On How Physical Therapy Builds Character

I’m just going to say it: I’m basically sedentary. Although I do walk a fair amount (what up, Manhattan!), I don’t go to the gym or do yoga, I don’t like “the outdoors,” and on my life resume, one of my most developed skills is reclining.

My knee doctor was the first person to expose me for the atrophied lump that I am. I’d been having excruciating knee pain for quite a while when I had my first appointment with him. As it turns out, I have a knee disease that normally affects men in their forties – a D’OH seems appropriate here – and I’m going to need an operation on my leg in the next few months.

To prepare for the surgery, I’ve been in physical therapy three times a week for the past two months. Some aspects of PT have been fabulous – my trainer, for example, is the man. Other aspects, though, have been kiiind of degrading. For example:

1. The center that I go to for Physical Therapy is located IN New York Sports Club. Not next to – IN. You have to walk past hoards of meathead finance bros and sporty former sorority chicks to get to the office. I HATE this walk, mostly because my luminous white sneakers and pendulous gut clearly demonstrate that I’m an ‘other’ amongst them.

2. The office itself is set up like this: you walk into a little waiting room with three chairs. Just beyond the waiting room is a larger room in which there are 5 or 6 cots that everyone can see all the time. There are private side rooms with curtains flanking this main room, but those cots, man, those cots – they’re right out in the open. The first time I ever went to PT, I was asked to sit in a chair that looked out on that room while I waited for my therapist to become available. There was a decrepit old woman on one of the cots; her cane was propped against the wall jauntily, her shoes were off, and she was laying perfectly still with her eyes closed and what appeared to be a blue airbag tightly wrapped around her upper body. When the receptionist asked me to sit there, I’m sure I said something like, “Oh, sure, no problem, my pleasure,” when on the inside I was thinking, “OMFG. What the hell am I looking at? Is this woman dead? How do we know that she didn’t just drop dead on the table? What if she’s dead? Jesus Christ. I want to go home.”

(Don’t worry, guys – she wasn’t dead.)

3. The actual physical therapy has been really beneficial as far as making me feel better, but some of the stretches and muscle exercises that I have to do during each session are totally mortifying. A few times, I’ve found myself laying on my back and having my thigh vigorously massaged by my male therapist to ‘move the fluid around.’ I asked him once if he ever thought he’d grow up to massage strangers’ thighs for a living, but he didn’t really laugh.

4. I wore the same pair of bike shorts to around 10 of my sessions because I hate wearing shorts more than anything and these were relatively long and stretchy and therefore more acceptable. Then, one day when I got home, I discovered that there was an ENORMOUS HOLE in the CROTCH of the SHORTS – like, so big that it had definitely been developing/growing for quite a while. Oh, the INDIGNITY! And the worst part is that I’ve had to go back to my trainer multiple times since I made this discovery.

5. Once, I was doing an exercise in which I wear a resistance band around my knees and walk sideways across the room. For the whole set, this mutant crone with a bad facelift who was sitting on a stationary bike wouldn’t stop STARING at me. I wanted to shuffle over to her and rip her little Versace baseball cap right off. There are few things more degrading than having someone watch you wheeze and schvitz your way through a very basic/easy exercise routine, especially when that someone looks like a bad guy from Scooby Doo and is wearing sunglasses inside a gym.

I’m sure more hilarity will ensue when I go under the knife – stay tuned for updates, and make sure to check the crotch of your gym shorts if you’re going to be doing the splits on a table in front of a room full of people.