Two months ago I began working out at the gym four times a week — mostly weights and resistance training — to try and sync my body to a regular tempo of stamina and sleep. I suppose this is yet another post about alcoholism considering the following:
One, I stopped going to the gym in 2018 right about the time I decided that I could bench press a couple bottles of vodka and call it a day.
Two, I have not ever exercised as a sober adult.
I have had to let that sink in over and over again and have even had to shoot a bewildered glance over my shoulder between sets of hammer bicep curls. Because it seems as though my muscles have upgraded from a rusty Chevy Vega to a Camaro, Chevelle, Camino, Daytona, Trans Am, Mustang, Charger, GTO.
I have been engineering a playlist for working out since I ran the NYC ING Marathon in 2011, and have added songs to it whenever the half-beat of a chorus builds itself into a speed that compels me to throw open a window. 11 years ago I was working out several times a week with a personal trainer named Lonnie Burton who taught me the proper way to align my shoulders and hips with every weight and cable machine on the floor so that my arms and legs would achieve the most benefit from each rep.
Yesterday, I hit shuffle when I rounded the reception desk toward the wall of 12-pound weights, and the first song that came on is one that I added earlier this year at the beginning of January.
James Blake – “Coming Back” ft. SZA
By the beginning of this next song I had moved from overhead presses to lunges. It’s one by a band from Bristol, England, and I have added it to every workout playlist I have compiled over the last 20 years because it is the soundtrack to my college experience. No other beat, no other voice, no other configuration of notes stacked as thick as an 18 wheeler can communicate who I was then as I started to question my past as it reflected toward what lay ahead.
And honestly, it would have rated as just another really good song from a really great band were it not for the punch that rises up just as you think the song is about to end. It demands that you turn right back around and sit the fuck down. It is not finished with you yet.
The Sundays – “Goodbye”
This next one played as I jumped on the most popular weight machine in the gym, a system of cables that can be rearranged to strike every muscle in the upper and lower back depending on which area needs more attention. I use this machine during every workout to pull against a recent injury that has caused certain tendons to atrophy, and before I started the first rotation I set this song to repeat.
Robyn – “Dancing On My Own”