Friday, November 19, 2010

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - You Can't Teach an Old Dog New Tricks, and Other Myths

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I began this journey. Twelve months ago, I started out as a reluctant and skeptical participant in what I fully expected to be a short-lived experiment in exercise. If I’ve learned nothing else from my experience, I’ve learned that you can teach and old dog (metaphor) new tricks.

Twelve months ago I’d never set foot inside a fitness center (AKA the Pit). I had no desire to. I’d done the required classes in school, even did the ones in college. When given a choice, I chose the easiest ones I could find. I took square dancing and badminton, for example. Once, in a moment of insanity, I signed up for a class they labeled Conditioning. What it turned out to be was running. Three days a week. In the Texas heat. Since Texas only has two days of Spring, and two point three days of Fall, and the other three hundred sixty-three point seven days are hot, you get the idea. I was not a happy camper. To make it worse, they threw in a bunch of sit-ups and other undignified, unnecessary, impossible tasks. All of which we were graded upon. I managed to squeak out a passing grade and vowed never to run again.

I’ve kept that vow. Unless something with plans to make me its next meal is chasing me, I don’t run. Thus, the whole idea of going to the Pit was a bit of a turnoff from the get-go. Daughter #1 convinced me to go. She offered to help me get started. I now know she didn’t really have my best interest in mind, she just didn’t want to go alone. I guess I should be flattered that she didn’t mind being seen with me in such a place, but, now that I think back on it, she did walk several steps ahead of me and there was that time I tried to talk to her when she was on the treadmill and she acted like she couldn’t hear me.

Oh well. The joke’s on her. Not only did I stick with it, I’ve logged more time in the confounded place than she has in all her years. I have to admit, I spent the first few months wondering what the heck I was doing there. I hated it. Not that I’m all that fond of it now, but hate might be too strong a word. Let’s just say I find the place to be interesting. You see, I’m a people watcher. It’s a hobby that you can do just about anywhere, but some places are better than others. Malls and airports are good places. Grocery stores – not so good. Pits – excellent places. Especially in SoCal.

We’re no more than a long lens shot from the hub of the entertainment industry. Several major studios have lots in our little valley and scenes from our town routinely show up in television programs and on the big screen. That means lots of industry types live here. They’re a colorful bunch. And one of the places they like to see and be seen at, is the Pit. This alone, I believe, is the real reason I have stuck with it.

You never know what you might see. Any change in the weather, and yes, there are precious few of those here, brings in something, or someone, new. Even the bi-annual time change brings in a new element to observe. Don’t get me started on full moons. I credit the full moon for some of my best oddity sightings, many of which I’ve documented here for your enjoyment as well.

I suppose I was one of those oddities a year ago. Probably still am to the trained people watcher out there. When I began, I could barely pedal a lounge chair bike around the block. Climbing stairs had me gasping for air on the second step. I hung onto the handrails of the half and ¾ racks for safety reasons, not to get a quick heart rate fix. The full rack was a contraption I was sure could double as a sobriety test – one I couldn’t pass. The only weight lifting I’d ever done was squat lifting a ten-pound bag of sugar off the lowest grocery store shelf.

I’m happy to report that none of those things are true any longer. It took a while, and a lot of people watching, to get to where I am now. I’m not going to win any muscle woman competitions, but I’ve come a long way since crossing the starting line a year ago. I’ve lost some weight, but gained muscle. Yeah, I thought that was BS too, but it’s true. The scale hasn’t budged much, but things aren’t the same shape they were before. I’m not going to get into just what has changed, but I will say that hubby isn’t complaining about any of it. That’s good enough for me. I’ve replaced my jeans a couple of times with smaller sizes, and that’s a good feeling too.

I’ve stopped worrying about the number on the scale and have focused more on the long-range goal. I vowed long ago that I would be a fantastic grandmother, but I also told my two daughters that I would be pleased to be a very old grandmother. It seems they took that to heart, and so it’s more important than ever that I keep the machinery in good working order.

Then there’s this new career I’ve been trying to get off the ground. Things are looking promising in that arena, but writing is a sedentary occupation. People watching at the Pit gives me an excuse to get off my a**, and move. It doesn’t have to be all that much, just an hour a day, but it gets my blood pumping and I think that helps the brain, as well as the spreading a** syndrome writers are prone to. I’ve found that plugging into my playlist and heading off on a magic carpet ride is a great way to work through plot problems and germinate new ideas. If I’m fortunate enough observe a few rare or endangered human species along the way, so much the better.

I’ve learned a few new tricks over the last year, and that surprised me more than anything. I won’t lie and tell you I wake up every morning and say, “I can’t wait to go to the Pit.” That just isn’t going to happen folks. Is loathe too strong a word? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps I can tap into my inner thesaurus tomorrow while I’m climbing a virtual skyscraper and come up with a better word. I’ve always been fond of abhor…

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