As many of you know, I’ve been struggling with my weight & fitness for the past couple of years. I was in pretty great shape when I met Betty, & got lazy, for starters, which was then exacerbated by (1) pretty extreme depression after 9/11; (2) quitting a job that was very active for writing, which is not; and (3) getting older and having my metabolism slow. Effectively it’s been a decade since I worked out at a gym regularly, which is embarassing to admit, though I have almost always walked regularly, and some distances, do some yoga, work out with free weights & calisthenics, & of course try to watch what I eat.
Recently, I joined a gym again because watching what I eat and walking a lot and doing at-home workouts wasn’t helping.
But – I know this is going to be a shocking revelation – I am totally out of shape. I go to the gym in my baggy sweats and t-shirt, and get on the Precor elliptical machine, which is kind to my flat foot and bad knees, and start pedaling. In minutes, I notice how much slower I am going than anyone near me, and yet – and yet – my heart rate shoots straight out of any health zone, weight loss or cardiovascular. I slow down a little more, take breaks, watch my heart rate respond, and then notice I have become the literal tortoise to the hares pedaling around me.
Worse yet, I am sweating profusely, and because I use demi-permanant colors on my hair, I sweat a light pink, which has caused me to stop using the gym’s towels to mop my brow and to bring my own bandana instead.
It’s pretty damned embarassing, and yet I trudge on, listening to my iPod, trying not to notice anyone who has noticed how much I’m sweating, hoping no one will ask me how I’m doing because I don’t have the breath to answer, but reminding myself that I used to work out about 6-8 hours in a gym, on the Precor but also with a full weight machine circuit AND mat exercises. I have a right to get my chubby, out of shape self back into shape. But wow is it awful feeling so glooby and middle aged and wondering if I should get a more supportive sportsbra so that I don’t offend the tiny youngsters around me who look they have never eaten anything but carrots and water and have no idea they, too, will age.
What struck me even more was that I have been in good shape, and did go to a gym regularly, & that I can’t imagine what it might be like to join a gym when you’re an out of shape woman approaching her 40s if you never were in good shape and never did belong to a gym at all. I’m not sure I could do it, and now I am not surprised at how many women joined Curves (a woman’s gym whose owners are pro-life, and who I don’t support). My first gym was a Lucille Roberts, to be honest, and my second was in the West Village where most of the men were gay and plenty of the women lesbians.
But this is more like a Brooklyn gym, with a mix of people in it, and I can’t make up my mind if I’m more uncomfortable being judged by the men or by the women. Or both. Or neither.
You can’t get in shape staying at home, I know. I don’t want to be out of shape anymore, especially as the ongoing march of age will not stop or even slow down. I’m happy that somewhere in my body there is a memory of what “in shape” feels like, & looks like for me, so I will try to shut out the embarrassment I feel and pedal on.