and i think my old running shoes are giving me shin splints, but this could be a pavlovian response to the idea of running again. in high school, shin splints was a faux affliction -- based on a very real, very painful and very common affliction -- meaning "i don't want to do 12 800 meter intervals today, coach. i want to sit outside the locker room, running a coke-cola brad wax cup filled with ice up and down my tibia. oh, and i have super bad cramps. seriously. i'm sure i'll be fine tomorrow, when you just send us out on a leisurely five mile run."
i can handle the physical exhaustion. it is the obsessive compulsive disorder running causes that will eventually derail this most recent detour through the doors of the YMCA -- just like it has all the other's.
when i step onto a treadmill, i turn into a counter.
as you know, my life is based on approximations and hyperbole. i wake up around 1 p.m.; i have about this much money in my checking account; no, your hair looks fine; oh my god, i'm super full. when i finally complete my life's mission statement, it will have its own chapter based on things that i will not do exactly and this will almost all be about numbers. i am your cliche: a writer with the math skills of a drunk dyslexic.
things go wonky in that building. the treadmill's screen, from left to right, has a digital time counting my progress backward from 60 minutes. in the middle is a number that indicates how far i've traveled and my speed. the right measures how many calories a 135 pound, 32 year old will hypothetically burn -- based on the other numbers.
and that thing that just fell of the treadie's handrail, landed on the moving surface and was flung toward the radiator? that was the towel i grabbed specifically to cover those constantly changing, workout measuring, standard setting numbers. why did it fall? because 3 seconds ago, when i checked the digits for the third time in nine seconds, i jolted it loose.
in my head, things sound like this:
"if i listen to the black kids entire ep, it will take x long, i'll get y far and i'll burn z calories. it takes me 16 strides to get this far, so if i want to get this far, i have to take 192 strides ...
1, 2, 3, 4 ... 156, 157, 158 ...
i only have four minutes left. i can cover this much distance if i run this fast, but i'm not going to stop running until the calorie burner shows a number divisible by 10."
on top of this, i get very competitive with myself, willing bigger distances, faster speeds, more calories than yesterday and twice as many as last week. and then i multiply and divide the averages and see how to make that happen.
i have to distract myself. listen to a podcast, where someone else's voice will cancel out my counting. even then i sometimes catch myself suddenly thinking: 42, 43, 44, 45 ...
this doesn't end with my workout. my favorite shower at the YMCA sends out a two minute spray of water; i don't like to restart it more than three times. during the first interval, i have to completely shampoo my head. while it's off, i lather soap on my body, then hit the button to rinse. once rinsed, i add conditioner and hopefully get my face washed before it turns off again. i spend the last two minutes washing out conditioner. i don't like to deviate from this plan, and actually get annoyed if it takes longer.
once i leave the YMCA, i'm mostly free. except for the part where i record all these numbers -- including my weight, a total that only counts after monday's workout, but can be recreationally acknowledged throughout the week -- into a workout log that includes how i felt that day, what i listened to, who's abs sparked envy, and why a woman would apply lip gloss before leaving the locker room for a spin class.
and actually, when running outside, i've been known to count how many steps are in a block and how many blocks are in a mile and then multiplying to figure out how many steps are in a three mile run. then, suddenly, 241, 242, 243 ...
let's consider hand santizer as my metaphorical "safe word." perhaps popular with the real OCD'ers, but not so much with me. if you see a travel sized bottle in my purse, please plop me in front of the nearest marathon of "the hills" with a dorito buffet within distance of my fist, and hide my sports bra so i can kick this thing.