How can you put those two words together in a sentence?
I’m on the way this morning to my “beloved” treadmill. I called it that in an early post and one of my readers (can I tell you how blissful it is to have readers?) mentioned to me this week the phrase stuck and she wanted to ask, how I can put those two words together in a sentence. “Oh, that’s an easy post to write,” I told her. “Stay tuned.”
The treadmill downstairs is my second one—I wore out the first. After years of progressively more expensive home fitness purchases, I bought my first treadmill, a Healthrider, in March 2001 for right around $1000 delivered. The semi couldn’t make it all the way down the street in Bethesda, MD, because of low-hanging electric wires, so they put it on a hand truck and rolled it over from a block away, upended it in the driveway and left. We set it up in a room we called “The East House” that was actually attached to the south side of the house, an unheated, unimproved porch that had morphed into a storage shed during extensive interior and exterior renovations. I had a channel just large enough for the treadmill facing a tiny TV I bought during graduate school.
And then, I began to walk. I walked every morning I could, about six days a week, laboriously at first and eventually with more spring and longer strides and higher inclines. I walked when it rained outside and when it was hot and the humidity was intense, indoors and out. I was dry but otherwise barely shielded from the weather. My son, then two, would get himself up and go to find my mother in her room to play ‘puter while I walked. Sometimes they would read. Sometimes I’d find them curled up together with the dogs, having all-four gone back to sleep. I watched movies and videotaped television shows and walked and walked and walked. And it was then that the weight I had been gaining steadily since I turned 25, the scale inching up every year, and culminating with a fifty-pound gain during my pregnancy that I had not yet lost, finally, finally, finally began to leave my frame.
I remember the day I stepped on the scale and had lost ten pounds. I leapt around shouting ten pounds, ten pounds. I still had, literally, miles to go. But it was more than a start, more than a little. By the fall, ten had turned to thirty.
Pregnant with my daughter, I took a break from downsizing but was determined not to repeat the mistakes I had made during my first pregnancy. I gained a total of twelve pounds, growing rounder and rounder. The midwives tsk-tsked but could not deny the baby hit all of the normal growth markers. Through the winter snows and storms, the unheated porch demanded mittens and layers that I would shed after I warmed up. I walked on and on. As the spring warmed and the day for delivery grew near, I plodded along on that treadmill, feeling rather like a settler following the wagon train. I later calculated I walked more than 700 miles during those nine months.
At some point my mother hung a bridle over the corner of the shelf that held the TV. The bridle has unusual herringbone-braided reins and belonged to my very own horse, Abou, a magnificent dapple-grey creature who was born the spring before I and lived some thirty years. As I marched along, the treadmill took on some sense of the partnership I once felt with my horse. And when, a year after my daughter’s birth, I had shed another forty pounds, the credit went to my daily walks on my faithful steed.
At about three and a half miles a day, six days a week, month in, month out, I average over 1000 miles a year. The original treadmill was built to last seven or eight years, maybe 5000 miles. I walked on it for 11, replaced the motor, the internal belts and, twice, the walking belt. Along the way my exercise routine became a practice, private time in the morning before anyone else is up in the house. When the roar of the motor grew so loud it rumbled the house and the belt started to slip irreparably, I replaced old faithful with a zippy new model I can only compare to walking on a cloud.
Hidden away in the basement room I painted fuchsia wearing wireless headphones and watching DVDs, I walk and I walk and I walk. In the shower afterwards, I startle to find creative solutions to all manner of puzzles—something I’m writing sometimes, an organizational need in the house, a future plan. I never know, but I know that I’m a better, thinner, healthier, more put-together being when I do walk than when I don’t.
This one’s for Thea. Happy Full Buck* Moon, Rxo
(*So named because July is the month when
bucks begin to grow new antlers.)