January 13, 2010
Last summer, after listening for years to my doctor’s urgings to get some exercise and lose some weight, I started walking around my neighborhood.
Tentatively at first, I started just walking 45 minutes at a time, three days a week. I was in such poor shape that, the first couple of times I walked, I had to stop and catch my breath once or twice in that 45 minutes. But I stuck with it, and I found as I persevered that I was able gradually to lengthen my rambles until, by the time the cold weather hit a week or so before Christmas, I was up to four miles, three times a week.
I found that I enjoyed my regular hikes. It felt good to get out in the fresh air; I usually walked first thing in the morning, so often I saw deer around the neighborhood. I also found a sort of fellowship with those few of my neighbors who were out on similar errands, many of them walking their dogs.
Then it got too cold. I made a couple of brave attempts, but once the mercury fell below 30 degrees I just couldn’t suck in enough of that cold air to keep my muscles operating.
And so, we sat around the house. That is, until last week, when we decided to go to the gym. My health insurance includes a membership, so we visited the Bonner Spring Community YMCA, which is only a few miles down the road from our house.
It got me to thinking how things have changed over the years. Years ago, gyms used to be dingy places that stank of sweat, where you couldn’t hear yourself think for the clanking of barbells and the other equipment. Of course that was years ago. Once corporate America discovered fitness, gyms became clean, well-lighted places where women – and even fat, old men – were made to feel welcome and comfortable.
High-tech fitness equipment – treadmills, stationary bicycles, stair-steppers and so on – does everything but the work. At least it will record your time, monitor your heart rate and keep track of the distances that you “travel” and the calories that you burn. Some of the machines even have built-in television monitors, so you can keep up with the news or watch your favorite shows. How cool.
The Y also has weight machines that exercise all the body’s muscle groups, as well as an assortment of free weights and other equipment for serious body builders. Not to mention an indoor walking track and two swimming pools. Plus, there’s a full schedule of classes for everyone from senior citizens to serious strength trainers, and of course a staff to get all this done.
At the end, of course, the electronic gadgetry is all just so much window dressing. You still have walk, run, climb, pedal, swim or pump iron to achieve any result. (My apologies if I left out any favored activity.)
In a way, I do miss walking around the neighborhood. I’m not sure I can explain it. Walking, it seems to me, is a finite, definite activity: you walk from one point to another, then back again. At the end, you feel you’ve accomplished something, even if it’s only to expend some calories. Exercise by itself, for its own sake, is a little different. It burns the same calories, but the feeling is a little different.
But for now, we’re committed to the gym. It’s just too cold to do anything else.
Of course it’s too early to tell if this is going to accomplish anything. At least, my sore muscles are telling me that it must be doing me some good.
Originally published at: http://www.shawneedispatch.com/news/2010/jan/13/even-fat-old-men-are-welcome-gyms/