I enjoy the fresh feel of a new year and January. I like to think the month’s stark coldness freezes bad stuff — tattling, fallen arches, rabid bats — and encourages new beginnings.
But hearing about the number of us who resolve to exercise and give up before the end of the month discourages me. Maybe we could improve our dropout rate if we banned the word exercise and resolved to move more in ways we enjoy: walking, swimming, dancing around the living room, playing outside with children.
In my late thirties, after a friend convinced me we would look like Kathleen Turner in Body Heat if we took up rigorous strength training, I agreed to go with her to check out Ike’s Power Palace: a musty smelling place with a bald, tattooed proprietor, rows of dusty cardio machines dotted by drops of dried sweat, dumbbells and barbells of intimidating size, weight machines reminiscent of torture chambers, and walls lined with fly-specked mirrors where straining men checked their form as they lifted massive weights and grunted.
We were hovering at the edge of the action, feeling like flamingoes trying to get acquainted with a herd of wooly mammoths, when a voice boomed from behind the counter, “Well don’t just stand there. Come on in, ladies. I’m Ike. If you stick with me, you’ll soon have butts so tight you’ll have to hang on with both hands to keep from falling in the toilet.”
In my fifties, I did water aerobics during the summer in an outdoor pool: prancing about in chest-high water and working hard without sweating as the water splashed my face and drenched my hair.
Then, in a publication I no longer remember, I read a survey I do: two-thirds of the adults polled admitted that when young, they routinely peed in swimming pools. A gazillion youngsters took lessons all morning in the water where my class met at noon.
The next day, I abandoned water aerobics, dusted off my bike, and rode up and down hills for an hour — an activity I enjoyed as much as mumps.
That was the summer I finally decided to stop doing things I dreaded and to begin moving instead. Now I do what I want, when I want, for as long as I want, with no need to comb my hair.
And what I want to do is walk, hike, cross-country ski, or run. I’ve also discovered that when I exercise alone, I concentrate on the activity and I’m more aware of the strength and endurance of my body. Sometimes, I feel young again.