Nearly a decade ago, I used to push myself on the stair climbers at the gym by seeing if I could make it to the top of the 110 story twin towers in 30 minutes. I usually did. On March 10, 2007, I stomped out the $60 per month membership and purchased a used, commercial grade Tectric ClimbMax 150. I still use it. Regularly. It’s never been a clothes rack.

I’d had experience with the model from the late 90’s when we had a small gym in our NEC Littleton office. Ron and Steve always used the treadmills and I took the stairs. We were regulars until the day Ron stepped off his treadmill, let out a quick, pained groan like he had been shot, clutched his chest and crumpled to the floor. It was the first time his implanted defibrillator had fired to quell ventricular fibrillation. Ron was fine and is to this day, much to the benefit of many Seniors he helps with health care choices as a volunteer.

On delivery day in ‘07, I had the boys from Precision Fitness Equipment set it up in the corner of my home office with a perfect viewing angle to the HDTV in the living room. I didn’t really need the TV angle since my routine involved an iTunes “Workout” playlist and something to read propped up on a clear acrylic holder; a water bottle rested on the maple window sill just within reach, low to my right. I ascended, without actually ascending, 3 or 4 times a week until one day Megan entered to say, “Dad, Maddy needs her own room.” Like the Pittsburgh Pirates in any given summer, the ClimbMax was suddenly headed to the basement.

One half of my lower level is a half finished garage. It’s sheetrocked, but the half-assed contractor who did the job must have been trippin’ when he taped and mudded it because the seams look like Maddy did them with finger paints. I’ve never gotten around to fixing them and painting it. Anyway, that’s where the new set of stairs found home and since then I’ve stepped in sweltering heat with the garage door open and lately climbed in attire more suited for scaling that big mountain on the Nepal-China border.

I don’t know how many steps up I’ve taken in my effort to elude the ticking crocodile snapping from just below, but I’m still taking them and it always feels good.  I figure my consciousness or spirit, or soul may live forever, but the machine breaks down and I’m nowhere near ready for that. So I work out for reasons of vanity, but ultimately it’s because my heartstrings always tug when I hear George Bailey desperately tell Clarence in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “I want to live, Clarence. I WANT TO LIVE.”  I do.

A 3 hole binder of printed articles has largely been replaced by my Kindle, but the personal trainers living in my iPod still propel me. The crashing guitars and drums provide two-step rhythm while Patterson, Mick, Jeff and Eddie yelp words of encouragement. When I’m really rolling, I sing along. Sometimes it’s to push the cardio benefit, but mostly it’s so I can belt out my favorite lines like…

Nobody told me it’d be easy
or for that matter be so hard
but it’s the living
and the learning
that makes the difference
and makes it all worthwhile

Yeah, sometimes I sing my ass off while climbing it off.  It must look and sound pretty ridiculous to see and hear me huffing and puffing on a stair climber while breathlessly singing absolutely out of tune. But not out of time.

I’ll have to video and post that sometime…