Around the age of 37, I had an epiphany. I wasn’t going to magically morph from a slothful thirtysomething who got winded climbing subway stairs into one of those adorably fit senior citizens. You know the kind: You see them jogging gleefully through gloriously autumnal parkscapes in prescription drug commercials, and dancing awkwardly—but with verve!—in cruise ship ads.
No, I was on track to become an old old person.
Once this (blatantly obvious) realization hit me, I decided to do something about it. I started attending a boot camp at (sweet Jaysus) 5:45 in the morning up to four days a week. I swam dozens of laps every few days. I even did a half-triathlon, which shocked just about everyone in my life, especially my parents who did, after all, raise a child who considered setting out silverware to be a cardio sport.
Once I got going, I religiously adhered to my exercise regimen. If I went without a gym class for more than a few days, I was pretty sure that would be it. Curtains. Jig up. I’d boomerang back to my unfit, slovenly, quasi-asthmatic self. This sense of urgency—EXERCISE OR DIE, YOU LAZY FUCKER was my pre-dawn motivational mantra. (Deepak Chopra, that’s mine. You can’t have it.)
And it worked! Until it didn’t. First, I got cocky, certain that even if I let my routine slide, no biggie, I’d just get back with the program in a day or two. After all, it had become a habit! Everyone knows: Habits are hard to break. So I let it go a little more: Three days here, five days there. And I’d promise to start again the following week because this week was really nuts at work. Plus, I’d had a headache. Like, at some point in the day. Or the weather wasn’t quite right for driving to the gym—you know, raining, or snowing. Or overcast, when it really made more sense to be at home baking cookies. Or I was too happy to exercise: I deserved to celebrate! Or grumpy: I deserved a treat!
By the year’s end I was, at last, back to square one. Well, more like square negative one. Out-of-shape-37, as it turns out, could easily kick the ass of out-of-shape-42.
I’d promised myself to start back with a gym class, so I couldn’t abort, say, the treadmill session once I started to become engulfed in the existential doom that usually hits me by the 3rd minute. With trepidation, I chose a morning Pilates class. Trepidation, because Pilates has always looked somewhat sinister to me, what with all the straps everywhere. Plus, I heard it involves breathing. I am terrible at breathing. When I was pregnant with my daughter B, I could not do the breathing exercises in Lamaze. Every time I tried, I hyperventilated practically to the point of passing out while other mothers-to-be sat beatifically, looking like suburban white lady Buddhas. But I didn’t realize exactly how nerve-wracking the Pilates class would be until I saw the people inside the studio: About seven older people. I don’t remember what they all looked like, specifically, outside of one gentleman in tube socks, shiny shorts and a Let’s Get Physical sweatband. But they looked awesome. Minus Mr. Newton-John, they could have all come straight from a Cialis shoot.
I almost did a 180 and headed to hide among the weight machines. But no, I told myself, don’t be cowed by well-toned old people. You are going to be a well-toned old person yourself one day! Well, maybe, anyway! In I went.
A few thoughts on Pilates:
1) I do not think it makes any sense to stick your foot into a ring and try to pull it behind your head unless you are on tour with Cirque de Soleil.
2) No one mentioned that balance was required. This was an omission. I tipped over in the middle of several moves. Happily, I received no pitying looks the way I would have in, say, a Crunch gym in Manhattan. Older folks are too nice to eye-roll.
3) There was, in fact, breathing. I cheated on all of it (I can never remember when to exhale or inhale and I refuse to believe it matters).
4) I’m fairly certain I don’t ever want to do it again.
But hey, I’m not afraid of it anymore. One down.