I wrecked my knee while coaching indoor soccer in 1998. (I believe I uttered an expletive or two at that moment.) I had surgery to repair my torn ACL and then did rehab for some weeks to follow. “Use the elliptical,” my physical therapist instructed. “That’s the best thing to do.” I have taken his advice to the extreme. Since then, I have been on that crazy looking machine about 1600 times (an hour or so each time) at eleven different gyms until I finally moved into a building with its own machine. I’ve been on this machine almost every day for the past nine months, averaging 1200 calories per session and getting my resting heart rate down to 49. It’s hard at first, especially in the morning, because my body doesn’t want to start; it knows what’s next. The first few minutes is a warm-up, getting the blood and lungs to work, and then it’s time to establish a more intensive rate, time to turn off the TV – no more NY1 – and get into the music. (Nothing Is perhaps?) Minute 12 is the first real sign post. “How far am I off my pace? How much do I have to make up?” It is a matter of settling in and focusing on what’s ahead. Thoughts finally begin to move: an email to be written, a facebook message returned, a cheque cashed, schedules checked. And then the real ideas start to come, maybe halfway through: a scene that doesn’t work, stilted dialogue, a character developed, a new direction. Each and everything – the emails and scenes, all of them – must be reviewed, numbered in my head, so that they aren’t lost with all the sweat. The last ten minutes is for recounting the ideas one by one, reviewing the list time and again, and working toward the final numbers: calories burned and ideas logged. Today it was 1208 and 5, the last one of these for this blog.
I do my work-out in a room full of mirrors. My head bobs up and down over a small blank TV screen, up and down, and I look back at myself staring back, up and down, my face there and then not, and then another room behind that, like this one, but backwards, the back of my head behind that. It’s a pair of me, and another, another and another, the room warping off in a limitless arc, as if on a space station, or so I tell myself, in limbo. I am on this machine almost every day. It’s good for my lungs and heart and my mind. An hour every day. No sprints and hills for me. I cannot run. I ruined my knees years ago on my bike trip with Adam Davidson. We stopped at Zermatt for a day of skiing on the Matterhorn. I had never skied before, but it was July, and it was father’s favorite mountain. I was out of control – like the rest of the trip – and crashed again and again and eventually completely wiped out and tore up my knee. But I digress. I am on this elliptical machine every day with these mirrors, reflecting, thinking. That’s the point. That’s where I sort everything out. That’s where I thought about this.