I stepped on the elliptical and began cranking away. As the machine recognized my presence and came to life, a variety of displays attempted to explain to me how I was doing.
Numbers popped up next to pictures of legs and feet moving different directions. A little electric metronome reminiscent of a 1980s era fish finder on a boat sprang to life swinging back and forth with my movement.
I grabbed the hand rail and settled in cranking away. People came and went from the cardio loft. Outside, the cool, wet spring gave way to summer. Trees turned green with new leaves, birds raised multiple broods of young. The summer drought began. Suddenly, the first “Back to School” ad appeared on the TV above the cardio loft. Sensing an enormous passage of time, I searched the display for my total workout time: 3 minutes.
I used to look forward to my long runs. The idea of setting out for a couple hours on a favorite trail or unexplored road would cause me to wake up early with excitement. If you follow my blog, you know I learned this year that I should no longer be a runner. It’s a big void to fill for me. I’ve done my best to add more cycling but it isn’t always practical. Since I fear becoming a giant blob again, I continue to seek other ways to burn calories which include . . .ellipticalling?
When one goes for a run they say they are running. If out on a bike they are cycling or riding. When in the pool, swimming. But when people use an elliptical machine they say “I was on the elliptical” for an hour. On the elliptical!? As I sit here and look around, the pictures in my office are “on the wall”. The computer is “on the desk”. They aren’t moving. One object being on another doesn’t really indicate movement or motion but rather placement.
As far as I know there is no action word to describe using an elliptical machine. It’s as though the human jury is still out on the whole thing. I mean, if we haven’t invented a verb for an activity yet, it must not really be something we are sold on.
I continued cranking away glancing around the cardio loft. The loft is full of ellipticals including 4 different styles all of which, I’m sure, are supposed to keep the user entertained. On the machines immediately to my left two young teen girls chatted away with each other in a variety of English only they could understand. More time passed. Tectonic plates moved noticeably farther apart. A new species of finch evolved on a tropical island. The NHL playoffs ended. (Okay that’s just ridiculous. The hockey playoffs never end.) The two to my left were now old ladies talking about their grand children. 3 more minutes had passed in elliptical time.
It became clear to me that one could extend life indefinitely by simply staying on the elliptical. Nowhere else does time slow to such a crawl. Except it would be like Sisyphus doomed to relentlessly push a rock up a mountain until the end of all time.
The reward for hours of running was that I could go run a marathon, or 5K or add it to some swimming and biking and and do a triathlon. Similarly, there are bike races, swimming races, stand-up paddle board races, weight lifting and body building contests, and competitions like cross-fit even include kettle bell competitions. A quick google search shows no competitions or events for ellipticalling. (Yes. I’m inventing that.)
I know others in my boat who can’t run anymore. Like me, these folks are all pretty serious endorphine addicts. Many have turned to the elliptical and spend hours at a time ellipticalling. (I told you it is now a word. Pencil it in your dictionary.) I don’t know how they do it. So far, the most I’ve managed is just under 20 minutes and that was exasperating. It was a reasonably good workout but mind-numbingly dull. I even play games such as reversing direction every couple minutes or playing with the buttons to see what the little leg motion pictures mean. I’ve cranked the numbers up and down by large increments but have never noticed any significant change in motion nor has the fish finder indicated the presence of flounder or baitfish. I do grab the heart rate monitor every now and then. It is reassuring to see a number come up just to make sure I haven’t died from boredom.
I haven’t decided what my fitness life, if any, looks like going forward. I am doing a lot of cycling right now with the summer weather but I’m a fair weather cyclist. When it gets cold I’ll only ride on the trainer since to me, anything below 60 degrees is a cold, snotty mess out on the bike. I need alternatives but I’m not sure the elliptical is the answer. I need to figure it out soon though. Winter is only a few months away. Or 2 minutes on the elliptical.