Normally I follow the philosophy if you haven’t done a particular physical thing in X time (the exact period has varied but it has become smaller as I’ve aged) then you shouldn’t do it again.  The time needed to get back to my former level of fitness and proficiency has lengthened over the years; it is painful to start up again and and the willpower just isn’t there. So why have I recently begun to work out at the gym again when I haven’t done it for several years? Well for one thing my waistline (never my best feature) has expanded somewhat.  As with most things they don’t get better until you take a stand and I refused to buy pants a waist size larger even though my jeans were getting uncomfortable. Secondly as a former senior colleague reminded me as you got older you exercised less to get better and more to just hold on to the health and mobility you have.  Time steals them from you and adds a few aches and pains for good measure. Going to the gym becomes more a defensive battle than an offensive one. Finally the five months pregnant look does not work for a man in his sixties so for all these reasons I had to to something about my physical fitness. One thing I have learned however is that you don’t decide to go to the gym while you are in bed in the morning.  The bed not the gym always wins. You have to decide the night before or have a regular schedule so that your rationalizing mind doesn’t have a chance to convince you not to go.

Before I retired and moved away my college’s free fitness center was my chosen site for exercise. The old ones were dark, dingy and smelly but there were several periods when I used them frequently.  The latest one is bright, cheery and quite a bit larger.  It has more exercise machines, free weights, treadmills and the latest cardio equipment.  I hated it.  For me to feel myself virtuous in exercising the space itself had to be something to overcome and the new one wasn’t.  The other drawback to working out at a college facility is all the buff, athletic and fit young people who are around all the time.  All of them were more body conscious than I and some were extreme.  The sports team people were bad enough but my college seemed to attract many of the athletic type who had played sports in high school even if they did not in college. They were certainly polite enough not to say anything or look at me in wonder or amusement and I probably earned some street cred when I ran into a student I knew.  However I have eyes too and the difference between fit bodies and my own was painfully obvious no matter how much I trained. To parade my imperfections to all of them required the lack the self-consciousness that I had at the beginning but which I was losing as time went on and the discrepancies got larger.

So in my new retired life I had to go looking for a gym in my new hometown.  I chose a Planet Fitness although it offered fewer of the amenities, personal trainers, classes and free weights than the others.  Instead it had row upon row of treadmills, stationary bikes and elliptical machines and enough Cybex exercise machines for the little muscle training I planned to do.  Moreover the clientele although fitter than I were not the hardcore gym types one saw at the other gyms. At this gym they called such people “lunks” and promised to be a judgment free zone. My first day was hard and I was so sore afterward that I wanted to crawl up into a ball and die.  My son reminded me that I still had a lot to live for so I have been going back every other day for the last week or so. I have my Ipod full of R&B and on shuffle so I spend my time on the exercise bike and the Cybex machines simply rocking out to the return of the sixties or Tina Turner or James Brown. I still have to adjust the resistance on the machines down but not nearly as much as when I was at my college facility. There are more people of my fitness level (which is to say none at all) around and many more approaching or surpassing my age.

The human body’s ability to adapt to the physical circumstances you subject it to, is still amazing to me. If you want a lifestyle that just sits around with little activity, it is quite willing to adapt to that.  If however you want to have a lifestyle with a bit more activity than that, it will adjust accordingly.  It is just these periods of transition that are hardest. Though I miss having woods just a short jog away I must admit that I didn’t take full advantage of them when I had them.  As with most things you don’t miss your water until the well runs dry, but as Darwin showed us it is not the strongest or the fastest who survive.  It is those who are most willing to adapt to environmental changes who last the longest. I am going back to the gym to try to adapt and last long.

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2 Responses to “Back to the Gym”

  1. Jeffrey Drummond says:

    Yeah, but what I like about my older guy stomach is it looks as if there are two of me in every picture, my head and the swallowed basketball. It’s nice not to be single.
    About your previous, it’s not ok for you to die ever, so get off that! But if after another 60+ years you do escape the coming ability of medical science to create immortality; and if planes are flying so I can get there; then I promise to act as wild and wacky as I am, in accordance with your course requirements.
    My depression upped and moved out about a month ago. Holy shit! I can’t remember a time without the undercurrent of depression. Disability and Soc Sec benefits killed the stress; from 11 to 2 meds; continuing therapy; and I’d just started another round of working the steps with a sponsor in Alanon. But holy shit! The cool part is I’m doing exactly the same things so far — sleep and wake on vampire time, surf politics and some porn, video games, visit daughters and therapists and friends in Manhattan — but now I really enjoy it instead of feeling depressed during it. Holy shit!
    Lucy graduating from Gallatin Inst. of NYU, equivalent of Hampshire, with concentration in (wait for it) studio art/painting + feminist history + history of philosophy + web design and social media. After years of tough times for her, she’s really put together a wonderful life in which she is finally happy, thank god.
    Selby with wonderful partner Matt and his 10-y.o. twin boys and all of us are crazy about every other one. A happy family! Who knew? Not without stuff to deal with, but wow.
    Please give my love to Cathy and Jackson, and of course to your exercise equipment and to you, my dear friend, Jeff

  2. Randy says:

    I have no current plans to shuffle off this mortal coil or even suspicions that it might happen, but I”m going to the gym to hedge my bets. Glad to hear that you are feeling better. Catherine and Jackson are both fine. He is currently long distance truck driving but will enter grad school here at the University of New Mexico in June. It will be good to see him again. Good to hear that your daughters are doing great.


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