I love the cardio room at my gym. It's a good mix of folks my age or older and I enjoy the fact that I have become one of the regulars. I find it entertaining to work out alongside the gentleman that brings to mind John McEnroe's grandpappy, sporting the sweatband on his head and chatting up all the older gals as he makes his way from elliptical to bike to rowing machine. Today I spent a lot of my time and energy focused on t-shirt guy.
T-shirt dude is at least 10 years older than me, probably somewhere between 55-60. It's hard to tell because it's obvious he has spent a lifetime in the sun and has the weathered face to prove it. That and the fact that he probably weighs about 110 lbs soaking wet, with rocks in his pockets, and hence this exacerbates the wrinkles on his face. I think of him as t-shirt man in my head because he's always sporting some old participant shirt from a marathon, fun run or triathlon. And they're so old that it's hard to make out the year, though I know they begin with 19-- instead of 20-- , so it seems his glory days are behind him.
I can always tell when t-shirt guy is on the treadmill behind the row of ellipticals I use because he has one of those slappity runs, where his shoes hit the belt with a lot of force and thus creates a steady drone that serves as a metronome bouncing around the cardio room. And t-shirt guy runs full out as if someone is chasing him trying to wrestle his ancient Manchester Triathlon 1998 shirt off his body and toss it in the rag bag. He also has a tendency to showcase his spindly legs in those tiny little wind shorts that are just one gust away from exposing all his bits and pieces.
The t-shirt guy finishes his mad dash on the treadmill and hops on the recumbent bike next to me. I'm one of those covert competitive workout folks, using my peripheral vision to scan the readouts on their machine. Are they going faster than me? What is the resistance level? How many calories have they burned? Is the incline cranked up or are they slacking off today? What makes me crazy are the folks that don't touch the resistance, then pedal their little hearts out with only the most minimal calorie burn. They're working like maniacs but not even breaking a sweat and their heart rate hasn't budged. Come on... are you here to get in shape or just watch a bit of TV someplace other than your own living room?
So anyhoo, I noticed that t-shirt guy is pedaling at the same pace as me but he has the resistance set a bit higher. My inner competitor takes notice and dials up the resistance on my bike from a 10 to 12. It's not as if I can't handle it, but I've already been on the elliptical for 45 minutes and am so sweaty that it looks as if I've just come from the water aerobics class in this outfit. I check my heart rate and it has jumped from a steady 143 to 160. I start to huff and puff a bit, but I'm not about to call it quits. Bring it on, old skinny runner guy. Just because I'm toting around a bit of middle-aged perimenopausal cellulite doesn't mean I can't keep up with you on the bike, even if it's just a competition I've created in my head. So what if my heart is pounding in my ears and my legs are starting to feel like overcooked pasta. What's a little chest pain when my vanity is at stake. No way I'm letting you and your little 3% body fat, look at me I ran a marathon t-shirt wearing self best me on the bike.
And praise be - he hopped off after about 10 minutes and saved one of the trainers from breaking out the AED to kick start my heart. While I backed off the resistance, t-shirt guy was replaced by one of the sweet little used-to-be-hot grannies whose stomach hangs over the top of her workout leggings since she wears a lycra top a couple sizes too small. So yeah, she looks like she's about six months pregnant when she plops down on the bike next to me for a leisurely ride at level 4 resistance and I'm not feeling the need to compete with that. However, it is a reminder to suck in my gut in order to the keep the "When are you due?" questions to a minimum.