Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Last Workout

Do you ever have times that you know will be sad, but you don’t realize how emotionally affected you are until the tears come?

I mentioned a few blog posts ago about how Nautilus is closing. Nautilus is the “gym,” if you will, that my parents have worked out at for years. There’s nothing quite like it. Physical Description: Various Nautilus machines are situated in a circuit on the upstairs of a barn room. I can remember going there as a little girl and playing in the “play room” downstairs while my parents worked out.

During my early teen years, I started working out there with my parents. I loved it. There is a schedule you follow every time you go. You also have a card that lists all the exercises and weights, so you know how to set everything correctly. The goal is slow weight training. You do less reps on an 8-second count. If you get more than 10 reps, you’re either lifting too fast or need to raise your weights. It’s all about failure. When the muscles fail, you know you’ve done all you can do. In fact, I was always told that it’s better to do 4 slow reps and fail than do 10 fast ones.

Anyway, I learned a lot about technique, form, and staying fit during my years of working out there. It has always kept me in shape and feeling good.

But my favorite part has to be the man who has faithfully run this place for years- Mark. Over the years, he has welcomed anyone who walks in the doors and encourages any person to come. He believes in what he does, and he’s good at it. He’s an excellent trainer. He has a dry sense of humor and a quick wit that is both refreshing and a bit quirky. When it’s a down time, he is the first to come by my side, answer any questions I may have, give me a hard time, or push me harder. He knew what I could do and pushed me past that. I was called a “baby” more times than I can count—he didn’t put up with complaining! (Or he called me “Chelly, Jr.”)

Nonetheless, Mark is who made this place what it is.

Last night, I walked into the doors of Nautilus with the full understanding that this would be my very last work out.

As I did, one of the handicapped girls who has worked out there for years had also arrived for her last time. Mark greeted everyone as he always does and quickly grabbed our exercise cards, busying himself. I could tell in his demeanor that he was trying to stay distracted. Distracted from being sad.

The handicapped girl had a letter in her hand. She had scribbled a note to Mark, and with bright eyes she told him, “I’m going to read this to you.”

This is what it said. “Dear Mark, You are the best trainer in the WHOLE world! AND, you are very funny.”

With that, she let out a big series of giggles.

This lightened the mood a little, and Mark got her started downstairs as I climbed the stairs to the top floor. I started on the first couple of machines. As I was finishing up on one of the machines, the other lady upstairs appeared right in front of me.

“A few of us are coming here tomorrow evening at 8,” she said, “and I’m going to bring cake. I feel like we need to do something… for him,” she explained.

I agreed and nodded.

“I’ll try to be there, and I’ll tell anyone else I know works out here,” I told her.

“I’d appreciate it.”

A few moments later, Mark came bounding upstairs, grabbed my card, and set all my machines, as he always does.

“Mark… what are you going to do now?” I asked him.

“I don’t know,” he answered sadly. “The only thing I’m good at right now is crying.”

The lady I had been talking to finished up and headed downstairs. I was just finishing up on the abdominal machine, and before hopping off, I asked, “Where am I next?”

Mark’s always good about directing me to the next exercise.

But he didn’t reply.

I looked over to see Mark standing there with his arms wide open.

I walked right over and gave him a huge hug.

“I’m going to miss you,” I told him.

“I’m going to miss you, too,” he said.

“I’m going to miss this place,” I added.

“You’re not the only one.”

He pulled back then, and I could see tears in his eyes. The rough and tough, stronger than life, physically fit man who had always been the first to push me past my weakest moments was crying.

And just like that, he was down the stairs.

I walked over to the next machine on the list and climbed onto the seat. Then I lost it. The tears just came out of nowhere, streaming down my cheeks. I kept wiping my eyes, willing everyone to stay away.

And they did. After letting a few more tears out, I finished up my workout and headed downstairs. I stood by the counter and just looked at Mark. He was talking to me, showing me all the cards people had given him. I didn’t know what to say. I wanted a nice good-bye, but I couldn’t think of one. So I said the only thing that sounded like a good plan to me:

“Mark, I’ll stop by again tomorrow… to give you one last hug.”

I don’t know what Mark will do. His situation is not favorable, and without going into specific detail, there’s not much else I can say. A lot of my heartache is for him and what his future may or may not hold. Nautilus was his life, and it’s what he is so good at. Now what?

For me, it’s like going from a small-town, quaint little book store where the owner knows you by name, knows exactly what books you like, and lets you borrow them without a second thought. And it’s like that bookstore closing and having to move on to Barnes & Noble.

Need a book? Either one will do the job. But only one can give you the personal, unique, and endearing experience that a more corporate place cannot.

So, Gold’s Gym, here I come…

But it may take me awhile to warm up.

Good-byes are never easy, but they are a part of life. And with every closed door comes another opportunity. It may not be what we wanted, hoped for, and thought we needed… but often, it’s a good check on perspective, a time to grow, and a way to become stronger.

Love you all!


No comments: