My doctor minced no words at my last physical: “I cannot give you diet pills; you must have a fitness routine, preferably at a health club!” (Preferably one he had an interest in, no doubt.)
Well, whatever his motives, he was the doctor and he had commanded me to physical activity.
As the Sovereign of the Sedentary, I cowered at his words, which I had every right to do — my fear of exercising in public was well-founded. Thirty or so years earlier, when I actually had a metabolism, I’d enrolled in an aerobics class. Twenty minutes into the first session the instructor heralded, “Great job, people!”
I thought, “That wasn’t so bad.”
Sadly (for me), she followed her initial congratulatory announcement with, “I hope the next 40 minutes go as well as the warm-up.”
Warm-up? I was near collapse and only 20 minutes had passed? Yet the class lifted, kicked, twirled, and boogied. I managed one Jumping Jack. At long last, the instructor lauded us again. “You’ve done well,” she said.
But then she glared solely at me, her teeth clenched. “You,” she ranted, “actually moved your arms and legs together at the same time — once!” Ouch.
Certain I would never again join a fitness class, but still young and naïve enough to think I could mold myself a decent body, I bought a treadmill. Constant snacking because of boredom while treadmilling defeated that strategy.
I then took up walking outdoors, slipped on the ice, and broke my foot. Finally, I purchased a fitness videotape. I accidentally taped As the World Turns over it.
That was it for fitness for about a quarter of a century, until the doctor’s declaration.
After his warning, I had no choice but to reluctantly check out a fitness center. I dragged along my skeptical husband for moral — and financial — support. Before I decided whether or not to join, we were given a tour. I learned new words such as “elliptical,” “recumbent” and “triceps extension.” Old words like “treadmill” were reintroduced, but did I want to again associate with one?
Actually, I had to bond with the treadmill; I couldn’t pass 30 seconds on the elliptical machine where you must work your arms and legs simultaneously. I feared if I tried to move those components concurrently, I’d be immobilized by flashbacks of my former fitness instructor’s assessment of my lack of arm and leg synchronization ability. I also worried I’d fall off the recumbent bike, even though it was stationary. And, did I really want my triceps extended? But my 65-year-old husband was already soaring on the elliptical machine singing, I’m Flying from Peter Pan, and handing our credit card to any employee who would take it.
It’s now been a year and I’ve learned so much at the fitness center.
Lesson One: In order to see the wall-mounted TVs while on the treadmill you have to hang your head so far back, you could easily break your neck.
Lesson Two: If you are on a machine and someone decides to sanitize the one next to it, you could be spray-cleaned along with the neighboring equipment.
Lesson Three: Even though the elliptical machines (which I’ve mastered just slightly), are far enough back from the TVs so that you don’t have to do back flips to see them, if your eyesight is as bad as mine you can’t read the closed captioning anyway.
Nevertheless, we’ve had some amazing results. My husband is slim, trim and muscular. I, on the other hand, have gained three pounds.
“You are building muscle,” people tell me.
“Does muscle jiggle?” I counter.
“Well, exercise makes you feel better,” I’m then told.
“Ice cream makes me feel better,” I retort.
My husband, who is now The Flying Wallenda of the fitness center, said it mattered little what anyone says, that the doctor’s word was all that counted.
Heeding that, I changed doctors. The new one concurred with the former, reprimanding me for taking fitness in such a cavalier manner.
I dread going to the fitness center and do the minimum time required by both doctors, but I reluctantly admit that I feel somewhat better. I wonder if I’d feel just as good with diet pills, but I’ll never know.
This next part I do know because the Diva Cher said it: “Fitness — if it came in a bottle, everybody would have a great body.”
Next time I have a physical, I’m taking Cher along as my spokesperson.