Jim’s First Trip to the Gym

Understand, I have never exercised … Haven’t run a race of any length, never made an appearance in a weight room, and I quit football because I didn’t see the purpose of running up and down stadium steps and over a hill to and from practice. 

I am 82 years old, in good health. But sometime this year, a leaky heart valve caught up with me. Very soon, I found myself at the local University Hospital lashed to a gurney, then an operating table. I was surrounded by a dozen or so doctors with a variety of skills and learned expertise, interns, residents, nurses, practical nurses, technicians, and others. All were to be working to safely open and close my heart to try to repair a leaky aortic heart valve and, if needed, installing a new valve and a pacemaker to monitor the whole setup. Both proved necessary.

After getting poked with needles and wires, plus all sorts of modern medical testing equipment, and tolerating languishing in bed for a couple of weeks, I was told that the next step in my parade of treatment modalities was the undertaking of an exercise regimen. Not wishing to play chicken with my just-completed remedial heart repair, I decided I’d better shape up, and so I duly showed up at the hospital’s exercise room to begin said exercise program. 

But first, I had to outfit myself with the proper costume. In my closet I had no sneakers or any swell-looking workout shirts or pants, nor a gym bag with locker room tags of various exercise facilities from around the world. So I dug around in the basement among the clothes set aside for the local church rummage sale and found enough to look like a real exercise “officianoto.” And I bought a new pair of cheap sneakers at Target that a right-thinking sportsperson would never endorse.

On the selected date at the appointed hour, I walked into the hospital exercise room among lots of equipment obviously put together to create the maximum number of ways to abuse one’s body. My workout began in the weight room. The delightful trainer started me with one-pound dumbbells to stretch various tendons and ligaments and awaken them from 80-some years of slumber.  

She then walked me, carefully, to one of those giant machines with pedals and arm braces which when pushed and pulled, did likewise to my body. 

“How long do I pump this thing?” I asked, to which over her shoulder as she left me, she said, “Just keep at it.”  

Ten minutes later she reappeared. “Okay. Now we’ll try this machine,” she said, not even remarking about my successfully jumping off the first contraption without having cracked a kneecap by hitting one of the still-whirling pedals. 

Then, after fifteen minutes pumping on the new setup, I was told, “That’s it for today; next week we have some new equipment coming that as a real newbie, will be good for you.”  

After a stop in the locker room to check out others’ gym bags, T-shirts, and shoes, I left the hospital grounds. At home, I collapsed into my knock-off Stickley chair, noting I had but a short time to recover for my next physical workout session.

The take-away from all this? A socially distanced turkey trot this month here in Cincy? Nope. How ’bout a mountain run in the Catskills like my oldest son enjoys? Are you serious?  But I do like to believe my open-heart surgery made even stronger by these workouts will keep me around for a long time to come, enabling me to cheer on my kids and grandkids at whatever races they will run in the coming months and years. And I plan on getting serious about a daily walk around the neighborhood, in hopes of wearing through the soles of my new sneakers as soon as I can. For I have my eyes on a snazzy new pair I spotted this morning on another older guy foraging in the heart-healthy aisle at Kroger’s. I also have a feeling he is a real newbie just like me.