Total Ellipse of the Heart

are-you-readyThe elliptical machine and I have a complicated relationship. Days go by without so much as a passing glance between the two of us. And when we do “share a moment,” it’s hard to gauge how things will end up at the end of the date. I want to love it, but I’m afraid of commitment.

What can I say? I’m a player. I’m guilty of yo-yo exercising. One week I’m hot and heavy, working out, feeling the burn, and loving every minute of it. The next week . . . well, not so much. An old knee injury makes running, another past love interest, a true challenge. I do run occasionally, but I’m unable to give it my all the way I’d like to. So I alternate exercises, trying to push past the monotony of same old same old. I’m not a one exercise kind of girl. And that’s where the elliptical came into my life.

The first time I tried it, my teenage daughter, Jordan, actually introduced us, and walked me through the steps of setting up a basic workout. I couldn’t help noticing how comfortable she was with her elliptical–taking breaks to adjust her iPhone settings, brush hair out of her eyes or grab a sip of water. She and her elliptical were a team. Jealousy grew as I watched their ease with one another. Too much pressure. I swore I’d never double date again.

I almost fell twice, trying to adjust my feet just right, because, well, I didn’t want to fall off. As sweat pulsed through my pores so did the worry over fainting or crumbling into a heap on the gym floor, my spaghetti noodle legs dangling over the side of the machine, a true metaphor for defeat. All of the other people in the gym looked compatible with their machines. Was it just me? When the workout ended, I strolled out of the gym, playing it cool, without even a second glance at my machine.

The next day I jumped back on. Steady, steady, I whispered to myself, trying to gain my balance and composure while maneuvering the beast. Although the work out felt harder than the first time, I assumed it was normal for the second day. My legs burned, my entire body trembled but I continued on, remembering “no pain no gain.” Nearing the end of my workout, Jordan walked in and hopped on the machine next to me but stopped and stared. I knew the look on her face well–that embarrassed look she’d get whenever I did something she thought was totally uncool, like singing all of the words to “Ice Ice Baby” in front of her friends.

“Have you been working out like this the entire time?” She asked in amazement.

“Yes,” I answered, “Why?” I looked down to where she pointed, recognizing the awkward movement of my feet.

She leaned in to me. “You’ve been doing the elliptical backwards.”

Explaining later that the pain I felt while working out meant that I wasn’t doing something right–”it should never hurt,” she said–Jordan gave me some tips on working through the awkwardness of learning a new piece of equipment, especially one so complex as the Elliptical.

For a time, I did everything to avoid meeting up with the elliptical. I wasn’t ready. I ran stairs, walked and jogged my neighborhood, worked out with weights and if I’m putting it all out there, did nothing on many days. All the while, longing for one more chance to make it right.

I’m back in the game again. It’s only been a few days, and I’m still 100% awkward and uncomfortable on the elliptical. I continue to watch others with their ellipticals, hoping for pointers in making my relationship better, stronger. This time I’m in with both feet, feet that are moving forwards not backwards. And when I play our song–yes, we have a song–I forget about all of the baggage, the missteps, the awkwardness, and simply hold on, enjoying the bumpy ride and anticipating another day of discovering the nuances of the elliptical and myself. After all, isn’t that how love begins?


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