Baby Boomers, remember middle school and high school gym classes when there were actually some standards? President Kennedy wanted us to be fit so he instituted a fitness program for the schools to follow.
Every year we would be put through our paces to see if we could accomplish a certain number of sit-ups, do sprints, climb a rope and other athletic miseries. I was OK with sit-ups and sprints but trying to climb that damn rope? Forget it. And at my school, we actually had swim classes. Did I learn to swim? No. I didn't like putting my head under water. And I grew up on Lake Michigan, for gods sake.
So I have never been what someone would call athletic. When I was young, my idea of a work-out was walking two blocks down to the drug store for an ice cream cone and a comic book.
You can see my issues started early. I didn't stand a chance.
I'm the fat one.
No, the fact that I am now a gym rat is amazing, considering I am still overweight, and I still can't climb that damn rope, but hope springs eternal, right? I haul my big butt to the gym at least three times a week and supplement that with my 10,000 steps a day as my Fitbit demands, and if back in my thirties I thought I would be talking about a Fitbit, I would have told you to "shoot me now." I wrote about my Fitbit obsession, if you care to join me in my misery, ("Fitbit on my Shoulder").
However, going to the gym can present challenges for a woman of a certain age. But despite that, here I am.
I have a gym membership, and I faithfully go there despite the fact that it doesn't seem to do much good, but it's part of my retirement routine now and I find it rather enjoyable - not the sweat part, but rather what I have observed and learned from gathering with my fellow humans who are also trying to stop the ravages of time and habits.
So here, as a woman of a certain age, are some challenges, what I have observed, and what I have learned:
1. People will wear clothing to the gym that they would never dream of wearing out in public.
It is not unusual to see women and men in spandex tights that show every curve, crease and crack or wearing sweat pants that proclaim over the butt something like "Cheeky!" or "Bite Me!" And no matter what the person's size, the gym clothes are usually bright colored or have some whimsical pattern like ice cream cones or super heroes all over them.
Or, er, animal print.
What I've learned: Who cares what you wear? If wearing a fun outfit inspires you to get yourself to the gym, then do it (Just don't hit the mall afterwards).
2. When it comes to working out, youth trumps old age no matter what.
I have noticed that extremely overweight women who are young and way more overweight than I am can lap me on the track - more than once. So I have come to the realization that those of us of a certain age, even if we are not extremely overweight and are in good health, just can't keep up with our younger counterparts.
Last year, when my daughter and I were traveling in the Southwest together, we would walk long distances and she would always walk ahead of me. I asked her why and she said she didn't want to "stroll." Stroll? I thought I was power walking!
What I've learned: Don't compare yourself to anyone else. Just keep walking!
3. You can be all alone at the gym with just one other person and that person will be on the machine you need.
You are practically alone at the gym - only one other person. You are doing a sort of circuit where you are using upper body machines to tone those flabby arms. You are doing three sets of 15 and you are ready to do your last 15 on the last machine before you can go home and have a glass of wine. Remember it's just you and one other person -- AND THAT OTHER PERSON IS USING THE ONE MACHINE YOU NEED!!!
What I've learned: You know "Murphy's Law?" Well, here is "Rosy's Law." There will always be that one other person using the machine you need. Get used to it. Just skip that last set and go home to that glass of wine.
4. The locker room is full of people walking around naked who in my humble opinion shouldn't do that.
I don't know what it is about being naked, but there seems to be a plethora of people who like to parade around without their clothes, and most of the time, they are people who should keep their clothes on. I remember the movie "Woodstock," where all kinds of young people were seen shedding their clothes and almost all of the time they were overweight and not particularly attractive. I know most of them were high on drugs, but they should still know better.
Now I am not in any way fat shaming here. In fact, I am quite in awe of the confidence people exhibit when they take their clothes off in front of other people, despite their less than perfect physiques. But in general, I don't like to see it. Hell, I don't really like to see it, even if someone has a great body. And of course, nowhere is it more in evidence than in a gym locker room. I know you are probably thinking, that's what a locker room is for. People need to change their clothes. You are right. But it is possible to be discreet, isn't it? You don't need to stand at the sink giving me full frontal while brushing your teeth, do you?
If you have been reading my blog posts, you know I am a fan of the TV show "Naked and Afraid." And talk about "Naked and Afraid." When I go in the locker room at my gym, I am afraid of the naked. It's like a horror film where the people in the audience yell at the screen, "Don't go in there!"
What I've learned: Don't go in there.
Here's how I deal. I put on my gym clothes at home and I take my little bag with my book, my book holder, my ear buds, my phone and my keys and keep it with me while I work out and then I go home and shower and change my clothes at home. The only naked person I have to deal with is me. And you can thank me that you don't have to see me naked in the locker room. You are welcome.
And if I really need to use the toilet while I am at the gym, I scoot quickly in, eyes averted, and scoot quickly out.
5. Bring to the gym whatever you need to make your workout work for you.
Speaking of that little bag that I take to the gym, I am just amazed when I see people at the gym on the treadmill or the elliptical machine and they are not listening to music or reading a book or watching the little TV. They must be much more Zen than I am because there is no way I could endure an hour on the elliptical without music and a book. I feel the same way when I fly. I can't tell you how many times I have sat next to someone who for the entire two hour trip stared at the seatback in front of them. No computer, no headphones, no book, no magazine, nothing. How is that possible? I guess I need constant stimulation.
Now I know that I probably don't get the highest level of workout while reading Burt Reynolds' memoir and listening to Joni Mitchell, but it's what I have to do to keep myself on that damn machine.
What I've learned: You do what you have to do. A workout while reading and listening to music is better than no workout at all.
6. There is a reason why muscle-bound guys at the gym are called meatheads.
I don't want to do any fat shaming, and I don't want to do any meathead shaming, either, and I am not saying that all muscle-bound guys are meatheads, but I will say that there is nothing more irritating than minding my own business, listening to my ITunes, reading my book and suddenly hearing the CLANK!!! ---- CLANK!!!! ---- CLANK!!! ---- of weights on the weight machine being left to find their own way back to where they came from as in, let's just drop them. How rude! Also, it is more times than I care to remember seeing a bulked-up guy sitting on the machine I want to use and he is on his cell phone -- FOR A LONG TIME!! JUST SITTING THERE!
And I am standing there.
What I have learned: There is a reason these guys are called Meatheads and it has nothing to do with muscles. Well, it kind of does. I know a brain is an organ, but it's also a kind of muscle, right? It can grow and become stronger, just like muscles. Some of these guys, their bodies are muscular but their brains are not.
7. Farting should not be allowed.
Hey, Meatheads, er, people, there is someone right next to you. Keep your gasses to yourself. This isn't an airplane!
What I've learned: Public places can be smelly.
8. Taking an exercise class at the gym sounded like a good idea at the time.
When I first retired, I had this long list of things I was going to try. Zumba was one of them. I thought it would be a good way to get exercise and meet other women. My gym offered a class so I showed up. I even bought the special Zumba shoes.
When I arrived at the class, everyone seemed to know each other and the instructor and not one person acknowledged me. I was as invisible as an old lady at a...well, as an old lady. Girls, and I call them that because they couldn't have even been 18, waltzed in late and started flashing their midriffs across the floor. And here I was clunking across the floor in my new Zumba shoes, trying to get the hang of the routine that everyone had already been doing for weeks. It was like trying to learn French in time for my vacation in France which is a couple of weeks away. I stayed with it for a few weeks but never learned the routines, no one ever talked to me and my shoes hurt.
I also tried a yoga class and I thought the instructor was trying to kill me.
What I learned: I can't dance, gym classes are not particularly welcoming and I learned I am not a joiner. I am retired and so are the shoes.
9. No matter how much or how hard I work out, I will never lose weight if I don't also watch what I eat and drink.
At the gym I go to, part of the deal was some free sessions with a trainer. She set up a diet plan and a workout and then was supposed to check in with me every month. My trainer said that weight loss comes from the kitchen, not the gym, so even though I go to the gym regularly, I will not lose weight if I don't cut out wine and salted caramel ice cream.
What I've learned: Good luck with that.
Needless to say, I lost a few pounds the first month, but then "extenuating circumstances" ensued. You know how that is. The last time I saw my trainer, when she weighed me and checked my fat percentage and all of that stuff, and I hadn't made much progress since the last time we met, instead of setting the next time to meet, she mumbled something about having a schedule change and she would get back to me. She hasn't. I think she has given up on me. It's pretty bad when your trainer doesn't want to train you anymore.
So my peeps, that's what it's like to go to the gym for some of us older folks.
Like getting old, it's an adventure and sometimes a not particularly fun adventure. But despite the occasional irritations and setbacks, I am going to keep going. I am going to put on my animal print spandex, grab my book and my music and get myself to the gym. If it gives me a few extra years to continue the adventure that is my life, then it's all worth it.
Unlike my trainer, I am not giving up on me.
See you at the gym!
Thanks for Reading!
See you Friday
See you Friday
for my review of
"Me Before You"
The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)
and the latest on
"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before
I Die Project."
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