We stopped along the way so that I could buy some workout clothes. I had accidentally left my Yoga pants at LDB and they still have not made their way back to me. After purchasing black pants, a pink shirt and a black and pink sports bra and having a quick chat with Tenie's family who we happened to run into in the store, we were set. Glacier was quite happy to be free of shopping for the time being and trotted eagerly through the gym's parking lot and through the front door.
As I got changed, I mentally prepared myself for the fact that I would probably have to tell someone to stop petting my dog. I really hoped that not too many people would take an interest in him and that I would be able to get through my workout with limited interruption. I usually don't mind explaining why he can't be interacted with when he is working, as I am acutely aware of the lack of information about guide dogs available to the public, but when one is running on a treadmill or racing their heart out on an elliptical and sweat is running down your face and you can hardly breathe, talking to someone about the dog tied to your machine is the last thing you want to do. As I said, I knew bringing Glacier into that environment would leave me open for questions, so I fortified myself against it before exiting the women's change room.
Lindsay was fantastic. She set me up on an elliptical and got the machine started for me. She set the tension and the timer and I was away. Well, as away as you can be running on a stationary object. She headed off to make her way around a circuit of weight machines she had been shown during her orientation. She told me she'd check back in when her first round was done and she would join me on the ellipticals. I was satisfied with that and focused on the task at hand.
I am very appreciative of the details Lindsay gives me because as soon as she leaves, I'm on my own; trying to figure out the sounds around me. Working out at a gym as a blind person can be intimidating. I know it can be intimidating to sighted people for other reasons, but if it is an environment you aren't used to, you can feel self conscious and also a little secluded. I can't see the people around me. I don't know what they are doing, wearing or how they are reacting to the exercises they are performing. Luckily for me, I've been frequenting public gyms for a long time as my swimming required I did "dry land" training (AKA cross training), and so I don't even notice anymore. I just tune into the music being played and start sinking into my body and how it feels. That is, until a screechy female voice brings me back to my surroundings.
It wasn't even ten minutes into my round on the elliptical when a woman came over to talk to me about Glacier. She stood right beside my right shoulder speaking loudly about how lovely the dog was. I just said "yes" and smiled nicely, even though my cells were screaming for water and oxygen and sweat was beginning to trickle out from under my bangs. Then I heard the voice move forward and knew she had stepped closer to Glacier. I knew this move on her part would mean that Glacier would be up in no time, releasing himself from the beautiful "down stay" he had been holding for over ten minutes. She started cooing and clucking at him. She asked me his name, but I pretended not to notice. The last thing this woman was needed was his name. I told Glacier to "down" sharply, but the woman wasn't getting the hint. I said it again and then addressed her, still trying to keep my cool.
"You can't talk to him. He's working. It's dangerous for him to be moving around." She kind of giggled, cooed at him again and then-as I later found out-hopped on an elliptical across from me. Lindsay told me on our ride home that she had seen her, but I had managed to get rid of her before Lindsay could get over to me. Thankfully, besides Miss Screechy, only one other person approached me about Glacier while I was pedaling my little heart out on a Spinning bike. He was part of the cleaning staff and asked if he could pet Glacier. At least he had the consideration to address me and ask instead of just squawking away at him in baby talk. I patiently explained that he was working when he was wearing his harness, even if he was just lying down. The man was very nice and understood. He moved on without incident.
Lindsay and I finished our workout by doing some sit-ups on a Pilates ball. She stood on my feet so that I couldn't lift them off the floor and assist my screaming core muscles. Glacier was very concerned and came over and laid his gigantic head on my abs. His concern acted as more of an extra workout as we both laughed and the added pressure on my stomach made me have to work hard. What a dog. :)
Showering proved an interesting affair as we had to figure out where to put Glacier so that he didn't get wet and also to ensure no one interacted with him. After a failed attempt to attach him to my shower staul, we returned him to our locker and I hooked his leash on to the spot where the lock goes through. I was a bit worried, but when we got back, he was in the same position, waiting patiently. Some people just wouldn't bring their dogs to the gym and that is their decision. Some, as I did, would. Either way, there is a lot of weighing of pros and cons whether or not to bring your service dog to the gym.
On another note, Glacier may have to get used to these settings. I realised last night that I had a lot of work to do, but it didn't discourage me. In fact, it was very exciting. I also talked to the woman who founded Won with 1 and she is a fabulous person. I think she is going to do everything she can to help me find what I need in order to be successful as a Para triathlete. She has already started looking for guides for me in Scotland. It's a long process as they provide the guides with sighted guiding training (just for walking around), empathy training (anyone who wants to be a guide because they feel sorry for para triathletes are not accepted because that is not the attitude of these athletes) and tandem cycling piloting (basically driving a tandem bike), guide running and swimming training as well. The running and swimming can be as foreign to an able-bodied athlete as piloting a tandem bike because they are tied to their athlete at all times during the race. For some athletes they are attached by the wrist during the run, for others it is the waist. In the water, you are basically tied together by your bums. The line had been posing a problem for the swimmers to finish their strokes on the side that the tether was on. So, Won with 1 got creative and somehow runs the tether from the athletes' behinds. Hey, whatever gets me to the finish line faster. :)
Won With 1 also works with incredible sponsors to get gear cheap or for free for their athletes. Costs for a blind athlete, in most sports, are doubled because they have to pay for an extra person-their guide. When I was swimming I had to pay for my guide's flights, hotel accommodations, meals and even some pool deck gear. Not cheap! Won With 1 is a non-profit organisation that tries to absorb some of those costs and make things easier for the athletes so they can focus on competing. They have even managed to make a deal with a cycling company to decrease the cost of a high performance, road tandem bike. Nowhere can you find a tandem bike for under 2000 dollars, but this particular company has agreed to sell it to blind athletes for less than that and to ship it for free. That is just amazing.
Of course the costs of this sport is going to prove difficult for Mr. K and I as we will be moving to a new country and we're both students. So, owning my own tandem bike of that quality in the near future is highly improbable. Financial responsibilities we have just to live will have to come first, so my dream of competing in a triathlon will probably be even slower moving. But as one of my fantastic readers said,
"where there's a will there's a way." :)