It’s not that I hate exercise, but I also don’t hate root canals. To me they’re about the same –– something painful you have to do to be healthy.
After years of using work as the excuse for why I couldn’t possibly get to the gym, I foolishly told everyone that I’d commit to some kind of physical activity when I retired. It sounded good in principle, but I had no idea how difficult it would be to find the right fit.
I started by signing up for a six-session package with a personal trainer. She was great and I learned a lot, but her big mistake was telling me that there’s a real thing called DOMS — Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.
I knew right then that if I played it right, DOMS could be the good reason for me not to go the gym for the rest of my life.
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I tried a yoga class thinking that would be a good match for me given my golden rule of exercise: to stop at the first sign of sweat. I thought I’d walk in, do a couple of stretches, say “Namaste” and be done with it.
The yoga instructor, Paisley, started off friendly enough, but then she ran through a series of contortions that no humans should be subjected to unless they work in a circus.
Apparently Paisley was obsessed with Mexican food; she kept taunting the class with something that sounded like chimichanga. As soon as she’d say it, everyone quickly dropped to the floor and did their best pretzel imitation.
At one point Paisley called us dogs and commanded us to face downward. The clincher came when she barked “In Hell” every time the class was supposed to take a deep breath.
Relaxing, it was not.
Undeterred from my quest, I tried out a class called TRX, a suspension weight training system that has practitioners dangling from the ceiling. At the end of the first session I was convinced there was a typo in the flier. Surely they meant to name it RIP since the intended goal of that kind of torture is to kill innocent people.
I should have caught a clue when I saw the nylon webbing straps looking like little nooses hanging from a pole cutting through the length of the room. At first, I thought it must be equipment left over from the last Maypole dance practice.
It wasn’t until we clamped on the longer straps fashioned with adjustable stirrups that it occurred to me that this equipment had nothing to do with fun and mirth. As directed, I attempted to attach the stirrups to my feet while in a push up position and nearly lynched myself in the process.
I stuck it out for a while until my body let me know that I was going to have to choose between doing TRX lunges and squats or having sharp knee pain while walking uphill. I chose the knees.
The only fitness activity that has stuck so far is Pilates class. Pilates is described as “gentle rhythmic movements focusing on breath, flexibility, strength and core stabilization.” I had no idea what I was getting into.
Turns out I love it! On any given Tuesday or Thursday you can find me compressing a ball placed between the soles of my feet while tightening my abs and squeezing my glutes. And on a good day, you’ll see me holding a three-minute plank.
While I’ve long given up my dream of having a six-pack one day, my new goal with Pilates is to develop at least one can.
I’ll stick with it for now, in addition to my efforts with cardio and weight machines. I’m kind of out of excuses to not exercise, unless of course I get a sudden bout of DOMS. And according to my personal trainer, it could happen.
Ted Broussard is retired after working as a counselor and administrator in community and technical colleges. A downtown Tacoma resident, he is one of six reader columnists writing for this page. Reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org