To begin with, I truly admire anybody who gets themselves out of bed and works out whether at a gym, or riding a bike, or going for a hike, or doing laps at the pool. I set what I thought was an attainable goal — 6 mornings a week for 40 minutes. Amazing how many things can interfere from a phone call that changes my focus to a one-day-class that breaks my routine to simply not wanting to get out of bed. Still, I’m pretty faithful. And I find the people at the Y intriguing.
The one who puzzles me most is the woman who carries her purse with her everywhere. She doesn’t do the treadmill — she walks the track lugging her handbag. There are small cubbies and even new lockers right there on the workout floor where people can stash their stuff, but she apparently feels the need to have her handbag with her. Perhaps it’s like carrying weights — except there’s only one.
A couple of the women come in full makeup — blush, lipstick, mascarra — the whole bit. Why? I wonder as I wipe sweat out of my eyes. Surely they’re going to go home and jump in the shower when they’re done here. I mean, this is the Y for pity sake — it’s full of old people, not like 24 Hour Fitness where the Spandex-wrapped hot bods go to see and be seen and perhaps hook up. This is the place for people who are simply doing what they can to keep those moving parts moving, hoping to keep arthritis at bay.
I find it rather discouraging, however, that nobody seems to change. I’ve seen the same two fat women (okay, that’s not PC — so sue me) for a long time and in spite of their religious trot around the track and their faithful attendance at the aerobics class, they’re still fat. Maybe coming here and burning calories allows them to enjoy a guilt-free bowl of ice cream every night.
Then there are the people who take the elevator to the second floor workout room and head for the stair-stepper. I will never figure that one out.
George, who has been there ever since I originally signed up 10 years ago (and no, I haven’t been going for 10 years!) is still doing the same routine. He is a good-looking man who doesn’t seem to age — must be somewhere in his mid-70s. (But that’s what I thought 10 years ago.) His routine is the same except he used to come in and put his foot up on the barre and touch his head to his knee. He now puts his foot up on a chair and leans toward it. If he’s been doing this faithfully for 10 years and he’s losing ground, what hope is there for me who only does this every few years for a couple of months at a time?
I am most impressed by the man who has evidently had a stroke. Not an old man, either; maybe middle-aged. He leans on a cane as he makes his slow progress across the floor. He has a smile and cheerful “hello” for everyone. He works the machines and I often hear people encouraging him.
I’ve only been here 25 minutes and I’m ready to leave, impatient at how long 40 minutes can be. Camille shows up — haven’t seen her in weeks. She steps on the elliptical next to me. “How’ve you been?” I ask. “Well, the surgery went okay. I’m taking it slow.”
I’m ashamed to realize I didn’t remember her telling me she was going to have surgery. Now I can hardly ask about it.
“What have you been up to?” she asks, adjusting her stride and bumping the level up to 4. I glance at my machine — I’m at level 1.
“Oh, not much. Trying to keep cool. I planted some little plants last week when it had sort of cooled down, but when it got hot again, the poor little things just fried.”
“I wish I had a garden,” she sighs. I’m instantly ashamed. I have so much — a nice home, friends, time and money to do whatever pleases me, a strong healthy body that lets me do whatever I want — and here I am whining about spending a few minutes at the Y. I look around at all the people pumping, striding, bending and pushing, and I feel like an imposter.
We chat for a few more minutes until she says, “Well, that’s it for me.” She slows down and steps gingerly off the machine. A friend comes up and says, “you ready to work on your abs?” Camille laughs. “Not today — it’s too soon. How about a walk around the track?” She gives me a wave and they set off.
I look down at my timer. 50 minutes! I’m ten minutes over. Bonus!
I trot down the stairs, pleased with myself. Now I can start my day with a clear conscience — and tomorrow I’ll only have to do half an hour!