METERThe ideal morning exercise routine goes something like this: I show up at the gym around 7 am, pull a mat off the pile, and start some preliminary stretches; At around 7.06am, I get a text message from the coach I booked, telling me that he has a domestic emergency and will not be able to attend, after which I stand up and punch the air while no one is watching. Then I go home and go to the bathroom.
In more than a decade of going to the gym, I experienced this only five or six times, but I always woke up in the morning with the same hope.
Then, at the beginning of the confinement last spring, I was surprised by a revelation.
“You know what?” I said, pulling a Cornetto out of the freezer. “When this is over, I will never go to a gym again.”
“You haven’t been in five months anyway,” my wife said.
“What is the point?” Said. “I can exercise here.”
I bought a gym mat and tucked it under the sofa in the kitchen. I ordered a jump rope and used it for exactly 15 minutes. During the summer, I relaxed and then started to hold on. Through the mailbox came a brochure for a local Pilates instructor. My wife attended an hour-long evaluation and, at her recommendation, so did I.
“Let’s see if it’s cheaper,” I said, “if we do it together.”
Of the couples I knew from the gym who worked out together, it always seemed to me that there was one engaged couple and one who got away with sliding in the wake of the other. He was determined to be the last.
“Your mother sucks in all the oxygen in the room,” I told the older one after the first session.
“Oh,” my wife said.
“Which is good, in principle,” I said. “I should be able to relax while she claims the instructor’s attention.”
“All the oxygen in the room,” my wife said. “I’m quite hurt by that.”
“I’m actually working,” said the older man, pointing to his laptop.
“But somehow I ended up doing more,” I said. “There will be a way to cheat, I just haven’t figured it out yet.”
On Wednesday at 7.45 am, my wife wakes me up screaming my name. She is standing on the other side of the bedroom, in the dark.
“What?” I say.
“Help me!” he says through clenched teeth. “It’s my back!”
I gently carry her back to bed and put an extra pillow under her head.
“God, that hurts,” he says. “I just need to stay here.”
“You have to move,” I tell him. She turns an angry look at me.
“Is this because you don’t want to go to Pilates alone?” she says.
“I do not lie. “I saw him in one of those ambulance shows. People always get stuck in their loungers and paramedics always tell them to move. “
“I don’t need to move,” he says. “I have my phone.”
“Actually,” I say, holding up her phone, “I got it.”
At 8:54 in the morning I walk into the Pilates instructor’s consulting room, followed at a short distance by my wife, shoulders hunched, pushing her way across the room like through broken glass.
“Then he took the phone from me,” he says.
“Actually, it’s good that you’re here,” says the instructor, her voice softened by a face mask and visor. “We want it to move.”
“That’s what he said,” says my wife, lying on a mat.
“Tough love,” I say, approaching the reformer.
“He also says I need a physical therapist,” says my wife. “Do you know someone?”
“I’m a physical therapist,” says the instructor.
“Well there you are,” I tell him. I push my left foot sideways, against the springs of the reformer, concentrating on my breathing as my wife and instructor discuss connective tissue and labor-related pain levels. I lose count and start over. My thighs burn. I hit 12, then lose count again. I won’t have anything left for the other leg, I think. Finally, with my balance beginning to falter, I stand up and exhale sharply. The instructor looks up from my wife’s face-down form.
“Get some rest, Tim?” she says.
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