Like nearly everyone I know, I spend a lot of time slumped over a keyboard, thinking that I really should be more diligent about exercise. Obviously exercise is the secret to staying healthy. But it’s just not my favorite thing. I’d rather read and eat crunchy cheese snacks.
In high school I swam (slowly), played field hockey (half-heartedly) and lacrosse (poorly).
My college extra-curriculars were playing bridge and smoking cigarettes. Neither required movement or sweating.
Eventually I decided to quit smoking. I took up jogging, theorizing that running and cigarettes are not compatible. The first time I ever tried to jog was on a one-eighth-mile track, 220 lousy yards. I could not run even half the way around it. Ow-ow-ow said my legs and lungs and heart. My body didn’t know how to run. But I kept trying, kept going, in a desultory but regular way, trying to get in better shape. (Actually, any shape but terrible, which is what I was.)
For years I was a jogger. Before work, or on my lunch break, I could squeeze in a slow run, a few times a week. I even entered the occasional race – 5K or 10K – just to keep motivated. But when jogging got to be a little boring, I ran less and less.
I needed a change. My exceptionally fit son-in-law Ian was enthusiastic about a certain kind of workout gym (to remain nameless, because it’s polarizing, creating haters and cult accusers). I was curious. I found a local gym on Facebook and posted the question – “do I need to be in shape to join?”
“Absolutely not,” the owner, Tim, said.
A few days later I had signed up for three months and
suffered through experienced a training session with Tim. God bless him, not the slightest quiver of a smile betrayed what he was thinking as he led me through squats, push-ups, pull-ups, burpees, cleans, thrusters – a whole new lingo to describe things I couldn’t do.
That was one year ago, and I’ve been going three times a week ever since. The workouts are short and intense. Heart- pounding, muscles-quivering, mind-challenging.
Confession time: I am mediocre poor terrible. My workout is so scaled it isn’t funny. I can’t jump over a medball; I sort of step/hop over it, one foot at a time. I’m the weakest person in the gym as far as weight-lifting goes and oh, how I hate any kind of weight-bearing squat. I do push-ups from my knees, and pull-ups with a stretchy band supporting my weight.
The only thing I’m OK at is rowing; I can keep up. And, oddly, the toes-on-medball plank. I get into position and go to my happy place.
But 99% of the time, I have to check my ego at the door. I’m always the worst in the room. So why do I continue to go?
- The other members laugh hysterically at me offer encouragement and support, not like most gyms where you are ignored.
- Seeing what some of the women accomplish is inspiring.
- And the men are not difficult to look at.
- Gradually I am getting stronger. Gradually.
- If I don’t go, I will lose any painfully-earned progress I’ve made (see #4).
There’s even a workout named after me, Karen. One hundred fifty wall balls. Clutching a fat soft medicine ball, you squat, then as you push up out of the squat you hurl the ball up against the wall. The women’s ball weighs 12 pounds (20 for men), which doesn’t sound too heavy, but after a few throws it’s an object of hatred, especially when you’re tired and mishandle the catch and it punches you in the face.
Now tell me, what’s your favorite kind of exercise?