It was something I swore I would never do again. Hadn’t I learned my lesson? The money spent, the time wasted. Yet here I am again… at the gym.
A gym is a good meter for facing your age squarely. It takes some courage to honestly assess your physical demerits. I am inching up to 57 this next year and I’m not embarrassed. Why would anyone be? A patient told me he thought I was more like 50 and I took it as a funny compliment but I’ll take it for sure. I joined a gym because I am old. I know, my peers reading this all say, “You’re not old!”, but that’s like my alcoholic friends all telling me I didn’t have a drinking problem back in the 80’s. Denial. We are old, friends.
I first became suspicious when I began struggling opening up those big doors like at the mall. I needed two hands and a full body weight thrust accompanied by a grunt. Then getting out of my car I heard myself groan like my mother. I inherited her bad knees. But really, wasn’t she at least 70 before she began to make noise?
During my introductory class, the sweet little trainer had to run around the gym trying to find lighter weights for me because I failed with the smallest little kettle balls available. I felt like saying, “I’ll just try to lift my water bottle”. My first real class, appropriately named “Body Blast”, confirmed my worst fears. Women older than me, some twice my size, were doing the plank with one hand. I could not even do it cheating on my knees with both hands. Disgraceful.
So I bought some cute little athletic shoes and stretch pants, as a “feel good about your lame self” incentive. I noticed that people automatically think you’re in great shape if you where these shoes…until they see me try to open a door. If I was working out purely for looks I’d skip the gym and just wear the shoes. That’s a free tip for some of you out there who are still young and strong and should be spending your time on more meaningful things.
We all take ourselves pretty seriously at the gym with our water bottles and towels, in case you sweat, which I think is gross. That’s reason number one why I hate gyms. Some girls have their own yoga mats and the motivated ones get there early to grab the good weights. I try to stand in the back of the class so no one has the misfortune of trying to follow me. It’s hard to make eye contact, as if we’re in prison or something, but I have learned that I am not the only one that feels like a big dufus.
Last week a woman about my age stood in front of me and at first I just thought she was really clumsy because she was moving totally out of sync with the rest of the class. But as time went by I realized she was crazy, talking and laughing to herself in her funny little world.Then I noticed she was having a much better time than the rest of us. It made me wonder what it would be like if we could all just go out and play like we used to, swinging and climbing and jumping rope and doing cartwheels , maybe wrestling some and playing tag. We wouldn’t need a gym. And we’d be laughing and connecting instead of standing in serious rows while we endure self-inflicted pain and sweat to loud bumper music.
She showed up again today and I admit I loved seeing her there. She walked in carrying a Dunkin Donuts with melting whipped cream and she had on khaki shorts and a polo shirt, like she was going bird watching or maybe sailing. She had a great time and I felt better watching her, because she doesn’t even try to do the plank and she helped me relax and stop taking myself so seriously too. I wanted to say something to her when we were putting our weights away at the end of the class but she was already having a conversation with herself, and laughing.
I am stronger now and I can do the plank but don’t ask me for how long like my husband did. None of your business. But listen my peers. This getting older stuff does take some courage and guts. I admit it’s hard sometimes. Beauty is fleeting, youth is…for the young? OK, not too profound. God’s word does admonish us to tend to the inner beauty first, and thankfully, that will never fade if we keep Jesus first. But the Bible also tells us to care for these bodies, “buffet” them, and that doesn’t mean Chinese food. They are to be brought under submission, which sometimes involves doing the plank or saying no to whipped cream. But let’s not forget to laugh. And play. I think I’ll bring a slushie to the Body Blast next week.