Saturday, April 4, 2009


As of April 1st, I' started the fourth month of my workout. In this short time, I've been to the Y on average, four times a week. The receptionists greet me when I come through the door, they take my coat, check my bag and make a request on the PA system for a trainer to come help me set up for my particular set of exercises. A trainer arrives to make sure that the seat of the upper body ergometer is at the right height, he or she places my crutches in just the right spot against the wall to insure that I can reach them when I'm done on the bike. In the beginning I could barely complete twenty minutes on the ergometer before dragging my excessively sweaty self home to recover with the help of numerous glasses of water and a short nap.

Now it's forty minutes on the ergometer. And then a trainer meets me across the way in the circuit training room, to help me on three of the ten machines. A trainer sets my legs into proper positions, adjusts the weight levels that I can't reach, and repositions my natural crookedness as much as is humanly possible. I sweat and grunt and each time, I can't believe how much it hurts and how much, truly, I hate exercising.

Has my body changed? Haven't lost much weight yet which was, vanity notwithstanding the original goal. But oh, I do feel stronger. For years I yearned for my pre-pregnancy mobility: to regain the sense that I could take on city blocks and now pedestrian-less surburban neighbourhoods without feeling overwhelmed and desperate with exhaustion. 4 months in and once and a while I get a flash of the old upper body strength.

At the Y my fellow patrons hardly look at me, none to this day comment on what I do or how I do it. In the beginning the trainers treated me as a kid glove novelty. I was told to take it easy, to rest between exercises, they apologised while gingerly reaching to lift my leg. Now these months later the staff all make eye contact with me. They wave at me in the hallways, they greet my son by name, sometimes they stop to chat. While the range of what I'm able to do is limited by biped fitness culture, what I can do, I do I hope, with a certain noticeable single-mindedness. There are many senior citizens who transfer from their walkers to the treadmill, yet I've seen no other quadrupeds with permanent disabilities at the gym. I suspect there aren't many of us. This fact that makes me at once proud and sad. More of us should be there alongside our biped counterparts doing what we can in our way to make our bodies strong.

The other day after a particularly rigorous tour on the ergometer, I caught the eye of a passing trainer.

"Six miles!" I announced as he crossed my path. I expected a "Hey, that's great! Maybe spy a glint of surprise in his eye. Instead, he paused and looked me up and down.

"Six miles?" he said.
I grinned back at him. It was my best distance to date.

"Well," he said, looking me up and down "You're not sweating enough."

What? Where was the good for you! The praise that I expected tinged with that's amazing considering your disability...

The trainer said, "You need to worker hard. Sweat more." He turned and walked away.

I reached for my crutches and headed for the circuit training room.Ouch! I thought. And then it came to me To him, I wasn't the novelty Y geek with a disability. To him I was just another client. He was doing his job and I was doing my work out. Figuring he was right, I added an extra five pounds to the dreaded Ab machine.