By the time I get to the top of the steps I am winded. I try to catch my breath and look inconspicuous. I notice a stationary bicycle to my left, unlike any I had seen before. This one has a chair instead of the traditional bicycle seat. I am still panting as I straddle the bicycle and heave myself into its chair.

I allow myself a moment to get settled in. I put my water bottle in the holder and my towel over the handlebars. I read the prompt on the electronic display that sits eye level across from me. It tells me to start peddling. I hit the green start button and the digital display illuminates before my eyes. As I peddle, I untangle a pair of headphones and plugged them into my Nike Sports Radio. I slid my hand through its Velcro strap and fasten it closed around my arm. As I peddle I discovered it is impossible to turn the radio on once strapped to my arm, so I undo the strap, slide the radio off my arm and search for the on button. After several failed attempts I turn on the radio and tune in to the frequency posted below the TV set that was hung from the ceiling.

I listen to Dr. Phil give advice to a woman whose husband finds it exciting to urinate on her. Dr. Phil patiently tries to guide his guest gently towards the reality of her marriage. He then breaks for a commercial.

I gaze down from the television set and look at the clock on the bicycle control panel. 1 min. and 42 seconds have passed since I started pushing those pedals. It can’t be. I feel as though I had been cycling for at least 20 min. I have biked an eighth of a mile. Then, as if my legs had overheard the conversation going on in my head, they begin to throb in protest.

I’ll never make it, I’ll never make it, a panicked voice bellows in my head. I have set a goal for at least 30 minutes, but this, this was going to be impossible.

I glanced over at a woman twice my age sitting a few bicycles away. She is moving her legs at breakneck speed and does not appear to even be sweating.

A prompt flash on the control panel that I should hold the handle bars for my heart rate. I do as directed and the number 123 flashes under the letters HR. I had no idea what 123 means but I feel I am about to have a heart attack.

Dr. Phil returns and is now grilling the husband about his frequent use of prostitutes to quell his fetish.

I look back at the clock, another 50 seconds has passed and my legs were screaming from the pain.

I made a deal with myself that if I could make it for 5 minutes, I would treat myself to a water break.

My son, more a man then a child at 16 years old, glides on the elliptical, several feet away. He looks like he was doing ok but he should, after all, he is just a kid.

He is the reason I am about to have a heart attack at the gym. I was setting a good example for him. I was showing him the importance on exercise and from what I could tell; I was proving to be an excellent example of what happens when you don’t do it.

I pass the 5 minute mark and it is almost 8 minutes before I realized I am entitled to a water break.

I grab my water bottle but continue to push the pedals while I drink. Water splashes on my shirt and down my chin. I use my shirt sleeve to wipe off the excess from my chin and promise myself another sip at 15 minutes.

By now I have lost all interest in Dr. Phil and am looking at a young woman lifting weights in the workout area below. It looks a lot easier then what I am doing. I ponder the idea of lifting weights instead of the bike but have no idea what to do with the weights and don’t want to attract any unnecessary attention to myself. As it was, I was looking more like a cardiac patient by the minute.

At 15 minutes I feel proud, nearly invincible. The next 5 minutes cruise by as I distract myself by fiddling with the stations on my Nike Sports Radio until I find some music.

At 21 minutes, I think I have hit the wall, as athletes like to say. Thoughts race through my mind about quitting, then staying, then quitting again. I am Lance Armstrong, pushing my steroid filled body through the hills of some small French village in the Tour de France. I bargain with myself. I decide 25 minutes is more than enough and if I make it that far, I will tell my son I don’t feel well and that we have to go home. At 23 minutes, I decide I will pedal until the song on the radio ends. Then the song ends and I decide I will bike until the odometer read 3 miles, no 3.5 miles, maybe even 4 miles. I then decide I am overdoing it and slow my pace.

I use my towel to cover the numbers on the control panel as they seemed to be moving so slowly that I can no longer bear to look.

At 28 minutes, I was in the zone, my favorite song on the radio, I was pedaling in time to the beat of the music. It was me and Michael Jackson pedaling to the finish line.

By the time I got on the tread mill, I looked more like I was taking a cardiac stress test then walking.

Again the control panel haunted me as the numbers crawled on the screen. What felt like minutes were actually mere seconds and again the bargaining began. I bargained for water breaks, stopping before the promised time, slowing down, and then speeding up. The people on either side of me were jogging at about double the speed I was walking. I again used my towel to cover the control panel but this time it was to keep prying eyes from seeing how slow I was going. I doubt anyone was looking. These people actually seemed to be enjoying their little run. Part of me envied them, part of my hated them. I finished my 30 minute walk in just under 45 minutes. What with all the breaks and bargains, I was lucky it didn’t take an hour.

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