A Serendipitous Treadmill?

I think I may have bought a treadmill today.

Talk about jumping in with both (unexercised) feet! For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking about how I really need to make “going to the James,” as Thad calls it, a regular part of my routine again. When we first moved to Chengdu, I went to the “gym” at our apartment complex a couple of times, but it wasn’t a great experience. While the advertisements for our complex include a spectacular list of amenities, including an outdoor pool with sandy beach, a putting green and a well-equipped gym, none of those items exist in reality. The outdoor pool with sandy beach is really about two inches of slimy-algae water surrounded by a gigantic litter box, the putting green is just another section of lawn (which, is actually an impressive feat in and of itself in China and I think advertising it as such would  be a draw for many folks) and the gym, well, it is there. The workout area is right next to the indoor pool, which is very well-maintained and always full, but only for doing laps and swimming caps are an indisputable requirement. The workout room itself though leaves much to be desired. (And this is from someone who is decidedly not a gym rat. I don’t need fancy gadgets and the latest weight-lifting technology. As  a matter of fact, those things just make me more likely to hurt myself.)

So what does the apartment complex’s gym have? There are two treadmills, both of which work, but both of which are usually occupied by octogenarian Chinese women walking backwards for an hour at a time. (There is not an ounce of hyperbole in that sentence. Seriously.) There are two stationary bikes, one of which works and the other of which has a broken strap on one of the pedals, so the rider’s foot flies off at random intervals, creating a rather entertaining experience for those standing around watching, waiting for the slowly aging to walk the equivalent of the equator, backwards. There is a single elliptical machine, but I’m somehow missing the necessary rhythm needed for those seemingly simple devices, so that doesn’t even show up on my gym-dar.  (I don’t think I can accurately express just how spastic I am when it comes to physical activity.) Finally, there are a few random weights.

Really, all I need in a gym is a treadmill, the hardest thing to come by at the one just downstairs.

After hemming and hawing and making repeated promises to myself to try the small gym at the consulate, and then coming up with endless excuses why “today” is not the day to start, I bit the bullet and hauled my duffle bag in to work today. I usually get off an hour earlier than Thad, so I figured I could use that time to work out and then we could scoot home together. (By usually, I mean, on paper I get off an hour earlier. The reality is much more random. Some weeks I am out of there right on time all week long, and then others I end up having a late-afternoon meeting scheduled or people in my office or a report that needs to be submitted to Washington.)

Today was the day.

I packed my adorable pink and navy Nike bag with my kicks, workout gear (apparently called “kit” by those speaking the Queen’s English, which I learned while reading a British fitness magazine at the hair salon in Bangkok), and my MP3 player, filled with all the best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) pop music of the 80s, 90’s and today!

Not two hours in to my day, I got an email from an officer who is leaving post soon. She wanted me to run an ad in the Panda Post, my CLO newsletter, selling her gently used treadmill.


A quick note to Thad and post-visa line conversation and I had decided to put an offer in on the treadmill before it even hit the pages of the Post.

Once I figure out how to get the rather heavy contraption across Chengdu, I will be the proud owner of a gently-loved treadmill. This means I can run (run/walk is a much more accurate description of what I do) and sing along to my playlist of Backstreet Boys, Paula Abdul and Lady Gaga in the privacy of my own home, with my air purifier on high, trying to ward off the potential for black lung that comes with the territory here.

I may even try out the culturally correct “walk backwards for an endless amount of time” technique employed by the locals…but probably only if Thad is waiting to use the treadmill after me.

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