Saturday, July 14, 2012

That Syncope, That Saturday (Part 1)

As a storyteller, I’m always poised to passively observe the next story-worthy situation so I can write about it. But this time, passive observation went out the window. I took center stage in a situation that dozens are telling their families about tonight, probably as I write this. This time, I was the story.

I woke up around 7:45 this morning. I was thumbing through my Twitter feed in bed when Joy woke up, rolled over and said,

“I think there’s a ‘Body Pump’ class at 9:15. You should go with me.”

Joy prefers the regularly-scheduled group fitness classes at the community center because she tends to go too easy on herself when she works out alone. She needs someone to set the pace a bit higher than her liking. And, for whatever reason, she likes the camaraderie of corporate pain. It works for her.

Then there’s me. I’m a fitness hermit. When I go to the gym to work out, I don’t look at anybody. I don’t talk to anybody. To me, the whole idea of attending a fitness class is horrifying. It’s the same feeling I used to get when I would hear the announcer at the roller rink announce the “couples skate.” It awakens every ounce of discomfort inside me.

“OK. I’ll try it,” I said. So we got dressed, rushed through our breakfast, and got everyone out the door by 9:05. We dropped the kids off at the gym’s daycare area and run-walked down to a large room with mirrored walls and hardwood floors.

I have to guess that the big question on every guy’s mind as he approaches a fitness class is: Are there going to be any dudes in here? I quickly scanned the room and saw not one, but two guys preparing for the class, among the 25 or so women. What a relief.

By the time we had arrived, the floor was almost completely full. So we took our places, you guessed it—front and center of the room. Since we were so close to the instructor, Joy introduced me to her. I smiled and told her I had never been to a fitness class in my life. She gave me some reassuring words to make me feel more comfortable. We quickly grabbed our equipment from a corner of the room and took our places just before the music began.

I nervously loaded my barbell light. I was more interested in learning how the class worked than trying to impress anybody. I was constantly watching everyone around me to make sure I was doing everything right. I didn’t want to stick out more than I already did as a newbie, and a dude, front and center.

I had no idea what was about to happen.

The first 25 minutes were fairly easy. We did several sets of standing exercises with a barbell. I have a regular dumbbell routine I do at home with my upper body, so this was no big deal.

Then the instructor had us lay down on our backs on our little portable risers for a battery of chest exercises. I laid down on my riser, and quickly cocked my head sideways so I could follow her movements. Too quickly, I should say.

That’s when vertigo hit me with the force of 15 shots of vodka.

If you’ve ever had vertigo, you know how completely debilitating it can be. I have it on rare occasions. It’s very common, and it has something to do with the tiny hairs in your inner ear. When you get vertigo, you feel like you’re spinning out of control while sitting completely still. Your brain gets confused and tells your body all the normal things it would tell it at 4Gs—like bring on the profuse sweating, nausea and elevated heart rate.

But somehow, I got it under control long enough to finish the set. Then I stood up, and vertigo decked me again. Somehow, I again managed to get myself centered without stumbling around too much. We got through another set.

At that point, the 60-minute class was only half over, and my battle had just begun. The exercises really started to intensify. We did dozens of leg lunges with the barbell resting on our shoulders; rows while squatting; and triceps curls while laying on our backs. It was a lot of rapid up-and-down activity. And if you’ve ever had vertigo, you know that the best strategy for getting through an episode of vertigo is to lay completely still. Motion exacerbates it.

At that point, my t-shirt and sweat pants were wringing wet—but it was not from exertion or exhaustion. It was from the neurological confusion I had from the vertigo. Plus, I was working muscles I probably hadn’t worked in years. Every limb burned. Every pore poured.

I started to go downhill fast. All I could do was just stand still while a sea of barbells went up and down, all around me. The thought of lifting anything was completely out of the question. Survival became more important than pride. The room was spinning more now. My body was waging a coup de tat against Body Pump insurgency.

Then, even standing became more difficult. Blackness, like spilled ink, broke into my peripheral vision. The hard-driving music got tinny and hollow sounding. Nausea set in. My limbs could no longer hold me up. I dropped to the floor.

I’m front and center. The room is packed.

To be continued…


  1. I hate this post as much as I love it! I have a heart condition and have fainted off and on since high school - usually in the most embarrassing place or time possible, it seems! My worst memory is getting mouth to mouth from a college prof in front of my whole whole class - and waking up in the middle of it!! Can't wait for part deux...

    1. Mouth-to-mouth from a professor ... YIKES! Good to know I have a kindred syncope spirit. :-)

  2. Jeez and I thought the fact that I broke my shoes through Zumba yesterday and got some nasty blisters to show for it was bad luck! Hope everything turns out OK, can't wait to read part deux. :)

  3. Holy cow -- I can't believe you kept going after the first onslaught! I feel like I would've just excused myself and gone and curled up in a corner somewhere. You're a beast! Looking forward to part 2.

  4. You.Are.Crazy. Continuing with exercise in the middle of a bout of vertigo? Insane! And way to build suspense, man. I've been battling that dang stuff off and on for about 2 years now and I hate it. But is has yet to floor me. Of course, I don't try to do maniac barbell routines when it's active. Sheesh. I'm assuming you're okay as you're writing this very spiffily indeed. Otherwise, I wouldn't be so hard on you. :>)

    1. Yes, I was fine 3 hours later, so you can be as hard on me as you want. :-)

  5. Wow. Great story, Scott. I hope we can get Joy's perspective on this one at some point.

    1. I have forwarded your comment directly to her for consideration. We'll see if she takes the bait. :-)

  6. You are my hero. I just want you to know that now, in case something bad happens in part 2.


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