Showing posts with label Exercise. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Exercise. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A Woman of a Certain Age Going to the Gym: What I've Learned

First of all, that the words "going to the gym" are even in my vocabulary is something of a miracle. 

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

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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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Joys of Stair Walks: Urban Walking Adventures in Seattle and Beyond

I have always loved stairs.

I find them mysterious.

When I see a set of stairs nestled into a hillside, I want to climb them to see where they lead.

So you can imagine my joy when I found the book "Seattle Stairway Walks:  An Up-and-Down Guide to Seattle's Neighborhoods" by Jake and Cathy Jaramillo (2012).

I bought the book for Hubby for Christmas 2012 (a great stocking stuffer), because I thought it would be fun for us to not only get to know more about Seattle, but something we could do together.

Last Saturday we completed the last of the 25 walks in the book. 

We decided to walk all of these walks 15 months ago and saw it through despite life's challenges.

The last set of stairs on our 15 month odyssey 4-12-14.

The walks range in length from almost five miles to walks only .4 miles; walks that took over two hours to complete to walks that were only about 30 minutes; walks with 400-500 steps up and down to fewer than 200.  

Those stairs took us to parts of Seattle we knew nothing about, even though we have lived here for 10 years and have used similar books for "walking tours."

The book contains 25 walks with clear maps and written directions.

Most walks brilliantly combine nice residential neighborhoods with park settings and a route that takes you back to your starting point without any backtracking. 

The authors take good care of you, too, by pointing out dangerous intersections and where to cross safely along with warnings about muddy and slippery sections of stairs and trails. They also include the location of restrooms (always a plus for those of us of a certain age - kids too), whether the walk is kid friendly and the availability of cafes, stores and other amenities.  The number of steps up and down, time allotment and distance are also included for each walk along with clear driving and bus information.

The walks were also designed  to maximize the views.

But most of all, it was all about THE STAIRS.

When I think of the research involved in searching out all of those stairs, it boggles the mind, not to mention counting all of those steps and the distances and time involved. 

We walked urban stairs:

We walked historic stairs:

We walked long stairs,

 short stairs,

and seemingly hidden stairs.

We walked stairs with views,

fancy stairs,
woodsy stairs,

rickety stairs,

modern but gorgeous stairs,

stairs with art,

stairs with quirks,

and stairs that led us over bridges.

(Hubby and I have a thing about bridges.  No bridge can be crossed without a kiss in the middle.  This particular walk had five bridges! Awww. I know. Maybe that accounts for our 30 years of marriage!  Kissing on bridges!)

And don't think we were just walking up and down stairs. 

We were walking up and down hills as well.  Every time we walked down some stairs, we knew that we had to get back up somehow.  They should have called this "Seattle Stair and Hill Walks!"

That is steeper than it looks! (is "steeper" a word?)

But it was great fun and I will miss it.

You should try it!

I know this book is Seattle specific, and you are probably wondering, how does this relate to me if I don't live in Seattle?

Well, who knows?  Maybe you DO have stairs near you. 

You do if you live in San Francisco,


the East Bay,




Los Angeles or



(check your local library or Amazon for a book for your area).

But even if there are no stairs, you can do the same thing with urban walks.

Try to find a book of walks for your area.


  • Because for one thing, it's great exercise. 
          I am 65 and my husband is 61, and I feel that as long as I can walk
          several miles and haul my butt up those stairs, I am doing OK.

  • It's also a chance to spend some alone time with your significant other in beautiful settings.
          When I go for walks on my own or exercise at the gym, I usually have
          the headphones on and am rocking out to some music. When you walk
          with someone else, it's just the two of you, sharing what you are seeing,
          and who knows what other insights and discussions will pop up?  You
          might solve the problems of the world together.

  • You get to know your town.
           If you are a newbie, finding a book that takes you on walks around town
           is the best way to become familiarized with your new surroundings.  If
           you have lived in the same town for awhile, you will be surprised at how
           many places you DIDN'T know about.

“Sundial” for marking the equinox and solstice in Solstice Park

  • You learn stuff
          Most books include background history and architecture about what you
          are seeing. I am walking and reading the background stuff to Hubby (I'm
          a bossypants like that).

A scale replica of the Statue of Liberty at Alki Beach was donated by Reginald H. Parsons and the Seattle Area Council of The Boy Scouts of America in 1952. The statue may allude to "New York-Alki", the name of the 1851 settlement at Alki, where the first white settlers of Seattle landed.  Many tourists mourned the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center at the site.

 Now this is important...

Fashion Tips for Stair Walking:

For you guys out there, I know, who cares? 

I know you probably don't care about looking fabulous.  Wear your baseball caps or Seahawks "We won the Superbowl" jackets like some people I won't name (but their names start with "h" and end with "ubby").

But ladies, when stair walking, WE must look fabulous!

  • Find the right shoes.
         When I am not running or playing tennis, I am not a running or tennis
         shoe kind of person nor do hiking boots do it for me any time.  I want to
         look fabulous when I am out and about.  No "sensible shoes." And tennis
         or running shoes don't work that well anyway, because they can be
         be very slippery on muddy trails and stairs.  After trial and error, I settled
         on a pair of moto boots (that's motorcycle boots for those of you who are
         not fashionistas) that took me across Europe. 
         They are comfy and I can tromp through just about anything.  And they
         look fabulous!

  • Opt for clothes that are easy to walk in, but still fabulous.

        I can't tell you how difficult it is to trudge four miles and walk up
        500 stairs in skinny jeans (though I managed it in Paris.  You have
        to look fabulous there no matter what).  Even with Spandex, it hurts.
    Here I am tromping up the steps of the Trocadero in Paris.

And this is what I look like tromping up and down the stairs of Seattle.

Flashy leggings tucked neatly into the boots lend a bit of whimsy to the occasion, but with enough give and take that you don't even know you are wearing them (BTW, speaking of which. I have a theory about leggings. When they were invented, that's when America got fat.  Elastic waists and Spandex will do it every time.  But I digress)

Add a long top to obscure the fatty bits and a scarf and denim jacket to add to the cool factor and you have the perfect outfit. 
You will also look fabulous enough to enjoy the "reward*" after the walk.(you can do variations on this theme depending on the weather).

And don't forget the backpack.  A purse doesn't cut it on walks like these 
(and if you are in Seattle, have an umbrella in it). 

So if you are looking for something fun, interesting and healthful, I can't think of anything better than urban walks, especially if they include stairs. 

If you live in the Seattle area, get "Seattle Stairway Walksby Jake and Cathy Jaramillo. 

If you live in other areas, find something similar.  I know you will have as much fun as we did.

I am sad that it's over, though we will definitely be revisiting these walks and sharing them with friends and family.

New adventures await. 

But I will never forget these last wonderful 15 months of stair walks.

Hubby and I started this together and saw it through, despite those things that life throws at you to distract you.  But we did it!

It was magical!

Oh, and that reward* I was talking about?

Plan your walk to coincide with Happy Hour and/or a meal, whenever and wherever that may be! 

You and your significant other can relive the sights and places you discovered over a craft cocktail and delicious food. 

And because you are wearing something fabulous, you won't feel embarrassed walking into the coolest of establishments (you are welcome)!

(BTW, I am working my way through all of the fine restaurants and bars in Seattle A-Z, but that's a whole different blog which you can read on Friday!)

Now I am going to haul my butt up my own stairs and take a nap, basking in my accomplishment!  Owww, my legs!

Thanks for Reading!

See you Friday for

"My Favorite Seattle Restaurants A-Z
with One Sentence Reviews!"

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