Black Market Dumbbells

There’s a shortage of dumbbells. Here’s a list of things I never thought I would care about:

  1. Dumbbells.
  2. A shortage of dumbbells.
  3. How to acquire dumbbells on the black market.

I’m home, every day I’m home, and I’m fast approaching my one-year anniversary of spending every single day at home doing whatever one does while they’re at home. It’s a mystery to me, how fast the sun sets every day and how I can’t always tell you what I’ve done in my day that slips away faster than a bank robber dressed in black.

So when did the dumbbells come in?, one might ask. It was a Wednesday. The Tuesday prior was a particularly crazy day of work, a day of charitable giving when I’m asked by several nonprofits to think of creative and unique ways to ask for money. Everyone would like money, and everyone would like to ask for money in a strategic way that no one else has ever asked for money before: this is what I’ve learned as a writer. On this Wednesday that followed this particular Tuesday, I woke up and thought my head might explode or that I might simply combust if I didn’t get away from my computer filled with Facebook and Zoom and email and 17 other web-based tools that have connected me with humans in the most unconnected way for the last year.

At the time, I had only one set of dumbbells. They each weighed three pounds. When you start to pick up dumbbells every day, which is exactly what I did on that Wednesday in early December, you will learn that three pounds is not nearly enough to make a difference. But I started lifting these feathers every day while I’m at home and after 25 consecutive days of dumbbell training with inadequate dumbbells, I said to my husband, “Please, I need some heavier weights.”

“There is a dumbbell shortage,” he said. I had no idea there was a dumbbell shortage because I simply have never wanted to own any more weight that needs lifted and causes pain.

When gyms closed at the start of the pandemic, people bought up all the weights and sold them online for $2 per pound. Did you know the going rate for dumbbells is normally $1 per pound? I had no idea. It is both smart and obnoxious the way that people figure out what other people want, and they take it all and hoard it and dangle it in front of you for twice the normal cost so that they can profit from your dire and immediate need for something you never even knew you needed in the first place.

Soon it was Christmas and my husband called from the fitness aisle in Walmart. He was whispering and mumbling into the phone like we were plotting our heist. “They have dumbbells. What should I do?” I pictured him in his mask, looking up and down the aisles for intruders.

First of all, I said, keep your voice down. Next, do not make any sudden movements and quietly go grab a cart from the front of the store. Then, return to the aisle and fill your cart with dumbbells. Take whatever they have, this is our only chance.

This was my unexpected Christmas gift: three sets of dumbbells, weighing in at 20, 25, and 30 pounds.

If you are doing the math, yes, it is a big leap to go from three pounds to twenty pounds. I have followed a fitness program offered by an old cheerleading friend who is a certified personal trainer, so she essentially set out to focus her entire life around dumbbells and kettlebells and resistance bands and stability balls. I knew that she had recently moved, so I messaged her to ask her where she had found all of this new gym equipment that I saw she was setting up in her new house.

 “I have a guy,” she wrote. “My husband found him. Let me know if you need anything.”

She had a guy. I had no idea what this meant, but I instantly saw dollar signs and dark alleys and the exchanging of goods for wads of cash stashed in envelopes. Did I need a guy? Was I at that level of desperation?

For now, my husband is my only dealer. He regularly scours the Walmart aisles, hoping they’ll replenish the stock. I use what I can get, gripping the oily black dumbbells, swinging them through my legs and lifting them over my head, feeling stronger every day and grateful for the solid grip on something I can control.

11 thoughts on “Black Market Dumbbells

  1. Can’t stop laughing! Thank you for the early morning giggles! It’s great to see you back posting your beautiful writing! 💕

  2. such funny timing to read this. i did a workout this morning for the 862nd time (that’s for sure the exact number) with vegetable cans and a couple old bricks we happen to have as substitute dumbbells, and i was just thinking maybe i should see if i could at least get a real pair of 15’s or something for less than my entire life savings.

  3. funny timing, my reading of this post. i just did workout #862 (that is for sure the exact number) with some vegetable cans, a wine bottle, and some old bricks as substitute dumbbells, and i was thinking maybe i should look into investing in at least a pair of real 15’s or something.

  4. um i didn’t mean to comment twice. it made me log in and i thought my original comment was lost. and i don’t know how to delete one. oh, well. you can enjoy both versions of the comment lol

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