Friday, March 1, 2013

Exercising my rights

"You're making lists today of all the things you haven't done yet, you're driving everyone crazy, are you having any fun yet?"

I started my exercise program yesterday.

It's true. About 4 p.m. I turned off the torch and went for a walk around the lake. I immediately undid some of the good this of this healthy endeavor by munching on a small bag of chips as I headed out. But let's face it, I'd have eaten the chips even if I hadn't walked so I can't feel too badly about it.

I started with the ritual of taking a bag of my cracked beads over to the little fishing pier on the lake and tossing them into the water. I have a hard time putting them in the trash can, even the ones that are sound but hideously ugly. Returning them to nature in the lake somehow seems more dignified and fitting.

Before I tossed, I did inspect the bank, to be sure than none of my former proverbial burials-at-sea beads had washed ashore. I don't think they would. I'm pretty sure this man-made body of water has a silty bottom and that my beads sink immediately into the muck where they will remain for all time.

I saw no evidence of beads awash but I did carefully toss this lot down-current of the concrete jetty. I think it might be fun to deliberately leave beads around the area to be discovered and hopefully to delight, but the idea of someone finding my cracked and rejected ones is not pleasing.

I disposed of the bead bag and the chip bag in the conveniently located trash receptacle and then circumnavigated the portion of the lake that lies south of the bridge. (Mental note: consider tossing beads from the bridge next time.) It was a perfect day for a walk, perfect light-jacket weather. There was a breeze on the lake but the sun felt good. The sky was the color of stone-washed denim, chalked over lightly with clouds.

I even jogged a very little bit, 10 yards or so at a time, but the twinge in my knee reminded me why running isn't such a good idea. I have a theory that you get the same benefit walking a certain distance as you do running that same distance, it just takes longer. Maybe, maybe not. I walked briskly, trying to raise my heart rate, feeling the muscles in my legs.

For a few years in my mid-twenties I was a jogger, until I blew both of my knees out. Before that, I had always avoided exercise whenever possible. In college I met my phys-ed requirements without ever breaking a sweat or changing out of street clothes. I took bowling and ice skating and yoga. My college is built on a steep hill and I did a lot of walking and never felt lacking in exercise. After college, I worked as a waitress full time or part time for the next few years and it was only when I got my corporate desk job and made enough money to hang up my apron that I started feeling too sedentary.

I remember the first time I tried running, on the track at Hermann Park. I could not run 50 feet without being winded. It was amazing how quickly I built up my lung power, because within a month I was running the full two-mile loop. For the next couple of years I faithfully jogged three or four times a week, working up to four ten-minute miles at a go on the Memorial Park track.

Eventually a combination of my knees and my lifestyle put the kibosh on that program. I moved to the Heights and got married and my commute took me past the YWCA. I signed up for Jazzercise classes and because moderation is not my strong suit, I took five classes a week, Monday through Thursday after work and Saturday mornings. I had a bit of a platonic crush (Wikipedia: a chaste and strong type of love that is non-sexual) on my teacher and briefly thought about becoming a certified instructor.

I Jazzercised my way through nine months of pregnancy, but it turned out that was that. By the time my firstborn arrived, my teacher had moved out of the Y and into her own studio space, which was actually even closer to home. She had group babysitting available ($1 per baby per class), but I only used it once. K.C. cried non-stop, upsetting the other babies and monopolizing the attention of the teenager in charge. Halfway through class I gave up and took her home.

Back at work with an infant at home, I no longer had the opportunity nor the desire to work out after work. Shortly before I gave birth, my company moved to new offices with a fitness center and after I returned I got into the groove of taking lunchtime aerobics classes three days a week. It was far from ideal, but better than nothing. I rushed down to the locker room to change into my leotard, worked out for 45 minutes, trying not to mess up my hair or makeup too much, took a hasty communal shower and gobbled down a sandwich back at my desk. I hated it but I made myself do it.

I'm not sure when or why I stopped. It may have been when my friend Marilyn retired. She was my exercise buddy and also my shopping buddy. On our non-exercise day lunch hours we often went to T.J. Maxx or Famous Footwear, and in one of these posts I will talk about my long love affair with shopping. Not today though. At any rate, a time came when I quit going to aerobics and after a while I even stopped feeling guilty about it. With two kids at home I did a lot of running around, I rationalized.

Years passed. I'm not counting. My company offered Yoga classes twice a week at noon and I started going for a crazy reason. It was the end of the nineties and I was leaving the fitness center (so I must have gone back and forgotten when or why) and a very handsome older gentleman looked me in the eyes with Italian passion and asked me, "when are you coming to Yoga?" I think he had me confused with someone else and I think he meant, when was I coming back to Yoga, but I chose to take it as a sign and started going. Tuesday lunch hour with passionate Roberto, and Friday lunch hour with Don, a company retiree.

A funny follow-up to this anecdote is that a few years later, during my 18 months on a dating website, Roberto wrote to me. I assume he was divorced from his beautiful Yoga-teacher wife by then, but what really kept me from writing back was his age. I was in my 40s then and he was 70! A damn good looking man for 70 or even 60 or 50, but still, I couldn't imagine it, not to mention that I knew him for the big flirt he was.

Anyway, over the ensuing years, after Yoga began to hurt my back, I sporadically explored workout regimens such as Pilates and NIA and Tai Chi, but nothing stuck. I was doing NIA, taught by a coworker and friend when I went through having my heart broken in 2001. I remember trying to go to class afterward, when I was so sick with grief and heartache, and how impossible it was, the tears coming while I walked around the room making circles with my arms. So much for that.

For the last 10 years I have done so little that can be considered exercise. Neil and I take a walks when there is time and the weather cooperates. I got a bike more than a year ago and I've ridden it exactly twice. I toured our community center weigh room and never went back. Yet.

Things need to change. It starts now.

Beadmaking involves long hours of sitting at a torch. Beadmakers, as far as I can tell, are predominantly women of a certain age. I think the reason for that has something to do with a demographic that has both time and resources. Torches, oxygen concentrators, kilns and all the other tools of the trade do not come cheap. I could not have afforded this art form as a younger working mom. Not only are there many older female beadmakers, many are, shall we say, a bit on the zaftig side. There is a reason for the term "beadmakers butt."

I wrestle with this. I look at the size 8 jeans in my closet that fit me not all that long ago, and I marvel at how tiny they are. I don't overeat. I know some of it is just my age, my metabolism slower, some of it related to medication I take. Part of me wants to just accept it and love myself as I am. I'm not fat. I'm just not slender, no longer the willowy girl I used to take for granted. And part of me wants to be that girl again.

I used to have willpower. After gaining some weight during my freshman year of college, after being a reed all my former life, I lived on yogurt and fruit and lean meat and vegetables until I weighed 105 lbs. and teetered on the verge of anorexia. It was a long time after than before my relationship with food normalized and I could recognize hunger and make sensible diet choices without deprivation followed by overindulgence followed by deprivation. Then many happy years of eating what I wanted within reason and staying slim. Until one day my jeans were too tight and it wasn't because they had shrunk in the wash.

Which brings me to the obvious remedy, the key to the solution: exercise. I want to commit to it. I plan to walk every day and I'm thinking about Yoga or Curves or a personal trainer.

Today isn't as pretty as yesterday. The sky is gray with only an occasional glint of brighter light. But I'm going to do it.

Maybe I'll make a few beads first though. I changed yesterday's palette from pearl gray and pink to pearl gray and red. The Italian red I picked was fussy, prone to shocking and bubbling, and the ivory shade I choose was faintly pink and didn't have enough contrast with the gray. After I shut off the torch yesterday I laid out my next color combination. Mint Lozenge, a purple shade of Lapis, and a color called Stone Ground that is self-explanatory.

So, beads, then a walk around the pond.

Wish me luck.

Here's a picture from my walk yesterday.

"There's nothing wrong with you
The simple life gets complicated
There's nothing you can do, just enjoy the view be glad you made it

'Cause things could be better, 'cause things could be worse
'Cause life can be charmed and cursed
There's fast, slow and stall, no reverse."

(Mary Chapin Carpenter)

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz