Another Day in the Country
Mingling with jocks
© Another Day in the Country
At an exercise gym, you’ll find all sorts of people trying to stay healthy. There are oldsters, like me, attempting to beat the clock of time. There are middle-aged folks, trying to turn the clock back because they hear it ticking. There are the jocks, who have prize-winning bodies they must spend hours of exercise to keep in shape.
Invariably, I find myself following a jock who has a towel around the neck, sweat pouring from every pore. Jocks grimace and grunt, rocking exercise machines. They have music playing in their ear buds to spur them on. They have serious, intent, frowning faces.
After I’ve done 30 minutes on a bike, pedaling to nowhere in particular, I head over to the weights, beginning with the chest press.
“Holy moley,” I mutter to myself, setting the machine down as far as it goes to the lowest notch, 10 pounds. It feels a little wimpy, but that’s where I’m comfortable. Sometimes I do 15 or 20 pounds, but usually just 10.
I like it best when I find myself following a personal trainer and his or her client. The settings are right on, just what I need. Sometimes I can even raise them up a notch or two, making them heavier. This makes me feel so proficient.
Next comes the fixed pull-down. 200 pounds? I don’t think so and move it to 55. I like this one because it faces the mirrors and I can see myself looking comfortably in control — Wonder Woman, flexing her muscles.
The seated row comes next. Amazingly, it is already set just where I like it, 40 pounds. The wunderkinds evidently didn’t bother with this one.
“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, and 12,” I manage, and switch positions to work a different set of arm muscles.
My arms are doing pretty good when I assess my body. It’s the upper thighs and maybe the back that I’m concerned about — whatever those muscles are that let you get up out of a low chair easily.
With that thought, I move on over to the leg extensions machine.
Once again, the jocks have been here before me. I might have expected this because I heard them groaning behind me. Sure enough, it’s set at 185 and I bring the weights back to 55, feeling a little weak-kneed in comparison to the heavy lifters.
Then it’s the leg curl machine where everything needs adjusting: the length is too short, the chair leaned back too far, the weights way too heavy. I feel like Goldilocks roaming around a weight room belonging to the Three Bears.
My daughter, who does exercise coaching in her spare time, tells me the next apparatus is a really good one for my weak-legged dilemma: the leg press. I move it back from its heroic setting of 200, idling it back down to 105 pounds — a perfect number for me — and begin exercising those muscles.
“Don’t forget to engage those core stomach muscles when you are exercising,” Jana told me when she last visited. “That’s what makes your exercise effective. And breathe.”
Like a good girl, I repeat her admonitions in my head — “slowly, engage core, breathe” — as I push against the weights.
“Life Fitness,” is emblazoned on all these contraptions that I visit during my exercise regime.
Most of my life — other than with diet — I didn’t think about life fitness. I was just doing life. I never did like to exercise. I’d watch my sister — who was an avid exerciser — following Jane Fonda early in the morning, jumping around, enthusiasm in the air, breathing heavy and seeming to enjoy it.
“Really?” I’d ask as I buttered my toast, “You enjoy doing this?”
“It’s great,” she’d enthuse, “C’mon and try it.”
But I wouldn’t, couldn’t, didn’t. Well, a couple of times I did try but fizzled. I’d buy some interesting exercise tape and then leave it in the wrapper.
“You know, Mom, just buying the tape and leaving it by the television doesn’t count,” Jana would joke.
She’d already discovered that exercising was a great way to handle depression and has used that tool all her life to stimulate endorphins that help keep her calm and happy.
“I’ll do yard work,” I’d quip, too glibly, knowing that depression was something I’d never had to deal with, just like weight gain.
I’d never been bothered by that until I got older.
And here I am, blessed to be “older,” trying to give my body every advantage. It is my responsibility after all. I’m eating carefully, working happily and going to the gym as often as I’m able, and actually enjoying mingling with jocks on another day in the country.