Friday, February 12, 2010

The Newbie: Gym Amusements

Happy Friday! This is my guest blogger, the Newbie, who is training for her first half-marathon. (And in case you're wondering...yes - I am still snowed in!)

So currently in the throes of WINTER here on the East Coast. We were coasting along nicely with chilly but manageable (and runable? ok, not a word but go with me) weather until
bam! blizzard alerts! As you may know, the creator of this lovely blog has been snowed in for 5 days! Thankfully, NYC was not hit quite as hard as DC, but hard enough that all the public schools were in for a snow day! Which was lovely and glorious.

Now, post-storm, we got so much sun that the streets are filled with slush. Gross. In NYC the slush is extra-disgusting because often it becomes so dirty that you mistake it for solid sidewalk, and the next thing you know you're ankle-deep in dirty, and NYC street slush is now seeping into your shoes. Not pretty. And yes this happened to me. Blech.

What does this have to do with running? Well due to about 2 ft of snow covering my local track and ice on my running street (yes, I have what I like to call my very own "running street" ---I bet you do too!) I'm confined to the gym and man's modern exercize invention---the treadmill. Now I think most people agree that running on anything where the scenery is static get sboring, and the gym is not the most inspiring environment to run in. But if you live where there are real seasons (unlike my native Northern California), it becomes a part of your exercise regime at some part of the year.

Now I have the great fortune of having a totally wandering when left along I can entertain myself for hours with my own thoughts (like a cat with catnio), but what else is tthere to muse on while treadmill-ing? Let me count the ways ---if you happen to also attend Riverbank State Park's humble gym:

1. The Dominicans. Many of the older gents attend this gym but hang out more on the machines then use them. I swear that the gym has become an extension of the barbershop! While sometimes annoying when you're trying to use the equipment, it's kinda awesome to see them in all their 90s sweats/track suit glory just...chillin'.

2. The Random Runner. There's an older man who comes in and spends about 90% of his time ambling around the gym. It's not very big and quite simply laid out so I'm not sure what he’s searching for exactly. All of sudden, after perhaps 10-15min of this dawdling will he jump on the treadmill and boost it up to around 7 or 8 (approx 8min/mi-7min/mi)! But only for about 3 minutes. Then it's back to the roaming. Odd?

3. Ladies of Leisure. These are the women who come together to "work out" yet seem more to be lounging i.e. languidly peddling on the bicycles or take a stroll on the treadmill. They seem to enjoy themselves so I suppose I shouldn't judge, but I'm pretty sure you're supposed to break a sweat while in the gym.

4. The Cyclists. While most the athletes at Riverbank are obviously amateur there is one guy who is hardcore. He has the insanely slim and wiry build of a cyclist with tattoos running up one leg calf and along a bicep. When he comes into the gym he is not there for any of the "frills" of medicine balls or weight machines---he's there purely to ride. There is one bike that he always chooses in the gym, and you can tell it's his because the floor is stained with his sweat. Walking into the room with the bikes while he's riding makes you feel like you've just walked into the middle of the street during the Tour.

5. The Riverbank Employees. Ok, to be honest, most of the time I'm not even sure if an employee is present in the gym overseeing things. I think they're supposed to be seated at the entrance to make sure everyone signs in/leaves their card but...that is often NOT the case. Randomly at times they will come around to check faces with ID cards in the little card holder, it often feels like taking the train system in Europe---while sometimes you can get away without a ticket, but if you're caught without one they're merciless! To be fair, they're all nice enough and it's cute to see them make the rounds giving nods to the Dominicans, checking up on the Ladies of Leisure and giving respect and space to the Cyclist.

And where do I fit in to this little gym community? Apparently I'm the "china" who never gets off the damn treadmill ;)

After I kept feeling my neuroma flare up I've resorted to running not as often but longer distances, this has worked for me. Now I am down to 4 days a week instead of my previous 5, and I've been feeling really good...even enjoying my long 6-milers. This week I will do my first 8-mile run...whooo! Then I'm off to Miami to enjoy a few days away, and the SUN. I'm not as anxious anymore about the Half because I just have to remember that part of the enjoyment of running is the random observations and musings that it allows you---sometimes insignificant, sometimes not. Either way it gives you a chance to let your mind stop, and let your body just go.

Much love and happy running,