines I planned to attack. Just in case, I switched my usual order of battle and hit the shoulder press machine first. Because it's a plate-loaded unit, not a Nautilus- or Cybex-style stack-raiser, it's tough for folks to "work in," or alternate use on the gadget—while one party exercises, the other rests, then they switch, the seat and weight are adjusted, lather, rinse, etc. With plate-loading machines, you'd have to drag off many of the barbell plates to reset the thing for the next person. If you're doing several sets, like I was, and combining it with a second, related exercise (in my case, shrugs with dumbbells), it's best to have the machine to yourself for the full bunch of sets.

Which I did. In fact, I felt strong enough to add a little more weight to later sets, which surprised me. I'd honestly thought that missing Monday, plus the dodgy protein intake over the weekend, were responsible for lost muscle tissue. But the top set on both the shoulder press machine (45 lb. each side, 5 reps) and the shrugs (60 lb., 5 reps) were both confident and controlled.

With the shoulders out of the way, the three sets of leg exercises, as well as some crunches and dumbbell bicep curls I finished with, were a dream. I stretched, rode home through grim humidity, and enjoyed a chocolate–mixed berry protein smoothie. So if nothing else, I am at least feeding myself enough protein to keep muscle during those accidental outtages that inevitably will crop up.

And Now, a Musical Digression

I did manage to follow this up today with a half hour on the elliptical trainer. Instead of absorbing CNBC's panicked pre-market jabberings, I went with my iPod. I listened to a techno/dance compilation Trance: A State of Altered Consciousness, which in disc form rarely left my car during long solo casino rides. Certain dance music from the late Nineties found a nice place in my ear, despite my fairly diverse, untethered allegiance to any one favorite musical style.

I'd first heard this record at the long-gone Tower Records in Paramus. The first cut, Sasha's "Xpander," came on the store stereo system while I was digging through the magazines. I'd heard this track before, during an ad campaign for some videogame, and I found the whole track riveting. I read idly through several magazines and books at the store while listening to the rest of the record, then bought it. In the intervening years, it was always part of my driving music on the way to Foxwoods or Atlantic City. I couldn't make the final approach along Route 2A or the AC Expressway without the gaudy pulse of System F's "Out of the Blue" conjuring images of the Japanese techno-future we all thought was coming back in the mid-Eighties, with candy-sheened megatowers clawing their way into the violet Tokyo skies.

I gave copies of this disc to two women I knew, one a close friend and former lover, the other a friend I hoped would become a future lover (sadly not to be), both of whom dug dance music. My own copy disappeared when I stupidly left a case full of CDs untended at a gym in Las Vegas in summer of 2003. When I bought my first iPod later that year, it took some time to locate a new copy of the record, but find it I did, and I added it to the playlist and stashed the disc someplace safe.

I hadn't listened to it for a while until today. The new iPod does a much better job of running the tracks together without that split-second gap the '03 model dropped between the cuts. Although I didn't have time to let the whole album play, as my ride neared its end, I did blip forward to "Out of the Blue," and imagined myself, with the TV in front of the elliptical trainer showing only my sweaty reflection, gliding among those pastel-and-steel Tokyo towers again, a Blade Runner metropolis done up by Ecstasy-addled confectioner/architects.

Some love may never catch fire, and friends may drift away, but at least I shared that music with them, bidding them the chance to fly through their own dream-cities wherever they might lie.

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