I have a standing joke with my trainer that anyone seeing me walking jauntily into the gym with my loping stride would think: Wow! This woman is so nimble and healthy! She must do fitness wonders! The reality, of course, is that I am a Perfect Wimp! We both laugh at this constantly, especially when she asks me to do what would be considered by the really fit as an easy exercise, but which I find to be difficult, and I tell her at the top of my voice: Ouch! You’re killing me!
I train with Joanne once a week. The other days I try to repeat the exercises by myself – at least, once in a while! Mainly, however, I walk for about two miles every day on the track. (During the past several months I have not done so as I had injured my back somehow and at my old age it took its sweet time to get better!) Anyway, walking with my iPod music is absolutely great for my body, as well as for my well-being. It is during these thirty minutes, or so, that I chill out and refuel my brains. It is my form of meditation, if you wish. Exhilarating!
There are fitness facilities all over these United States. Actually, there are one or more in almost every area. It’s incredible! The fitness craze had its beginnings during the presidency of General Eisenhower when he established the Council On Youth Fitness in 1956. That did not really take off until John F Kennedy became president. Kennedy had many health issues himself and his back had always been a problem. This is mainly why he was so keen on working out. In brief, he issued a challenge in 1962 to the Marines inviting them to run 50 miles in 24 hours. He accompanied this with a massive awareness campaign that caught the nation’s attention and that was a great success! Ergo, sports and health centers began sprouting up here and there and soon enough they mushroomed throughout the land as the fitness craze took off becoming the huge multi-billions business that it is today.
I was still living in Beirut at the time, but we, too, like the American people, became aware of that. Looking back on those years I remember how much we loved Ike (Eisenhower) and how we were as fascinated as the rest of the world with the young, classy and beautiful Kennedys. In fact, when JFK was killed we were all totally devastated! I lived on a street that shortly after his assassination was renamed John F Kennedy Street in his memory. It still has that name today.
I started going to the gym at the prodding of my daughters during the last year of my husband’s life when I was about to truly fall apart. His illness had taken its toll on both he and I, and after seven years of devoting myself entirely to his well-being, house-bound and isolated from the world, I was on the verge of a complete nervous breakdown, I had lost a lot of weight and my muscles were becoming atrophied. My daughters, My Superwomen, sprung to action and ordered me to the gym!
During my first year there, I had a trainer whom I called “therapist,” not fitness trainer. She knew my situation, massaged my neck, shoulders and tension away and did light exercises. I later found out that she just wanted me to get to a point where I was confident that I could do things, as well as to strengthen my muscles minimally. It took quite a while, but we achieved that. And here I am, four years later, doing exercises that I never thought I would be able to do. Having a capable trainer is a plus! Joanne knows when to push me and when to let go. It is quite amazing to me how our bodies respond when we ask them to, when we push them a bit, when we set goals in our heads that we can reach and how fulfilling it is to attain them! It not only helps us physically, but it also gives us a sense of confidence and power that translate into all sorts of positive aspects throughout our lives.
For us, old women, it is vital that we exercise daily, because most of us develop arthritis, osteoporosis and what-not after menopause. Exercise does not cure these sometimes debilitating conditions, but it certainly arrests their rapid advancement and makes it more bearable to cope with. It also helps with a whole lot of other conditions.
There, in the women’s locker room, one is going to her yoga class, the other to Pilates. One has just finished aerobics swimming class, the other has just gotten off the treadmill. They stand there dripping with sweat, or after their showers, many in their nakedness, most semi-dressed, putting on their make-up, blow-drying their hair, getting ready to face their day. Many are close to my age, some are young. There are no inhibitions here. Shyness has taken a hike! The wrinkles, the sagging breasts, the flabby thighs, the cellulite, the drooping derrieres are of no concern to anyone. They stand confidently and unabashedly next to the young, the firm, the thong-clad. I know that this confidence comes from having lived this long, from knowing that we were once these young and taut women, but that perhaps childbirth, perhaps surgeries, and maybe simply the maladies and ravages of age had changed our bodies as we deal with this fact as gracefully and as elegantly as we can. And I also know that the younger females eye us older women thinking – hopefully, at least – that they should enjoy their youthful bodies and selves because, sooner or later, they will be us. It is a joyful and humbling atmosphere that we all enjoy as we gab away all in the brief time it takes to put on a face, to mousse the hair, to get into our street clothes! The camaraderie is delightful!
So for all of you old and older women out there who do not exercise, get off your behinds and get into the fitness mood! And, to all of you who are in fitness mode already: keep it up!
Let’s Go! Let’s Gym! Yallah!