I spared myself from going to the gym last month—yet again. Oh, how so close I came this time! I had gone so far as the proper preparations, taking down the schedule, and checking out the facilities. After all, gym was doctor’s orders; that, or medication, possibly for life.
But there’s something about those gray, grim-looking contraptions that somehow conjure for me visions of torture in a dentist’s chair. In fact, even before I could work any of them, I would become paralyzed by a Shakespearean dilemma that switches on a repetitious soliloquy in my mind, a mixed-up one that goes like, “Oh Romeo, do I turn on the treadmill before or after I get on? But, again, how?”
So I’d be stuck. Everyone else would have her treadmill going, a-huffin’ and a-puffin’, all very sweaty, a not-so-attractive momentary prospect for myself once I managed to get my own mill going. But I’d have to interrupt someone; I’d have to yell through her earphones, possibly causing her to lose her rhythm or momentum, or worse, to have an accident.
There’s more about today’s gym that I find rather unwelcoming, that makes me feel out of place. Surely it’s not that I insist on finding fault; after all, didn’t I love Joanne Drew? But Joanne seems to have understood: it was exclusively for women—properly pink, plush, pretty and smelled so good. Alas, she closed down on me too soon.
Today’s gym doesn’t seem to care as Joanne Drew did, possibly precisely because it chooses no sex, which tends to lose me decidedly. Something about a sex-shared gym makes me feel a bit queasy, not unlike a shared restroom in a restaurant. But my case being now a matter of senior health, I suppose it becomes automatically serious, thus pressuring me to view the gym with fitting seriousness. Well, I had begun doing that—until I heard the good news from Rita.
Herself not a gym person, she found climbing the stairs to her condominium floor a more pleasant substitute. I was an immediate convert; I stopped taking the elevator and began elevating six floors on my own two feet. On the fourth floor, my body alarm would ring, and I’d stop for new wind and resume on an easier pace for the remaining two floors. I couldn’t wait to report my success to Rita, who by then was doing 12, double my achievement.
But soon I was jolted out of my euphoria by a report from my husband. The wife of a tennis buddy of his, a serious stair-climber herself, had both her senior kneecaps replaced with titanium. Trouble is, I had already dispersed the prescription to the whole gym-escaping universe and wouldn’t know now how to even begin retracting it before any damage is caused another pair of senior knees.
Back to normal elevating, I again began getting those gym murmuring in my ear. In fact, inclined to capitulate, I started sorting my wardrobe and, to my added dismay, found nothing to wear. So I began investigating the gym fashion of the day. My suits definitely no longer suit: They simply go too far back to remain fashionable, let alone to fit.
Actually, as I began re-contemplating the gym, other alternatives presented themselves. One was an electronic bed that does it all for me—massages me, exercises me, cuts my appetite and increases my metabolism, and it feels good, too. But after the demonstration week, instead of getting hooked, my husband and I began to get tired of it and saw us ignoring it altogether eventually. That it occupied a fifth of our living room didn’t help, either.
I also found a book claiming that exercise and diet are not the way to lose weight, that, in fact, if one exercised and ate less, one would only end up hungry and bingeing. What would be sustainable for non-athletes like me, it goes on to say, is to eat in moderation and walk more—as is perfectly natural, it adds for some vague effect, to everyone past the age of two.
Still, no health guru I know would depreciate the virtue of exercise: like going to the dentist, going to the gym is never a bad idea.
And that’s exactly why I think of gym all the time.