mercredi 16 décembre 2009

Home fitness center

Neko, in the backseat on a recent Saturday, ready to roll. Photo credit: Walt Cougan.

It's that time of the year again. Most people love this time of year, or say they do. I am not one of them. The thing is, I like to get my semi-aerobic exercise in the great outdoors, preferably with my dog Neko. She never flakes out on me. In fact, her enthusiasm is downright touching. When I pick up her harness, the tags on it jingle ever so slightly. No matter where she is sleeping (she moves around during the day, like a living sun dial), she gets up to survey the scene. If she's upstairs, she refuses to come down unless I continue to jingle the harness while giving encouragement. She has me trained. After about 30 seconds of watching me make a fool of myself, she stretches and then descends the staircase with theatrical nonchalance. But then, as I start to put the harness on, she goes all wiggly and excited on me, and inevitably starts chewing on the harness I'm trying to clip in place. And rain or shine, Neko is ready to go. She keeps up a good pace and will walk as long as I will.

Then there's me, her co-owner. A reformed runner, who wishes she had never done that to herself but who is still absurdly proud to be able to say she ran only one marathon but in less than 3 hours and 40 minutes, she loves to walk but not when it is freezing cold. In Paris, this was not a problem. The architectural density made walking in winter possible; the lack of car and location in the center of the city of lights made it necessary. Seattle is different. Public transportation pretty much sucks; one needs a car to get anywhere; all walks within walking distance of our house expose me to the cruel elements.

But I promised Neko she would get her hour walk as long as the weather was not beyond horrible - meaning not too cold. So today she'll get her walk. But in the meantime, we had to take action. The combination of inclement weather and holiday force feeding can be devastating. I started doing my daily non-aerobic routine at home as soon as we moved to this wonderful house. I need floor space and the YMCA just doesn't cut it. The floor space at the Y is about 5 square feet in front of a mirror and, at certain times of the day, it is where everyone wants to stretch. A woman with a stick doing an hour-long routine is not appreciated. Actually, the other reason I started working out at home is that too many people asked me what I was doing and if I could teach them this intriguing fitness routine. No, the answer is no. I have devloped a highly idiosyncratic but really effective routine; but it is not aerobic.

To ensure a good aerobic element during the shitty days of winter, we decided to buy an elliptical machine and put it in the basement mother-in-law apartment. We found a really good one at a reasonable price that actually folds up. It is now installed in front of the flat-screen television we got for 300 bucks. That screaming deal left us with enough to buy a base for the iPod. All we need is a second black box from Comcast and I'll be able to watch TV5 Monde while I sweat on the elliptical machine. I was partial to the treadmill at the gym, but this elliptical is great.

But what about poor Neko? I can tell she understands what is going on. She hates the elliptical and gives it dirty looks. She lies on the sofa as I work out and sighs, like a long-suffering martyr. I feel bad, but not too bad. She will have her day in the sun, and many days just like it. She is about to go out for a walk. It isn't raining hard; the temperature has shot up since the weekend; I have no excuse. And Neko doesn't even know what that word means.

Click on the title for a link to a NYT blog about the benefits of walking with dogs as opposed to humans.

WEATHER UPDATE: We did not escape the rain. However, the infernal trio (rain, cold, wet) was avoided. It is actually quite warm. But very wet. The canine social scene was dead, though we did run into our old friend Deisel, an adorable black shi-tzu who is Neko's age, and Marcia, his owner.