There are certain advantages to the aging process. You’re wiser, you’re (hopefully) more patient and less judgmental, and your priorities are often less about how you look and what you drive, and more about who you are and what you have given back to the world. And of course, there’s grandkids. After the responsibility of raising your own children and ensuring that they’re socially acceptable before their launch into society, grandchildren are the universe’s way of letting you now spoil the crap out of a small child, then promptly hand the over-sugared, thoroughly entitled delight back to their parents for repair.
There are certain aspects of aging, however, that are not so thrilling. Menopause (Really, God? Really??), weight struggles, and gravitational body changes all conspire to remind us that time is moving forward and since we no longer have the inherent fitness granted by simply being young, we’re going to need to explore more direct approaches. In other words, we need to get off our middle-aged butts and get some exercise.
As I explored various options for getting back into shape, I mentally reviewed some previous attempts.
Yoga. WTH? First of all, the dominatrix teaching the class is not your zen friend. She’s all, “Reeeeach. Breeeeath. Stretch furrrrrther.” Well, hell, if I could do that, I wouldn’t be taking your stupid class. And have you ever noticed that none of these poses are named after humans? Nope. Standing Tree. Downward Dog. Frog, Cobra, Lion, Camel, and Crocodile. Do you know why?? Because humans weren’t built for these positions. They are not natural. Virtually ever position they demonstrate starts with the premise, “You know the way your body wants to go? Go the other way.”
A now ex-friend recommended something called “Hot Yoga.” An hour later, I was upside down, my not-inconsiderable behind stuck in the air, while staring through my inverted legs at a total stranger’s butt-crack, as Brut-scented sweat (seriously, dude?) rolled off his matted armpit hair and puddled into sticky pools two inches from my face. It used to take me at least three dates to get there with a guy. And he’d have bought me dinner first. Brut guy and I had no business sharing sweat pools at this stage of our relationship.
Some months later, at my son Jake’s suggestion, I ordered a series of exercise DVDs called “Insanity.” Guaranteed to get you “boot camp ready” in 90 fun-filled workouts. Completely disregarding the average age of the models on the cover (22) and the fact that I’m, well, not 22, I placed my order and anxiously awaited my 12 DVDs, plus Nutrition Guide and “Workout Success” wall chart to map out my ever-ripping muscles over the course of the next three months.
The first DVD was one of those annoying Preliminary Fitness Tests you take to see if you’re fit enough to get fit. Uh, okay. 20 minutes in, I’m on the floor, red-faced and hyperventilating like a freaked-out Chihuahua in a thunderstorm, staring at a large, flashing red screen that essentially stated: “Do Not Continue This Program. You Will Die. Go Sit in the Corner, Have a Doughnut and a Diet Coke, then List This Kit on eBay. Remember to Include the Nutrition Guide You Obviously Never Intended to Read and the Ill-Named Success Chart. Maybe You Can Get Your Money Back.” Middle age sucks.
Then I saw an ad for those sneakers with the little balance pods on the soles, guaranteed to improve your balance and posture “while all you do is walk.” Who could resist? One might think that after three decades in sales, I’d at least be a tad skeptical, if not downright snort-wine-out-of-your-nose-while-you-scoff cynical about hard things being made to look easy, and that’s usually true. But claims of shortcuts to weight loss and firmer butts tend to make my left brain explode, while simultaneously making my right brain behave like a dog hearing, “Wanna go for a walk?” Tail starts wagging, body’s twirling, and face says, “Oh boy! Can we? Huh? Can we? Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!”
Got home and happily laced them up, envisioning my soon-to-be military posture and peach pit butt from which you could bounce a quarter, when I noticed a small warning label on the box that read, “Do not wear while exercising.” Ha. I promptly filed that under silly instructions like “Do not take while operating heavy machinery” and fired up a dance DVD. Having a ball until I grapevined into a side lunge, stumbled off the front pod, and took out my coffee table. Three stitches later, I hung up my shoes.
And so, after much searching, I finally settled on a newer, kinder DVD series (think Richard Simmons meets Jane Fonda: The Later Years) that alternates working recalcitrant upper and lower body parts each day with a series of floor exercises and cardio. Somehow, shimmying and shaking around my office in the wee hours of the morning is less intimidating and just more fun when the instructor and the music come from my generation (“My generation??” God, I just became my mother.)
One morning, I was busting my best floor moves, feeling all stretchy and strong, when they got to lower body wall squats. C’mon, people. I couldn’t do those in high school. Up against the wall, legs at 90 degrees (okay, 45. Don’t judge), then hold it. F-o-r-e-v-e-r. 10 seconds…15…starting to tremble. 20…25…I’m moaning by now. “Oooh, oooh, yi, yi, yi!” At 45 seconds, I shouted out, “Oh. My. God!” Suddenly Kenny’s voice booms out from the bedroom, “I don’t know what the hell is going on in there, but you’d BETTER BE ALONE.”
I laughed so hard, I toppled over and hit my head on the ironing board. Tomorrow’s another day. I’m thinking pancakes for breakfast.