SNAP! I'm No Jane Fonda . . .
No one talked about aerobics or strength training in the mid-seventies. But ladies were urged to put on cute exercise outfits and venture out. I have gone to so-called gyms at various times in my life. Before our children were born, I tried all the ladies’ storefront workout studios: Elaine Powers Figure Salon, where I barely broke a sweat; a forgettable place that put me on a moving table that did all the work while I relaxed and listened to music; and a local fitness place that I liked because we exercised to music (before there was Jazzercise.)
Once the kids were born, I didn’t have the luxury of “venturing out” for my physical and mental health. I discovered the pleasure of at-home exercise. My first was a Richard Simmons’ record album coached by the fitness guru himself. It came with an insert illustrating each exercise, so it was easy to follow along. I had a daily half-hour date with Richard, which was a wondrous mental getaway.
With the invention of the VCR, I upped my game with Richard Simmons Sweatin’ to the Oldies. I never had to worry about finding a babysitter and never had to wear cute workout clothes. But for my mind, it was an exhilarating escape to a place where I could dance, clear my head, and feel good. Yep, those exercising endorphin hormones are powerful.
I tried working out with Jane Fonda, one of my favorite actresses. In 1971, I cut my hair to look like Jane as Bree Daniels in Klute. But that was where our similarity ended. When I saw the cover of the Jane Fonda Workout video I was deflated. Sure, I wore fashionable leg warmers, but there was no way my body could bend and contort like hers. What a disappointment. I needed something that would boost my ego, not deflate it. Sorry, Jane. This just ain’t happening.
While we contemplated one surgery or another surgery, Leslie Sansome came into our lives. Her Walk at Home fitness program satisfied my every need. Energetic, positive, and I could sweat. Jack joined me for these exhilarating at home “walks.” Leslie and her troupe of smiling exercisers, some svelte and some zaftig, became the friends we met up with every day!
Over the years, Leslie expanded her workout, and the cast of characters evolved. She started on VHS tape; today her enthusiastic steps can be seen on YouTube, which is where I now walk with her every morning. Some days, it’s a major accomplishment to finish. Other days, it’s an accomplishment just to get started. Her encouragement and positivity help me get to the two-, three-, or four-mile goal.
During the isolation of Jack’s many recuperation periods, I took advantage of more and more at-home programs. I discovered kickboxing. Putting on weighted gloves and punching with a purpose is very cathartic. Take that! It probably saved my drawers and doors from being slammed to smithereens in anger and frustration.
I avoided yoga for the longest time, even though some people swear by it as a way to relax. I scrutinized glowing, sweaty people with their rolled-up yoga mats and colorful, skin-tight gear. It reminded me of a cult. But I finally gave in to my curiosity. Before I went shopping at Lululemon for the perfect yoga outfit or invested in a mat, I checked out Yoga for Beginners on YouTube.
The yoga studio was sparse, with soft, monochromatic colors and candles. I imagined the scent of vanilla or sandalwood. The instructor seemed so peaceful and in tune with the earth’s rhythms. Her calm, intonation lulled me into a comfort zone. Arms over your head, breathe in, count to four and exhale. Hey, this isn’t so bad. Why was I fighting it?
A little more stretching and suddenly my head was on the floor and my tush was in the air. So, this is a downward dog. Breakfast was rising in my throat, and my head was spinning. Okay, no longer relaxing!
But I kept trying. I discovered that I was no longer the bendy-stretchy teenager that pranced around on stage. My joints and muscles didn’t want to cooperate. Calm and soothed were not what I was feeling.
I admitted to myself that chair yoga might be more my speed. I searched for an online class. It wasn’t bad. I was definitely stretched, but I didn’t feel all the spirituality that was flowing in the regular class. And I couldn’t get over the descriptions of the class as being for frail, aging seniors. When I watched the class, the lovely white-haired ladies in stylish sweats were way more flexible than I was.
I tried a spinning class. I really wanted to like it. Equipped with gel-pack bike shorts and the best intentions, I went to the studio looking for a spin bike that fit me. Being only 4’10” (on a good day), I needed help, and the instructor offered it. Apparently, short people don’t spin. He took out a monkey wrench and tried lowering the seat and the handlebars. This was not going well. But somehow, I got through the forty-five minute class without falling off or otherwise humiliating myself, but I couldn’t walk or sit comfortably for days.
When all is said and done, I always go back to my walks. Whether I’m on a park trail, in my neighborhood, or circling the dining room table, I find my way back to the calming effect walking has on my mind.