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Weekend Warriors Get Battle Fatigue, Too

With the Mailman dinged twice, the Idle ventures into the gym … and it certainly isn’t music to his ears.

The Mailman—a buddy I’ve known since high school whom I’ve played tennis with twice a week for more years than either of us would like to count—has a nasty bruise on the inside of his thigh and a dislocated rib.

(Thirty years ago, any discussion of “thighs” and “ribs” would’ve been about a barbecue menu. These days, it’s an emergency-room list.)

The bruise is the result of an overhead I smashed that he managed to literally step into, and the rib injury happened after his feet became tangled and he tumbled while back-pedaling for a lob and hoping to return the favor.

But I don’t really feel that sorry for him.

He’s single.

He was able to limp home and grab a couple of bags of frozen peas and ice his injuries in a soothing salve of silence. Probably watched the Laker game and not once did anyone walk in the room and say, “Isn’t basketball season over yet?”

Married guys know that the real pain of recreationally induced physical damage is often a result of emotional abuse. If I had been on the receiving end of that overhead and the always-losing battle with Mr. Concrete Court, my homecoming would’ve sounded like this:

My wife, Goggy: “What happened now?”

Me: “Hurt my chest and got a little bruise on my leg.”

Goggy: “#@$%, John, the bones in your feet keep breaking from what the doctor calls ‘overuse injuries.’ Your back is always either ‘tight,’ ‘tweaked’ or worse, and you end up lying on the floor for two weeks. Or you come home from tennis with the imprint of a chain-link fence on the side of your face.

“Why can’t you come to grips with the fact that you’re old? Stick with golf and go to the gym and ride a bike to get a cardio workout, something that won’t break your feet or your stupid neck!”

We both know that I’m not giving up tennis until I do break my neck, but that won’t stop her from suggesting it. (Then, when I do break my neck, she’ll be able to shake her head and utter the most treasured phrase any married person can say to their spouse: “Told you so.”)

We married guys, we always hope for the home-project-prompted visit to the doctor’s office. Like the time I threw out my back laying tiles on the floor of the upstairs bathroom. Then the wifely response was: “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry. Let me get you a pillow for under your legs and a muscle relaxant. Do you need a pain pill, too?”

Sure, she was thinking, Darn the luck. This was one project I was hoping he’d finish in months, not years, but at least she maintained a veil of sympathy.

With the Mailman sidelined, I figured I would take Goggy’s advice and hit the gym. I respect her opinion … OK, I was curious to see if my gym card still worked. (I was secretly afraid that I’d slide it through the reader and confetti and balloons would cascade down on my head with a banner that read: “Our Favorite Customer—He Pays $1,000 per Workout!”)

Sitting on a bike doesn’t seem like much of a workout, and I’d rather walk around the neighborhood than on a dreadmill, so I chose the elliptical, although I wasn’t sure about moving all four limbs at once in different directions.

I fell into a rhythm, though, and then debated the possible distractions.

The television to my left was on Fox News—I know, should’ve been on the far right—the one directly in front of me was on MSNBC—I know, should’ve been on the left—and a third featured Access Hollywood.

I ask you: What can be worse than celebrity gossip drivel? (OK, maybe right-wing gossip drivel or liberal gossip drivel.) I would rather have run all the way home screaming at the top of my lungs—a sure bet to get your heart rate up and keep it there—than watch any of them.

Thank God for the iPod.

So I pulled out my earphones and cued up my playlist on shuffle. I have just one playlist, with about 400 songs on it, which works great for a long trip in the car, the morning walk or the long wait in the emergency room after an attempt to charge the net.

But I quickly realized why people have a different playlist for the gym.

Artists and songs I discovered you probably don’t want to try and work out to:
Lou Reed’s Perfect Day—Just about everything he writes makes you want to have a triple-shot of whiskey and a cigarette while you contemplate driving off a cliff. What the heck is the point of working out?

Bob Dylan—You could pull something straining to hear what he’s saying. And if you could decipher the lyrics, your brain would cramp trying to figure out the meaning.

Cheeseburger in Paradise or Margaritaville: Jimmy Buffett obviously is not your trainer’s idea of a nutrition expert.

Bob Marley—He may be saying “get up, stand up,” but you’ll probably end up sitting on the couch with the munchies.

Song from M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless)—That’s the real title of the Johnny Mandel music from the epic movie and TV series. The lyrics were written by Mike Altman—the son of the original film’s director, Robert Altman—when he was 14. Teenagers writing about suicide doesn’t inspire me to pump that elliptical.

And almost anything by Johnny Cash.

Thank God for the >> button.

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