One small thing and one big deal

So here’s another reminder that the smallest things can still pack a punch these days. 

Like, really small things. As in file this one under first-world-probs-and-pleasures small. 

The pandemic has hit just about everyone I know harder than it’s hit me. I work from home anyway. My wife can now work from home. My kids are grown. And we’ve all stayed healthy. 

When hardships aren’t very hard

About the only real hardships I’ve endured are not being able to watch my son go through the spring traditions of a high school senior year, and not being able to hang out in coffee shops. I have nothing to complain about. 

But like most of us here on the lucky side of the tracks, the pandemic has been getting to me. The division in our society is unsettling. The willful ignorance of science and reason is appalling. And those whiny I’m-a-disadvantaged-white-guy posts that stream across my newsfeed? They make me wonder what happened over the past 40 years to put these old pals in that place. 

I already struggle with mild depression. Between low doses of medication and exercise, I’ve managed it pretty well. But the last five months have been trying. And it’s worth repeating: I have nothing to complain about.  

So what’s tilted my world for the better? 

I went back to the gym. (I told you it was small.)

It was my first real workout since March. 

There’s enough space in my living room and my kitchen to exercise without punching a hole in the wall. So I’ve exercised off and on at home. And, yes, I’ve been outside and walked a lot, and I even had my bike tuned up. 

It just wasn’t the same.

For people of a certain age and background, working out is an act of nostalgia. Especially in summer. Sure, you never truly leave the present — the amounts you lift, the routines you do, and screams from your joints keep you grounded in reality. But there something about working out in hot and humid conditions that makes the mind wander. 

Hits from the 80s…

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You can’t mention the ’80s and not mention the Masters of the Universe. It’s just not right.

It brings back memories of Walkmans and custom workout cassettes. Van Hagar and the Who. Hans and Franz. And of the time you first fell in love with the habit of pushing yourself. In those days, you pushed so hard that the next day, it hurt just to raise your hands over your head. 

Was working out in those days an act of vanity? Adolescent insecurity? Did it lead to present-day aches and pains in your wrists, neck, and lower back? Of course it did. And it’s also about the only routine you still follow all these years later. 

Until the ’ronavirus. 

Green means go… sort of

Here in Maine, the state closed gyms in March and allowed them to re-open on June 17. 

I was skeptical. My membership is with … an affiliate of a large national chain, shall we say. These places were Petrie dishes awash with bodily fluids BEFORE ’rona, you know?

But finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. 

I got the lowdown from a few friends who had gone back. There are spacing and mask rules. As in you wear one at all times when you’re not engaged in an exercise. Finish your set, mask up. Try to stay 14 feet apart, and respect limits on the number of bodies in certain areas. Wipe down equipment when you’re done with it, which you’re supposed to do anyway.

Better than expected

To avoid a crowd, I went at about noon, rather than my typical late afternoon. I wore my mask at all times, except when drinking from a water bottle I brought from home. The workout was a fat-burning routine so breathing through the disposable paper mask wasn’t an issue. I doubt breathing during a cardio workout will be an issue, either. 


I did notice more people ditching masks than I would have liked. Both young and older, and all men. You can’t fix stupid. So I settled for wearing mine at all times and wiping down anything I touched after each set.

A remnant of the Before Time

Anyway, an hour later, I was a new man. Well, I was still an old man, but you get the idea. Endorphins, runner’s high, hell, pheromones; call it what you like. You don’t realize how big a part of your emotional equilibrium those chemicals play. Or that you missed them as much as you do.

I came home and went back to work. Just like the Before Time. I’ve already mapped out my workout and when I’ll get to the gym tomorrow. I can’t wait.

I’ll be honest with you. Tomorrow morning, it would be kind of cool if I couldn’t raise my arms over my head.

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