The excuse that I have come up with now is: I am a writer. I operate at a level deeper than physical beauty and I need not worry about how I (should) look or how much weight I should lose. Before this, it was: I just had a baby and the baby needs me. I cannot leave her and go to the gym to exercise -it worked for almost three years. The most reliable one, my favorite has been: I work full time, I am too tired during the week and I have so many things to do on the weekend. There is no time for exercise.
I do not have a problem coming up with an excuse to not go to the gym. But that has not stopped me from contributing financially to the $25 billion fitness industry. Whenever I move to a new town, I dutifully visit the local gyms, right after the local library and park district and have, over the years, had the honor of being a fully paid member at most of the nation-wide chains. They promise I will lose all the weight I wish, be the person that I truly am and realize all my dreams if only I keep walking in though their door regularly (3-5 times a week). I believe their claims and my enthusiasm drives me for a few months (or weeks) but eventually, I let the membership elapse and go back into the shell of self-loathing, feeling appalled about my lack of determination in doing what I absolutely must so as not to have another depressing shopping trip.
This time, I vowed it would be different. This time it was not just about losing weight. I was getting older and having seen family members suffer health problems, I decided I would take care of my body while there was still time. I discovered the chicest health club in town, three stories and a gazillion square feet of sleek, well-designed space with amenities to help you take care of your body (and mind). In addition to the workout equipment, they had a spa (the little voice in my head warning me that this is not the real reason I should enroll), two indoor heated pools and an outdoor water park (finally, I can learn how to swim), a health food cafe and best of all, the third floor was dedicated to a state-of-the-art child care center, complete with a jungle gym, computer stations and even a rock climbing wall. This was perfect as I did not have to worry about my child being away from me (separation anxiety was enjoying an extended stay in her little psyche) and it would give her a chance to socialize with children her own age. The facility was very impressive and the dormant enthusiasm woke up and shook away its lethargy. Once again, I signed on the dotted line as I decided that this time that I will go all the way..I arrived for my "free fitness assessment” and after being stared at, pinched and measured all over my body, I was told by a girl in her late twenties who broke the scale probably at 100 lbs, dripping wet that I had the body age of a 46 year old, but the potential to be a 29 year old! My real age didn't seem to matter, but then, it was just a number. She walked me through all the options I had, treadmills and stair-masters to lose weight, lumbering machines that will isolate and tone any muscle in my body, the soothingly lit yoga and Pilate studios and the room where thirty stationary bikes were waiting for eager bottoms to spin away to sculpted good looks. That is when I noticed the people inhabiting this land, the sub-species of humans that has always amazed me, the Regulars - the women (and some men) who used this equipment for joy, with such ease that you would think they were strolling down the path in the prairie. It seemed to me that the people exercising were precisely the ones who did not need to be here. These were bodies with proportions that evolution wanted the human body to have. These were clothes off the display racks into which the bodies had been poured. When they exercised, they even sweat in the right places. Where were the other bodies, those dressed in black sweatpants and comfortable t-shirts, trying hard to complete the first 25 minutes on the elliptical, calling up the last reserves of energy and determination, spiking them with memories of the way they used to be and pushing themselves to finish the workout for the sake of that red dress hanging in the closet, or to stop those knees from creaking as they climbed the stairs?
As I started going to the gym frequently, I saw more of them, determined faces willing their bodies to complete one more round, finish one more set and relishing the pain in their muscles as reward for their decision to take care of themselves. Observing the Regulars made me realize that they were not an alien sub-species, but normal people who spent their free time hiking, biking, running and walking and when the weather turned dull and cold, took refuge in this stylish and pristine ecosystem to keep their bodies going. I have joined their ranks, hoping my determination and resolve last long enough to turn this passing fancy into a way of life, to enjoy a lifetime of benefits of an active lifestyle. It is too early to declare myself a winner but I am on my way. And yes, my daughter has started playing with the neighbors and is having fun, socializing.