‘Pumping Iron’ in the Golden Years

     The projected life span of the American male is seventy-seven years; by those standards, people like me that are seventy-nine and going to be eighty, probably should not buy green bananas.  However, age is relative and when it became evident to me that my physical and mental problems, like high blood sugar, high cholesterol, obesity, and clinical depression were the result of an absence of exercise, the decision was made for me to join a ‘fitness center’ (a gym); I was determined that when I died, I would die a very healthy person.

     A week later, it became evident to me that simply ‘belonging’ to a gym was not enough and I would actually have to go to the gym and do ‘something’ for it to be beneficial; I acquired a trainer.  When asked if I had a preference for a male or female trainer, I responded by quickly saying, “Female!”

     I had visions of a macho male trainer, instructing me to pick up a treadmill machine and press it over my head, whereas a compassionate and motherly female jock would take pity upon me at my advanced age and allow me to tread ever so lightly smelling the roses along the way.  Then, I met my trainer, Chis!

     Chris is an adorable woman in her twenties and happily married to a burly U.S. Marine.  She has a perfectly proportioned body and I discovered, while watching her demonstrate how to use an exercise machine, that she is muscular and feminine and decidedly not soft and feminine.

     “You have beautiful triceps,” I complimented her, without thinking how utterly ridiculous that sounded.  It was simply an astounding observation of mine.

     “Thank you,” she responded without missing a beat or laughing out loud.

     During these first few sessions that I have had with Chris, she definitely impressed me; she is all business and is exceedingly knowledgeable and efficient.  At our first session, ‘we’ evaluated my potential and my goals.  I don’t think that this was supposed to be as hilarious as I found it to be; in addition to almost being an octogenarian, I have prosthesis knee replacements in both knees, I am obese by medical standards, and I am missing a very important muscle in my left thigh.  Other than that, I am a very healthy specimen with spectacles and hearing aids and take no medication other than a vitamin a day and an occasional glass of wine, ‘for medicinal purposes’.

     As for my goal, I told her that I hoped to lose weight, lose my big stomach, maintain low cholesterol and blood sugar, and not have any fits of depression.

     “You can do that,” she said.

     “Can I get rid of this pot-belly,” I asked again.

     “Yes,” she said with much more confidence than I was feeling.

     Then, I answered all the medical questions on an evaluation sheet and swore that I would not sue the gym if I dropped dead in the process of trying to make myself look like Governor Schwarzenegger. 

     Chris measured my ‘body fat’ by pinching the abundant fat all over my body using a plastic device specifically made for the purpose.  Then she measured other parts of me with a tape measure, including my ample girth and triceps flab; there was obviously too much to measure and no place for me to hide.  I closed my eyes and imagined being in the third pew from the front in the National Cathedral.

     My first exercise took place in the specified exercise area in the middle of the gym and in front of a thousand ‘sweaty’, grimacing faces; so be it.

     “Can you lie down on the floor?” Chris asked and she was serious.

      “Yes,” I answered quietly, noting that she hadn’t inquired about my ability to get up off of the floor; getting down was easy.

     She then advised me to put various muscles of my body on a plastic cylinder about ten inches in diameter and three feet long; I was directed to roll a specific muscle on the cylinder to mash and soften it.  It was surprisingly easy to do, however I had visions of myself looking much like a beached Beluga whale thrashing around on the floor.  When I finished, Chris offered to help me up and I had to advise her that it would be very dangerous for her to do so and that I had my own method.  Actually, I am very agile at getting up off the floor, rising like the Phoenix from ashes, yet, perhaps without a lot of grace and style, with legs and arms flailing the air like mad.

     After writhing on the floor with the plastic cylinder, I next became involved in a few exercises in which I had an intimate relationship with a huge plastic ball over two foot in diameter, doing a variety of exercises, some of which could possibly be misinterpreted as obscene.  However, I have a rather bizarre attitude about such things, I did not become emotionally involved, and I suffered no embarrassment whatsoever.

     For my next act, I had to do some exercises requiring balance on one foot; I do not do well when it comes to balance and actually I am fortunate if I can remain vertical utilizing both feet.  Chris assured me that my balance would improve with practice.  I was not convinced; I am still over six feet tall and as a matter of physics, I have a very high center of gravity.  As a young man, I had good balance and stability for a tall person but now, age has taken a toll; it is more a problem of balance in the head than on the feet.  There is always a potential danger that I could fall on somebody and injure them.

     The remainder of the workout involved pushing or pulling weights and I thought that I excelled at it for a person of my age.  Of course I warned Chris that I felt I shouldn’t try to handle too much weight and she honored my suggestion (it was actually a plea complete with tears in the eyes).  So, I pulled and pushed weights all over the place and rather enjoyed it at the time; I felt great accomplishment and worked off my aggression.

     “Do you feel this exercise in the muscles of the abdomen and legs?” Chris asked.

     “Oh yes,” I replied.  However I was really thinking that I felt it more in the hernia and hemorrhoids.

     All in all, the exercise session gave me a feeling of euphoria and I had feeling in every muscle in my body; it felt good just to have feeling, for a change. 

     About six in the evening that first day of working out, I felt very tired and thought that I would take a short nap before dinner.  I lay down, went to sleep, and awoke at five-thirty the next morning, eleven hours later.  I was not in pain, but every part of me did not want to bend the way it ordinarily does.  Originally, I had thought that I would try to work out in the gym every day, but wisely I decided that I would take a day off after that first workout.

     Chris is so knowledgeable about fitness; she suggested that I workout for thirty minutes twice a week and do thirty minutes on the treadmill three times a week.  That allows a recovery day for each workout.

     It gives me a real sense of pride, the way that I mastered the treadmill; I know how to walk.  I walk with head high at a lively gait and do not pay any attention to the teen–age girl jogging at twice my speed, showing off on the treadmill next to me; to each his or her own.

     After only a couple of weeks I have already felt the benefit of physical fitness; I no longer feel depressed because I am too damned tired.  As fate would have it, I am still obese and I am still old.  However, I am convinced that I am obese, old, and healthier.  Now if I can just keep convincing myself!

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