Growing up in upstate New York in the 1950s, I never thought much about exercise. I walked to and from school every day, swam in Lake Champlain in the summer, and biked leisurely through the apple orchards outside of town. A couple of my close friends played on a girl’s intramural softball team. With my hand-eye coordination, I wisely sat on the bench and watched. And gym class? All I remember were those ugly red bloomers we were forced to wear while hurling ourselves over the saddle horses or jumping on a trampoline while our classmates “protected us” by standing along the sides. (I bet that exercise is not part of any gym class in this century!)
It was not until I married Larry that I actually began to incorporate regular exercise into my daily routine. Larry was a high school runner. Once he began working for New York State, he met with a group everyday at lunch to do a loop around the State Campus. Although I had no interest in pounding the pavement, his interest in keeping fit encouraged me to do something every day: a bike ride, a walk; video work-outs with Jane Fonda, Charlene Prickett, and Step Reebok.
Over the years, we expanded our exercise options. Around 1990, we purchased our first of several road bikes on which we racked thousands of miles riding throughout Saratoga and Albany country. While living in Clifton Park, we faithfully rode the stationary bike that was in our family room, albeit with two different mindsets. Larry was intense and focused, pushing the limits of the resistance and rotation settings. I, on the other hand, viewed it as a great way to get to watch movies or reruns of The Big Bang Theory while getting in my mileage. To be honest, I tried to bike when he wasn’t home to avoid his encouraging me to “go faster.” If he did walk into the room, I sped up and started gasping for air. That usually placated him enough to convince him I was working out. Once he left the room, I slowed down and got back to my show.
We also took advantage of the Pacific Fitness trainer that we had set up in our basement in 1996. Larry used it three times a week barring injury or travel. Even though I knew weight training is important for post-menopausal women, I used it in fits and stops, making excuses. After all, I reasoned, I am not interested in winning a Mrs. Universe contest! When I joined the YMCA a few years before we moved. I decided at that point that Zumba and kickboxing classes were enough for toning. For the most part, however, we certainly got our money’s worth out of most of our fitness purchases.
Not to say we haven’t had a couple of misses. The most obvious failure was my purchase of two hula hoop. One was the classic 1950s plastic design. The other, at the suggestion of my Weight Watcher’s instructor, was a super deluxe weighted model. No matter how hard I tried, I never got beyond one rotation on either hoop. Larry, however, was a natural, and he showed off his incredible hip action several times before I gave both hoops to our six-year-old great-niece. She, like Larry, was a natural.
Larry and I had different approaches to keeping track of our exercise. Larry has always used pre-measured running routes and the cyclometer on his bike. For ten years I used a clunky pedometer that attached to my waist band to track my daily steps, especially on long trips where we do a great deal of hiking. I once had to retrieve it when I left it on the plane after a six-hour cross-country flight. The flight attendant’s wry comment? “Bet you didn’t rack up many steps flying over the Great Plains.”
A few years ago, I was given a Fitbit Zip, a compact step/mile tracking device that clipped to my bra. When synched with my iPhone, it gave me progress updates on my 10,000 step-a-day goal. One day, I was in my kitchen when my phone dinged. “Congratulations! You have reached your goal of 10,000 steps!” read the banner. My initial thrill of accomplishment was quickly squelched when I realized I wasn’t even wearing my Fitbit. I had “reached my goal” because I had left the device on the clothes dryer. The vibrations from the machine gave me a quick, easy, no-sweat 8000 steps—No, I didn’t count it. Soon after this incident, I forgot to unclip the Fitbit from my sports bra, and I washed it along with the rest of my laundry. Goodbye, Fitbit! I replaced it a more expensive model that was worn on the wrist, thus avoiding another wash day wipe-out.
While wearing the Fitbit on a trip to Jamaica, I averaged around 12,000 steps a day by morning walks around the hilly grounds and by participation in pool volleyball games. I’d love to tell you that I came back thinner, but I guess all that walking didn’t negate the five course dinners, the wine, and the chocolate martinis for dessert. It took me a few weeks to lose the seven pounds I gained.
One of the features that attracted us to our home in Florida were the miles of bike and walking trails, two large fully equipped fitness centers, and numerous swimming pools where I can do laps. We left all our equipment behind except our outdoor bikes. And my Fitbit. Like Pavlov’s dog, I have become addicted the ding of my iPhone that lets me know I reached my goal. Speaking of which, I am currently five hundred steps short and it’s eleven o’clock at night. Time to quit writing and start jogging in place.9501, 9502 9503……