Does anyone else remember taking the President’s Fitness Challenge in gym class? I dreaded it every year. I couldn’t even do one pull-up and never got a satisfactory score on sit-ups or the mile run. Who was to blame for the skinny little girl who: couldn’t do a decent cartwheel; couldn’t catch a ball; couldn’t get her toes in fifth position; never played organized sports outside of gym class? No wonder I was always one of the last chosen for kickball or any other team sport. No wonder it wasn’t until decades later that I picked up my first dumbbell.
I made a few attempts at working out when I was a teen and later in college. Remember Jane Fonda videos and feeling the burn? Leg warmers and leotards? A college roommate got me to run a few feet, walk a few feet, run a few more. But that, like everything else, didn’t last very long. I vividly remember a doctor telling my mother (when I was a teen) that I had no muscle tone! Like I cared.
Seems to me, looking back, that my lame attempts at exercise typically coincided with attempts to lose weight. (No surprise.) And when I was in my thin phases, I didn’t even consider working out because I saw no reason to bother. Given my history, would you be surprised to learn that I now work out almost every day?
So what changed? I blame (or thank) two significant events that happened several years apart: being diagnosed with familial high cholesterol and quitting work to stay home full-time.
When the former happened, I was actually contentedly slim. But my doctor prescribed exercise so we bought a treadmill and I started to walk. It wasn’t much but I kept it up for several years while I was working part-time. Then when I quit my job 12 years ago, I realized I had no more excuses not to join a gym. I was pretty uncomfortable going at first, not knowing what I was doing, trying not to be embarrassed, wondering if I’d ever wear cute workout clothes, decoding the lingo. But eventually I braved group classes and was surprised at how fun and motivating they were.
Have I kept it up? And more! Despite some setbacks with gym closings, a relocated workout buddy, torn calf muscles, a broken toe, falling off my bike, and step-aerobic induced nerve damage. I pretty much do something every day. A typical week usually includes a couple sessions of strength training and varied cardio on the other days. Once a week I even lift weights with my mom (who is an inspiration in her mid-70s) and a trainer. My most strenuous cardio workout is cycling (either in class or outside). And sometimes I just walk. When all else fails, I grudgingly put in a wimpy half-hour on the elliptical at home.
Like most everyone, some days I struggle with motivation and just getting started, let alone putting in my time. And even though I am consistent and work out often, I know I should take it to the next level. Pilates, yoga, heavier weights, longer workouts? It’s time to push myself. I wouldn’t say I actually like exercise – but I like it when I’m done! And I like that after 40-some years, I finally have muscle tone and am a far cry from the little girl in school gym class.