Gym shaming: whatever it takes

June 25, 2013
Do not suggest these boring fitness ideas to me.

Do not suggest these fitness ideas to me. I have an excuse for each of them, trust me.

My fitness level is a complete reflection of the fact that I’m retired and lazy.  Carbs are my favorite friends at a meal, especially whole wheat pastas,  and I’ll go to great lengths to avoid cooking protein. I’m just not that into it.  But, age and fitness level have been nagging at us lately, so M and I started going to the gym again.

Let’s face it: It’s a bore.  Yeah, yeah, you can suggest 100 ways to make exercise fun and I’m not going to buy any of them. Exercise is just not fun, not to me. The past-times I enjoy are all cerebral. Reading. Writing. Talking. Watching good TV and film. Ok, watching trashy TV, too.  But, nonetheless, we’re back at the gym.

I love working with a trainer and my mind always goes back to the fabulous Trainer Tom, who, in 30  minutes three times a week, got me the strongest I’ve ever been. I never looked at the clock. Was never bored.  He is my age exactly but in fantastic shape. His method is High Intensity Training and it works. My form was perfect because Tom is a form Nazi.We became good friends, and then, when M. entered the picture, he trained M., too, and they became friends. The problem is that Trainer Tom is in Tampa and despite my periodic entreaties, he simply will not move to California. Don’t think I haven’t begged, and shamelessly. Oh, Tom, PULEEZE come here!

When I first moved back to the Bay area, I found another good trainer. He had a different method and I started going five times a week for an hour, which was his minimum. I did well, too. But it was boring and painful. After almost a year, it was cost-prohibitive, time consuming and just plain dull. I cut back to a few times a week and finally, I stopped entirely.  My fitness level plummeted.  Since then, M and I have made sporadic efforts to work out regularly and we’re in one of those phases right now.

The treadmill spun under my pumping feet last week when, bored to death, I took my eyes off the Vanity Fair I was trying to read and looked around. I did a double take. Smack dab in front of me was a man who had to be in his late 80s at least. He was hunchbacked and walked slowly with a cane. He trudged from Cybex machine to Cybex machine. Carefully hanging the cane on each machine, he’d pump iron.   Across the way, an elderly woman was walking on her treadmill at what had to be far less than 2 miles per hour. Her cane hung on the treadmill. What inspirational people!

I was officially gym-shamed.

Of course, I should also tell you that my father was super-fit. He began jogging in the mid-1960s, long before it became a craze. He was in his 40s and he ran 10 miles a day every single day until his hips gave out. Then, he still worked out at the YMCA two hours a day. Every day. He lived until he was 89 and Alzheimer’s got him, but even after he became ill and sedentary,  his fitness regime from the past kept his heart healthy and kept him going way longer than he would have lived.  I’d like to say he’s my inspiration, but fact is, I try not to think about it because I feel guilty. It was a hard bar for his kids to reach. My siblings got there and stayed, but I was more like my mother. We are expert at not breaking a sweat. Of course, that contributed to her demise. She died when she was only 12 years older than I am now. Hmmm.

Well, ok, if infirm and much older gym goers could make it a priority, so could I.

Maybe one of the hour-long classes at the gym would hold my interest and keep me in line.  Sounds good, right?

The first thing you have to know about me is I’m just not that coordinated. Zumba strikes terror into my heart. It’s full of 20- and 30-somethings with rhythm and killer bodies. Yoga?  If I could still my mind long enough to enjoy yoga, I’d also be able to meditate regularly. Scratch that, too.  Mat Pilates? No way. Here’s a secret: not every Pilates instructor is good and there are a way lot of Pilates injuries. No, Pilates is best done one-on-one with a good instructor. Aerobics. Today, Step remains the rage. While my knees are still fine, the muscles around them are not. Step class would be pretty risky at this fitness level.  (Have I come up with enough excuses?)

But I did find a morning class called FOREVER YOUNG. An hour, including cardio, weights and mat work.

“You’re too young for that class,” the guy at the gym said, flatly.

Well, I might LOOK too young for it, but none of the other classes appealed and the truth is, my fitness level was definitely a match.

At 10:45am I walked into a large room full of–my parents’ friends. Not kidding. And oh! There’s my 80 year old neighbor from across the street. In fact, most of the class were in their 80s or over.

Not my class. But could be.

Not my class. But could be.

“This can’t be my cohort,” I thought to myself, looking around.

Then, I took a closer look. They may have been decades older, but they were spry and fit. They were making an effort to stay that way, too. Good for them! One diabetic had her service dog, who alerted her if her blood sugar dropped. Looking at her and her dog, the familiar pangs of gym-shaming arose, yet again.

Oh hell, I decided to give it a try. Then a horrific thought. What if I couldn’t keep up?

So here’s the truth: I didn’t exactly break a sweat. But I did get my heartbeat up a bit and had a fantastic stretch. Muscles that aren’t used while reclining on the couch with a book began to come alive.  I’m not going to stay in that class forever, but I AM going to do it for a while to get my muscles used to working again.  And then, maybe, I’ll try one of the other classes.

On my way out, I picked up the class schedule and scanned the offerings again.

Oh, how bad could Zumba really be, I asked myself as I walked out the door with a little spring in my step.


17 comments on “Gym shaming: whatever it takes
  1. Sue Ellam says:

    Carol – I absolutely loved this article. It really resonated with me and was written with such humour. Looking forward to reading more.

  2. admin says:

    Thanks, Sue! Come by and hang out here!

  3. Sheryl says:

    Gym-shame…love it! These people sure are super-inspirational.

  4. Ellen Dolgen says:

    My husband and I ride our bikes together each morning…it IS fun! When the weather is bad we do the stationary bike inside…but it is not nearly as much fun. Dancing is a great way to get aerobic exercise in without even realizing it! You go girl! Find the FUN in fitness!

  5. Kay Lynn says:

    I go to a pilates studio which is so much better than mat pilates at a gym. It’s actually fun even though I prefer the same pasttimes as you.

  6. What a great article! Love the bit about gym shame but best of all is the spring in your step at the end. I too have a love/hate relationship with exercise, always have…BUT…always feel better about every little thing and every BIG thing, when I do! Enjoy!

  7. Love this! I am struggling to find some way to get/keep fit. A few years back I developed Morton’s neuroma in my right foot, which pretty much put paid to serious walking, jogging, dancing, etc. S’alright, I still could do my Curves. Then I developed “issues” with first my right shoulder, then my left, which is still unkinking. That stopped my Curves.

    Now that the weather is nice, I am in the pool as much as possible, and am contemplating a stationary bike. There aren’t a hell of a lot of workouts I can do that avoid stressing either my foot or my shoulders and still get my heart rate up for all the good benefits, but I’m determined to get there. Getting old ain’t fun, but it beats the alternative.

    • admin says:

      That’s a pretty grim list of limitations, I’m so sorry–and I get it. I mean, WTF is it with aging? LOL A good friend swears by aqua aerobics for low stress exercise so it sounds like the right thing. I must say looking at that elderly man hobble from Cybex machine to Cybex machine did it for me.

  8. Lisa Brock says:

    You’ve shamed me – send Tom’s info!

  9. Amanda Fox says:

    Carol, I loved this. The gym can be torture for so many people and for so many different reasons. I hope you can find something fun to do, and someone fun to do it with. That’s really what keeps a person going – for fitness especially. Great post!

  10. Michelle R says:

    Great article! I’ve been “shamed” by the old folks as well. About 15 years ago, I was lazing around on a weight machine when an old fellow shuffled over and told me “old age ain’t for sissies!” As he shuffled off, I was shamed…in my 20s and lazing about! I think of that man often when I work out, especially when I feel lazy or feel my age creeping up.

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