Sunday, June 08, 2008

Exercise Equation

I grew up in a time when organized athletics for females in junior high and high school were limited to cheerleading and gym class. I was not popular enough or coordinated enough for the former and not enthused enough for the latter. I could pull off being oblivious to exercise when I was walking with my friends, dancing and bike riding for fun. But over time those free spirited activities were replaced by driving just for the fun of it, reading, needle working, desk jobs and being a wife, mother and exhausted. I’m not suggesting exercising in the midst of everyday adult life can’t be done but I am telling you that I couldn’t or didn’t do it.

At this stage of life I know that I better get moving or type II diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure are going to come knocking. Since taking a battery of pills doesn’t appeal to me I figure life style changes are the only acceptable options.

Over the years I’ve run the gamut on rationalizing, deluding and financing every possible approach to this exercise thing. I’ve purchased a treadmill, a stationary bike, a Gazelle, a step, countless exercise tapes, CDs and DVDs, a yoga mat, an exercise mat, 2-lb, 5-lb, 10-lb weights and I’ve watched (on the couch with a bowl of sausage gravy, I imagine) all of the paid commercials for shedding pounds, losing inches, building muscle, increasing metabolism and decreasing appetite. Not one of these efforts lasted long enough for the charges to clear my credit card.

A friend of mine finally gave me the perspective I needed to move forward. She suggested that I look at exercise as a second job. I may not make the healthiest lifestyle choices but I have an awesome work ethic. Armed with a new philosophy I opted to find an acceptable health club. I wanted a place separate from my home life and dedicated to the job of exercising. In my search I found the perfect club for me. The location was less than a mile from my home. The hours worked with my schedule. The facilities were clean and safe with plenty of equipment that was kept in good working order. Plus, I found out later that they have a members' lounge that offers the best flavored coffee every morning. The trainer who gave me a tour pointed out that every cardio machine had its own cable television with sound provided via head phones. I thought, “TV got me into this position – that’s your selling point?” The fee was a little steep but I rationalized that I would have to go more often to make the cost per day rate reasonable.

Starting out was a little rough. The first day I had to follow someone to find the ladies’ locker room. I haven’t warmed up to the group classes yet. Some of them are pretty intense and the trainers are a little masochistic. I don’t want to strain my fragile ego. Besides, I get pushed around enough at my first job. I don’t care to subject myself to it at my second job.

I prefer to work out solo so I opt for early morning. There are plenty of people there at that hour but I’m too sleepy to interact. I like going early in the morning because I’m not awake enough to make excuses not to go. By the time I wake up I'm at the the club so I might as well work out. For some reason I feel virtuous for getting up at an ungodly hour. However, I will confess that prior to finding the lounge with the great coffee I would go home and nap for 20 minutes before preparing for job number 1. It took a while for the mythical endorphins to kick in.

I'm a regular now. I find it funny that so many of us who use this club are paying for the privilege to get more exercise but find the closest parking place to the gym entrance. I am also amazed at the women who come to the club in designer workout gear, jewelry, full makeup and who read magazines while they are on the cross trainer. I come in clothes that have been retired from weekend wear due to paint drips and baggy knees. I have to concentrate on breathing and not dying while I’m on the cross trainer.

I don’t have any delusions about meeting Mr. Right at the club. I’m not a pretty picture when I work out. I’m fairly certain I won’t attract anyone with my sweaty clothes and matted hair. Besides, it’s difficult to engage in witty repertoire while gasping for breath.

It surprises me to see discarded cigarette butts outside the health club entrance. When I commented to a friend that I didn’t understand how someone could commit to exercise every day and still smoke they pointed out that I commit to exercise every day and still eat chocolate. The difference is that I exercise so I can eat chocolate.

I don’t know that exercise will come back naturally to me but I do know that I have found the right exercise equation for the time being. I go 6 to 7 days a week for 1 to 1.5 hours. I use weight machines, dumbbells, and the cross ramp. I can cover 3 miles on the cross ramp daily while watching the Food Network (turns out that whole TV thing is a good selling point after all).