During the pandemic, I’ve traded half-hearted gym sessions for half-hearted runs. Every other morning, unless I can think of a good excuse, I go for a jog starting from my apartment building on W. 125th St., then either following the Hudson River north toward the George Washington Bridge (don’t worry—I never get that far) or taking the path through the lower, stairs-free section of Morningside Park.
Acceptable excuses for skipping a run include but are by no means limited to: rain, hangovers, a lack of clean activewear, brunch plans, vague ennui, and an insufficiently charged cell phone. I use the latter device to listen to music during the run, so as you can see the phone is essential.
As a matter of fact, the musical program determines the duration of the exercise. On the assumption that most songs last about 3 minutes apiece, I decided, when launching this jogging jag, that each run would go for 10 songs, resulting in an average total of 30 minutes per run. To avoid giving myself the opportunity to select brief songs only—thereby cutting short the torment—I vowed to keep the music library on shuffle.
If you’re wondering why I don’t just set a timer for 30 minutes, well, I’m sorry, but it sounds like you and I will never understand each other.
Unfortunately, the robot DJ in charge of my phone’s shuffle function has a fondness for lengthy tracks. He has plenty of zippy little numbers to choose from—“The Minute Waltz,” say—but for at least 7 of the 10 songs, he’ll opt for something interminable like “Stairway to Heaven.”
Another thing that diminishes my enjoyment of the experience: I can’t see. Wearing a mask is a must due to the coronavirus, but I discovered early on that all the huffing and puffing associated with running fogs up my glasses. So now I run without them, having decided that a generalized blurriness is slightly more endurable than a translucent fog—though it’s a fine line (which I, of course, cannot see).
I assume that these various irritations—the physical exertion, the severely impaired vision, the overlong guitar solo in “Stairway to Heaven”—are what prevent me from experiencing the “runner’s high” during my morning jogs.
It probably doesn’t help that the “runner’s high” is an imaginary thing invented by runners to make them feel better about wasting their lives.
Up until the middle of March when New York City’s gyms were closed due to the pandemic, I exercised on a semiregular basis at a Blink Fitness near my apartment. The canvas tote I used as a gym bag has hung untouched from my bedroom’s doorknob for going on six months now.
The only items currently in the bag are my least favorite wool cap and a Blink-branded combination lock I’d use at the gym to secure my belongings in a locker while I ran on the treadmill and made the occasional timid foray into the weightlifting area. The lock’s combination is my dog’s birthday.
The gym reopened this week, but I froze my membership through October. During this voluntary Ice Age, I won’t be charged Blink’s monthly fee, but I also won’t have access to the gym—a win-win situation I’m interested in making permanent.
After all, if there’s one thing the pandemic has taught me, it’s that I don’t need to pay a sum each month to barely work out. I can barely work out for free.