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The finality of fitness after fifty

 

Mary Jane Owen
Columnist

  Skinny I have never been except possibly at birth, but even then I was on the high end of the scale. Long ago I gave up any notion of being svelte. I’ve always been one of those “big boned” girls. That said, I determined some time ago to pursue a higher degree of fitness in an attempt to sustain acceptable body numbers like body/mass ratio, BP. etc. Perfection is not my goal, but as I confront the usual aches and pains that come with age, I have sought over the retirement years to improve my physical state. Let this be a warning to all of you young folks that the skin does not always remain unblemished and supple and that you will likely not continue to have what it takes to “skin a cat” or do cartwheels.

  My journey toward better fitness has taken many turns, some of which have been interesting and oft times hilarious. I cannot deny that I have given several things a go. Admittedly, throughout my nearly seventy-five years, I have rarely been able to sustain a long-term interest in many things. I love learning, but once I’ve satisfied my curiosity, I like to move on and try something new. I’ll try to give it my best and am even willing to make a fool of myself. The problem is I HATE to sweat! My take on sweat is that it should be the product of authentic physical labor like digging holes, chopping cotton, ploughing with a mule, wielding a hammer. You know, real work not exercising for the sole and explicit purpose of self-improvement.

  My attitude toward sweat narrows the range of activities in which I can satisfactorily engage. I’ve enthusiastically embraced for a time at least five or six different approaches. I’ll start with my yoga efforts. This discipline requires little sweat and is supposed to result in great balance, flexibility, and strength. This all sounds good so I’ve joined a number of classes and learned a little each time finding some benefit but making me feel worse about my physical condition. Folks in these classes don’t have joints and their muscles are like rubber bands. In my last class I finally had to just sit on my mat and watch as the gifted participants bent and stretched to positions that are commonly seen only among circus contortionists. When the instructor did a shoulder stand while bending her knees so that her feet met sole to sole, I winced, amazed. Right next to me was a living, breathing pretzel, a cousin which debunks my thinking that my DNA will not allow such as this. So much for yoga, in public at least.

  Then there was tai chi, highly recommended by a friend who wisely determined years ago to be healthy. Like dancing, this form of physicality requires muscle memory. Flabby muscles will not remember, further proving that my body and brain were failing. More discouragement.

  Well, this is embarrassing, but I must fully disclose. I have done water aerobics off and on for years. This is a great form of exercise, but it requires a lot of bouncing around. In so doing, my poor old bladder was not happy and required me to have to leave the pool far too frequently to make the exercise worthwhile. Enough said.

  As a last ditch effort, I thought because I once was a pretty fair swimmer I’d do the pool in a different way. I just knew this was what would help me reach my goal, but as it turns out, I could not swim freestyle five feet without feeling that I needed my cardiologist very close at hand. I tried other less strenuous strokes, same thing. I lacked any buoyancy, breath, or brawn. This did it! Time to take stock and admit that while swimming met all of my requirements: no sweat, no joint stress, and a full body workout, I’d lost my old edge. I begged an old friend to observe my feeble efforts and provide me with some feedback. He watched for a few minutes, rolled his eyes, made a feeble attempt not to laugh, but made a few suggestions, like “keep your feet moving” and “stay on top of the water” Duh! Well I’ve been trying, finally managing to complete about three laps without having cardiac arrest. I’ve had to accept that a high price has to be paid for failing to treat the body properly, like a temple, as the scripture says. My body? It ain’t gonna never be a cathedral.

 

 

 

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