Thursday, March 26, 2009

Shifting Gears (Literally)

My Lenten reflections have ranged widely.  My most intense navel-gazing has been reserved for my private journal and not posted here [Everybody say: Thank you!].   I've been examining my life, including but not limited to my spiritual situation, my creativity, and my relationships. My relationship to my body is always an issue for me, and I've been working through that as well. In a way my Lenten observance this year amounts to a six-week Personal Checkup. That may not be what the Church has in mind for Lent, but I'm doing Lent My Way and it seems to be bearing some good fruit.

Despite Christianity's long history of dualism that often manifests itself in asceticism and other practices that denigrate the sanctity of the human body, somewhere along the line, I picked up on the fact that when I am physically healthy, I am better able to attend to my other responsibilities, including my spiritual well being.  Addressing the issue of my physical health has been one of the topics I've reflected on this Lent.

I have written previously about my "issues" with weight.  My relationship with my body has been a kind of love/hate deal for most of my life.  When I was fat, it was simple: I hated my body. When I was in my 20's and thin for the first time in my life, after losing 100+ pounds, I was a little freaked out by my body because was so different from the image I had of "me".  In my 30's and 40's, I got used to my new body and liked it, a lot.  I may be one of the few women on the planet who totally welcomed menopause.  The freedom and personal power it brought with it were amazing. I felt great. I looked pretty good for an old broad. (My opinion.)  Life was good.

However, lately things started to change,  and not for the better! The physical changes that have been happening freaked me out because it kind of felt like I was suddenly going to pot. 

Walking has been my sole form of exercise for most of the last 20+ years.  It is the only kind of exercise I actually enjoy; in fact, I love it!  Walking outside in the fresh air makes my body feel great, and it does just as much (or more) for my Soul.  For years I was able to maintain my weight  and at least a modicum of sanity (given the stresses of my job and life) by walking.  Age, with its slowing metabolism and loss of muscle mass, combined with wintertime's early darkness caused me to gain a few inches in recent months.  My clothes don't fit right. My walks don't seem to give me the metabolic boost they used to, although they still make me feel fabulous emotionally. My legs are okay and I still have more energy than a lot of people I know (including some who are younger than me), I could tell that my energy level was decreasing and my upper body had gone to total flab. 

Something needed to be done, pronto!  I knew perfectly well what I needed to do: I needed weight training.  At one point in the past I joined the Y and did circuit training every other day. I did very well with that, and I was toning up my upper body nicely. Then I hurt my neck and had to quit for a while. More accurately, I used that as an excuse to quit. I mortally hated the gym, so I never went back.  My upper body started getting flabby at that point; it reached a crisis point in recent weeks.  A month or so ago, I bought a resistance band, but could not force myself to use it, largely because I couldn't figure out the pictures on the instruction sheet.  

I worked too hard to lose a hundred pounds and keep most of it off for 30 years to allow myself go to pot now, at a time in my life when my health and longevity really depend on staying in shape!  I am not a gym rat, and I have no desire to be one.  I do not like to exercise with other people.  Frankly, I'm not much of a people-person at all [understatement of the day]. Exercise is something I like to do alone in the fresh air, preferably at the beach when I have hours and hours of solitude.  Unfortunately, I have reached the point of diminishing returns with that walking regime and, besides, I'm too busy to devote the kind of time I would need in order to continue using walking as my sole form of exercise.

My only recourse was a gym.  I hated the very thought, but I knew it to be true. For some reason, I decided to check out Curves for Women. I had seen the ads. A friend of mine had success with the program. I like the idea of an all women's gym, with no weight room full of guys dripping sweat and oozing testosterone and no hard bodied home wreckers shaking their booties in front of the guys.  I like the idea of going to the gym and not being the "old, fat lady" ... or at least not being the only old, fat lady. On the other hand, I hated the thought of exercising in a circle, facing other people -- and possibly being expected to actually interact with strangers. I was afraid the environment would be cheerful and "perky". [I'm like Lou 
Grant: I hate perky.]

I decided the potential challenges were outweighed by the potential benefits, so I bit the bullet, gritted my teeth and visited my neighborhood Curves on Monday for a consultation.  I was appalled to discover how high my percentage of body fat is.  Correction: I was completely aghast and totally freaked out at my body fat percentage. The fact that I weigh fifteen pounds more than I thought I did paled in comparison. Hate it though I might, drastic measures were called for, so I committed to a year's membership on the spot.

Tuesay I went for my first workout.  The orientation process caused the workout to take a lot longer than it will once I get into the groove (I hope!).  Instead of the 30 minutes they advertise, it was more like an hour and a half.  Still, I came out feeling as though I had the best workout I had ever had.  I felt downright fantastic.  I worked muscles I haven't worked in ages, and I'm not the least bit sore. Today, I felt more energetic and less stressed than I have in ages. Tonight I went for an hour and a half walk which was faster and more energetic than I've done in a long while.

I totally hate the idea of having to add another commitment to my busy days, but, it needed to be done.  If I only continue to feel as good as I do today, I'll be thrilled.... but, in addition to feeling better, I'm very motivated to do something about that fat percentage.

In any case, I'm committed to paying for a year, so I intend to make the most of it. [Being the skinflint that I am, I'm not going to spend the money and not take advantage of the program.]  I am sure I will hate the actual process of doing the exercises in a public setting with other people around. Tough!  I'm going to do it anyway. be continued ....

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