Saturday, December 18, 2010

Working Out is Hard to Do


In 1986, my dad got a Fred Flintstone bop bag as a gag gift for his birthday.  I was only nine, but my eyes lit up when I saw it.  My first thought was I can use that to work out!  I have no idea why my 9-year-old skinny self was thinking about working out, but I was.  Throughout the night, while the adults were talking and laughing and eating cake, I was thinking about the bop bag and all that I would accomplish with it.  Of course my 42 year old dad wasn't going to want this gift.  I was certain that it would be mine soon.  I was thrilled... right up to the point where my dad gave it away to another child.  She walked out the door with my Fred Flintstone bop bag, and with it, she took my dreams of being adding a punching bag to my workout routine.

My mother was not a worker outer.  (Sorry, Mom, to divulge your secret)  She was a dieter, but I don't remember her being into running or walking or sports.  So I don't really know where I got it, but by age 10, I had a mixtape labeled "workout", along with a specific exercise regimen that included sit-ups (back when sit-ups were cool and crunches were unheard of) and jumping jacks (or star jumps for my Commonwealth friends).  I eventually incorporated regular jump rope and then Chinese jump rope.  I was an exercise fanatic.  I don't remember being worried about my weight or my figure.  I just thought it was fun.

When I made it to high school, I was involved in volleyball, basketball, and cheerleading until our school got so small that those things were no longer really offered.  But I loved practice for all of the afore mentioned sports.  I thought it was fun.  Then, onto college.  I tried out for cheerleading, and much to my surprise, I made it.  For three years, I cheered my heart out for the Baptist Bible College Patriots.  I liked going to practice.  I loved the girls that I cheered with, and I didn't mind the work involved.  I worked extra hard over Christmas break each year to improve my jumps.  I was active and I was thin and I was happy.

I don't know when I started hating to exercise.  I can't remember one specific moment when everything changed.  But here I am, almost 34 years old, and I hate to exercise.  Whenever I get on a treadmill or an elliptical machine, I am never thinking about how much fun it is.  I still do yoga, walk, run, or ellipt (or whatever it is you do on the elliptical), but for the most part I don't like it.  So I distract myself.  I distract myself with the TV or my ipod (the 2010 version of the workout mixtape).  I listen to music that I never listen to in real life- Akon, Lady Gaga, Avril Lavigne, Shakira- and I watch things I never watch in real life, like Judge Judy and Oprah. But no matter how many distractions I have, or how many positive "I am an athlete" conversations I have with myself, I would rather stay home and watch five episodes of Cake Boss on Netflix than work out.

And so there are consequences.  I admit to occasionally lying on my bed to get my jeans zipped.  I admit that I have used a rubber band to expand the waistline of my pants.... a good trick I stole from the expectant mother crowd.  I frequently do "stretching squats" to stretch out freshly laundered jeans so that I can breathe.  I wear flowy tops.  I do not tuck in my shirts.  Shopping is no longer about buying what is fashionable but what doesn't make me look chubby.   My hand goes on my hip for picture taking so that my arm looks nice and slim.  I have learned all of the tricks.

One day the tricks won't work, and I will have to be really dedicated.  Stretching squats and flowy shirts won't help with high cholesterol and heart problems, so at some point I hope to become one of those 70-year-old women that walks three miles every morning.  My old, gray-haired husband and I will walk our dog after dinner, and we will go to the local senior center for water aerobics and the silver sneakers class.  But until then, I will halfheartedly fight through.  I will occasionally go to yoga class.  I will sometimes sprint.  I will count most sets and reps. I will sweat a little on the elliptical.  I will endure the endless chatter of the man that ellipts next to me, as he compliments my lovely perfume (that I am not even wearing).  But the second my gym starts offering boxing classes or anything involving a punching bag, I am totally in.

And if someone could please tell me the term for what you actually do on the elliptical, I would appreciate it.

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