Help. Hope. Healing.

A Long Walk Down a Cold Hall

By Rex Goode

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Four mornings a week I have the same routine. At 3:30 AM, I get up and put on my swim trunks, a t-shirt, and sandals. I get in my truck and go over to the gym. I wait out in the cold truck until about 4:20 AM, when I get out, still not wearing more than what I just described. These winter mornings have been cold. Here they’ve been in the upper 30’s to lower 40’s at that time of the morning. People think I’m a little strange when I get out of my truck and stand by the front door of the gym like that.

“Aren’t you cold?” is the most frequently asked question in my life these days.

Truth is, it takes me a lot to actually feel cold. I went to Mt. Hood Community College for my first two years. It’s located near Troutdale, Oregon near the outlet of the Columbia River Gorge. It’s pretty common in the winter for a cold current of wind to go blasting down the outdoor halls.

One day, I walked into class in the middle of a near-blizzard. Everyone laughed. When I asked what they were laughing at, they said they had a bet going as to whether I would be wearing a coat or not. I wasn’t.

At the gym, I go right to my locker, put my street clothes in, and head for the pool. After a cold shower, I get in. The pool at my club is around 82 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s pretty reasonable for a lap pool. Serious swimmers don’t like it too warm, although I’m far from a serious swimmer.

After about thirty minutes of laps, I go over into the therapy pool, which is kept at around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. It feels like a hot tub after the lap pool. There, I do some water aerobics and strength exercises for over an hour. By the time I get acclimated to the therapy pool, I don’t want to get out.

The air in the poor area has become cool. The air itself hasn’t changed, but my perception of it has. The worst thing is the long walk down a very cold hall to the locker room. If I can just get down that hall and into the sauna, I’ll feel warm again.

It’s the same hall I traveled down some two hours before. The temperature is the same as it was before. It’s my perception that has adjusted.

On some days, after the pools, I dry off and put on workout clothes. I go up to the very warm weight room and work there until I’m all hot and sweaty. Then, I descend back into the locker room through the very same hall as before and I feel like it’s so hot I can’t breathe.

Back in college, I did a project for a statistics and research class. My study partner and I developed a survey that was handed out in a lot of different places: classes, church, malls, etc. The project was to study temperature perception. We wanted to find out how different factors affect perception of temperature.

We were able to rule out things like gender, age, pregnant or not, and other such factors.  Most of the data showed that people were just different in the way they perceived and preferred the temperature.  Any man who has been married to a woman going through menopause will remember going down the freeway in a blizzard with her having the window down. However, in general, women are as likely to prefer a cold room to a warm room.

Truth is, we all fluctuate in the temperatures we prefer, sometimes from moment to moment. I was born in Arizona, but I live in Oregon because we get both extremes of temperature. I love seasons.

The lesson I learn from that long walk down a cold hall is that it is easy to get used to any condition, even being too comfortable to move forward. When I’m in that warm therapy pool, I’ve found myself worried about how I was going to ever get out of there. The water is so warm and relaxing.

Dangers lurk there, though. The pool is kept safe through a saline solution system that also uses chlorine. If I spend too long in it, I start to have skin problems. If I stay too long, I miss out on important work. I use up the energy that I need to get through the rest of my workout or even my work.

For me, the therapy pool is like my complacency when I get comfortable where I am and don’t want to do the work of changing.  I have to climb the steps out of the pool, go out into the hall, and shiver all the way to the sauna.

Have you ever noticed that it is so much more torturous to descend slowly into a cold pool than to dive right in? The truth is, I like cold. I always have. I just don’t like it to hit so suddenly. It helps me to look at the cold temperature as my friend rather than  my enemy.

Getting out of addiction, where its so easy to be complacent, requires more than just forcing yourself to walk down that long, cold hall.  You have to learn to relish the experience of it, to appreciate the variety that going from warm to cold to warm affords. Life is about change. Take the walk.

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