Joining a Gym As a Senior

I’d played sports in high school, so I knew something about getting into shape. I’d graduated at 5’ l0’ and l65. Then I didn’t do much for l2 years till a friend started me jogging. I probably did that l6 years, then walked daily for years. In ’97 my weight was l85. I started taking Slim-Fast, which brought it to l75.

Over the years I noticed some classmates at reunions had let themselves go. So did public figures on TV. I noticed how gluttonous our culture is, how I was slouching at my computer, and how people that worked out looked healthy, had a good attitude and were calm. I began to call various gyms. Most were rag-in-the-mouth, hi-pressure types. Terrible. Eventually I found an upscale one with no pressure and joined. My plan was to workout for some months, learn which equipment I needed, and buy it. Naïve – too expensive

I wanted to approach this realistically so that I wouldn’t start then quit – like a yo-yo diet – lose weight, gain it back. The gym tested me: my blood pressure, body fat, and cholesterol were good; my cardiovascular, strength and flexibility were fair. They showed me how to use the exercise machines. Then I was on my own. Uh-oh ………… up to me? I was self-conscious and wobbly on the machines, but felt my way along for an hour, 3 times a week.

I knew it was going to take a month or more to get used to the machines; and I knew that, rather than and do what I should do, I would last longer if I did what I WANTED to do and what felt good. I also knew progress is slow at any age, slower and more subtle for a senior, and that one’s mind plays tricks, so I kept notes:

2nd workout. Was surprised at my interest. Came home tired, but felt better. Chest and back felt swollen in a good way. Slept heavily 8 hours, up, back to bed, up, felt as if new muscles had been awakened. Nothing prepared me for this. Mmore complex than I imagined. They know a lot more now than 40 years ago. Marvelous machines.

3rd Feeling all kinds of muscles I never knew I had. [Where were they? Welcome back.] I found a lower back machine that I could use to massage myself with. It felt great. Up and down, one vertebrae at a time; ohhh, felt good, angled this way and that, couldn’t get off. It was like my back had never had this. Everyone loves a massage; I could massage mine the way I wanted and as long as I wanted.

4th Woke up feeling bigger and fuller. Talked to muscular guy who said he weighs the same as a much larger chubby guy he knows. [Muscle weighs more than fat.] Talked to another who has equipment at home, but doesn’t use it.

6th Felt ‘a good tired’ – even the next morning.

Hanging over the ‘roman bench’ lets the blood go to my head. I read this makes the blood vessels there more elastic which reduces the chance of stroke [which just had in the family].

7th In the middle of the night – only one there. It’s all exploration, education, a challenge, the ultimate way to beat the game, one of the best investments.

8th Jack LaLane was right: ‘Use it or lose it.’

Found a 45 degree angle bench for body bends. Got to keep it interesting and creative. Slowly getting used to all this. One roomer in my house and I think I look healthier. Feeling bit younger, more fit, agile. Face seems more filled out, skin tighter at temples, healthier color.

9th Went home, got excited about something in front of a roomate; I skipped across the room, rolled on the kitchen table, stopping with my feet up. He said, ‘The gym is doing its work, you’re acting like a teenager.’

10th Found 2 more ab machines. Intimidating and lonely to think it’s all up to me, so getting tips from others helps.

16th Not looking forward to it, but enjoyed it. Learned that the glutes help keep pelvis straight when sitting.

17th Things I see and read about health mean more. Bit springier, easier to crouch, bend over, straighten up, get out of bed. This gym has arrangements with other gyms around the world so members won’t miss their workouts. Imagine that. Some who get bored on one treadmill switch to a different type of treadmill every five minutes.

After seeing my health go downhill over the years and now start to go uphill, I feel more in control and hopeful. Some women smaller than me work with weights I have a hard time with. They’re not muscle-bound, just strong. This is the lst time I’ve worked with weights. Easier to carry groceries, haul trash out front, shovel dirt …. Heavy chores were a bonus workout and brought variety [though I went to bed afterwards]. All shapes and sizes at the gym: two partially blind people, 2 in wheelchairs, some refreshing teens, some natural athletes with grace, power, and quiet reserves. Different world – a room of people working on their health. Contagious. Stomach harder. When shaving I look in the mirror and see my Rip Van Winkle muscles coming back. Bought 5 lb weights and a stretch cord. As I get into better condition I WANT to exercise more, enjoy it more – mentally and physically. I don’t wheeze when bending over. Momentary thots of quitting and trying to do it at home. Reminds you of your sports days 40 years ago. Complexion bit better. Actually jogged slowly for awhile, then slept like a rock. Like pieces of a puzzle. Getting in condition is one thing, staying is another. Will have to do this rest of my life, but getting to where I want to. Arthritis is much better. Heart better. Added a new ab machine and found a way to massage my back on a bench. Soooo relaxing. Closer to touching my toes.

Two days without workout and missed it. Feel bit more optimistic and hopeful. Feeling more in tune with my body – aches, pains, needs. Tripped over cord, regained my balance much quicker than normally and heartbeat didn’t go up. Bit more agile and limber.

Cross arms and feel more muscles. I used to breath more when overeating. Have only lost a few lbs, posture not better, and still linger before falling asleep. I don’t get stiff muscles when doing a heavy chores around the house. [Even THEY were a treat at this age]. Proceeding with ‘extreme moderation’

Makes me more curious about things related to health. Best time to work out is the lst thing in morning when stomach is empty.

Into 4th month If I met these gym people elsewhere, I could assume they were born with good health; but I see how much they work out.

One needs to exercise 3 times a week to maintain adequate levels of cardiovascular condition, strength, and flexibility. It’s totally individual, finding what you can live with, feeling your way along slowly, finding ways to make it as interesting and enjoyable as possible, knowing you’ll have bad days. Games like tennis would be more fun, but tie me to a schedule.

The motivating parts have been comparing ideas with others in the gym – especially those who look young for their age, discovering techniques, and seeing slow progress. I seem to have a better attitude, but can’t put my finger on why.

Exercise takes time, but I assume it saves time in getting sick and injured less, healing faster, living longer and better, going to the dr. less, less medication, [looking at younger women …… uh-oh], [might even make me easier to live with].

I didn’t want exercise to bore me; it hasn’t. It’s been ‘What is the next step, technique or improvement will I hear about, stumble upon, think up – just how much can I improve my health?’ It’s an adventure; I want to tell people about it.

5th month. I began to think with transportation etc. this was taking 5 hours a week. That’s time I could be getting exercise by working on my house. I quit and now work around the house with a whole new attitude. I try to make my chores more of a workout by stretching, bending, twisting more, lifting heavier loads, holding ‘positions’ longer, keeping my heartbeat up, etc. There has been very little written about this. It has to be the most interesting, easiest, and one of the most rewarding ways to get exercise.

I miss a couple of the machines at the gym. I use a stretch band now and then. I even stopped walking. It’s been two years and seems to be working. My health is good and a treadmill test showed my heart to be in good condition.

It’s a slow education. It’s easiest to begin with what you enjoy: dancing, golf, walking, gardening, housework, home repairs … .

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