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The Prodigal Returns

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Not to mention sore in several places.

I returned to the gym after a four-month hiatus. My body is screaming at me, but my spirit is smiling indulgently.

My intention was to sever all connection with the gym. Any gym. Ever. The older I get, the more definitive I am about not trying to be perfect. Isn’t 35 years of working out enough? Do I have squat, lunge, push-up and crunch until I’m 80?

No. Besides, due to gravity and the inevitable effects of aging, firm muscle tone is an improbability on the south side of sixty. Which I am not, yet; but it is definitely looming.

So I thought I’d give myself a little slack in the pursuit of noteworthy abs, non-flabby arms and enviably thin thighs.

During the hiatus, I was all about power walking, working in the yard, picking up my 12-lb. weights (conveniently located under my flatscreen) with the hope that I’d knock off a quick set or two while watching Rizzoli and Isles.

Ha! Ha! Lonely, lonely weights.

I feel guilty just looking at them. Even weights need a little attention now and then. Otherwise, I should hide them.

I put my membership on “hold” instead of severing connection because a bright and chirpy sales representative for Brick Bodies would not let me cancel it. She was completely convinced I would want to come back after a few months. She said I would regret giving up the membership because when I decided to come back I would have to pay hundreds of dollars in introductory fees a second time, and go back to an annual commitment instead of month-to-month, which is automatic after completing a year’s membership.

Made sense to me. Also, I realized that everything in the world has a contract and all of us are trapped one way or another. Think about it. DirecTV, Comcast, T-Mobile, AT&T…you name it. Gotta commit to a year, maybe two or pay a huge penalty if you don’t fulfill the contract. Such a scam.

But I digress.

So during my hiatus, I power-walked around my neighborhood. Picked up my lonely

weights once in a while and did bicep curls and shoulder presses while watching TV. Convinced myself that housework was a pretty good workout in itself, and hummed my way through vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, yard work, etc. thinking: I am staying fit! I am staying fit! So what if I am not at the gym! Who needs a gym? Not me!

Nice try. However, four months later, I realized my puny attempts at working out were not, um…working.

My sag had increased appreciably, and I think my waist is thicker than ever. (See previous article by typing into the search box at the top of this page: Love in the Time of Thick-Waistedness, for clarification and a dose of acute aging angst.)

And, lo and behold, after a busy summer, weeks of whining about the inconvenience of driving to the gym (who has time?) and the expense; I found myself – you guessed it – back at the gym! Back in the fold. Aaaah.

I am sore, but happy. I missed the pounding, encouraging music, the exuberant, enthusiastic, perfectly-proportioned instructors and the sweet women in class that are just as perplexed as I am to find ourselves this old.

At least we have gotten ourselves to the gym and are participating. That in itself is pretty cool.

I have found I am old enough to accept the fact that a perfect body is a thing of the past, but young enough to get myself to the gym and do the best with what’s left. Old enough to be completely okay throwing on a pair of workout pants and a T-shirt and run out the door with NO (well, okay, maybe a little) MAKEUP; and laugh about it instead of hide in a corner and sneak out after class because I don’t look perfect.

Old enough to take a few breaks during the group exercise class; dripping sweat and guzzling water until my heart rate gets back to normal, even if the instructor merrily castigates me: “Don’t quit! Don’t quit! You can do it! Almost there!” I merely lift my water bottle toward her in a toast, thinking to myself, “You have no clue how old I

am, do you? I can do whatever I want, and I will quit for a minute if I want to. Besides, if I don’t, I may have a heart attack right here on your cushioned, expensive, laminated and polished floor, and then what? You don’t want that, do you? Didn’t think so.”

There is a wonderful freedom in the gym experience as a woman approaches 60. One may create their own tempo, and experience the jubilation that accompanies simply surviving menopause, kids and one’s 50’s. One does not really give a flip if one is not in sync with the front row in an exercise class. One simply rejoices that one is there at all.

My heartfelt thanks to the wise Brick Bodies sales rep that had the persistent courage to hound me into not letting go entirely. Once a gym rat, always a gym rat, I guess.

Or maybe more of a gym hamster, now. Who cares? I’m back!


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