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My Pandemic Gym

A while ago I injured my hip and for years had difficulty walking even short distances. My orthopedist advised that the best course of action to avoid surgery was to strengthen the area by weight training. I found an excellent trainer, and through twice-weekly training in the gym and regular cardiovascular exercise, today my hip is stronger and generally pain-free. However, it only stays that way if I continue to work out. When I take a couple of weeks off, or do solely cardio instead of weight training, the nagging pain returns.

With virus cases mounting back in March authorities closed gyms, including mine. I wasn’t sure I would be able to continue to work out. I called my old trainer to see if he had any ideas. He had one: socially distanced training outdoors via a TRX, a suspension contraption that enables body weight exercises.

 I was reluctant at first to expose my workouts publicly. I am a private person and, to look at me in the gym, not exactly an athlete. But given the choice between the constant pain I knew would return or public embarrassment, I popped on dark glasses to give myself an impression of privacy and chose fitness.

We met across the city to work out: the boardwalks of Rockaway, a playground (before they were shut down), the promenade by the East River, my friend’s backyard. All we needed was our masks and something like a pole or tree to anchor the TRX and we were in business.

I got plenty of inquisitive looks but the only comments I got were encouraging ones. As I tentatively got through a set of split squats off a wobbly plastic step stool, passersby shouted encouragement. 

Other things happened as well. A child with a Superman mask poked my rear with a twig as I did clamshells. I saw an endless parade of puppies growing bigger as the days passed. Dogs of all shapes and sizes wanted to join my workout. So did seagulls and pigeons and a tiny mouse.

After a while, our “gym” grew in “membership.” One day our East River location had three TRXs, battle rope snakes, and enough resistance bands to encircle a city block. The new members were always socially distanced, always masked if necessary, and way more polite than members I’ve encountered in indoor gyms.  

It has been six months. Things are looking up for NYC. Gyms are set to open in the next couple of weeks. But I feel no need to rush back inside given temperate weather and the sweet outdoor air.

It has been a privilege to work out outside, a privilege to experience the city in this way, to be among New Yorkers who did not turn tail and desert during the tough times, New Yorkers doing what they need to do to get through this mess, being supportive and respectful to their neighbors doing the same thing, being grateful to be healthy and alive. New Yorkers mourning the old days but knowing without a doubt that NYC will come back, stronger and better than ever, because of them, because, with grace and sheer force of will, they will make it so.  

Gille Ann Rabbin is an attorney, the writer of the column “Your Life and Privacy” for The Rockaway Times, and a proud New Yorker.

 By Gille Ann Rabbin, Esq., CIPP/US, CIPP/E

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