Though I began exercising as a jogger and continue to faithfully chug along, I also experimented from time to time with fitness fads that blossomed and faded as reliably as lilacs.
A year or so after I started running, I attended a pre-season basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors. During halftime, a group of bouncy women in leotards, tights, and my age group demonstrated a current craze called Jazzercise. Executing basic dance moves accompanied by vigorous hand movements, they cavorted around the court: smiles flashing, eyes twinkling, breath controlled, gentlemen entranced.
Within a week, I joined a dance-fitness group. Attired appropriately from headband to leg warmers, I leaped about to the soundtrack of Flashdance, awkwardly imitating the instructor’s rhythmic moves.
My relief when the dancing ended — and my breath quit sucking paint from the walls — became terror when everybody grabbed a mat and began doing squats, lunges, leg lifts, pushups and sit-ups by the hundreds. Unable to see because of the sweat streaming into my eyes, I floundered about and prayed the fun would stop before I passed out.
Because the icy streets of winter made running risky, I continued to pursue alternative forms of exercise. I thumped with the lightness of Big Foot in step classes, had difficulty extricating myself from the pretzel poses of yoga, and took to dance routines requiring hand weights like toddlers take to vaccinations: squirming, wailing, and indignation.
Later, I traipsed through Pilates, boot camps, Curves, Tai Chi, and Zumba. With each venture, I felt increasing gratitude that no one I loved was watching. Though I failed to impress with either grace or coordination in these classes, I excelled at sturdy shoes and punctual arrivals.
At some point, frustrated by cancelled classes and closed gyms, I bought videotapes and DVD’s so I could exercise at home, where I discovered an unexpected advantage: no one was around to notice when I failed to keep up with the svelte Jane Fonda or admired the short-shorts of Richard Simmons. Bashing about in my basement, I tried Tae Bo with the menacing Billy Blanks and made it through interval training with the chirpy Denise Austin. Neighbors never called to ask if I was OK, so my stumbling and swearing must not have been too troublesome.
My dream of being enshrined in the exercise hall of fame didn’t end with running, cardio classes, and DVDs. Oh no. I managed to find several more ways to cover myself with sweat and glory; but I’ll save those mistakes for another day.