Fitness for Seniors

Fitness?! Here I am, totally grown, thinking I’d left the days of jumping jacks and being the last one picked for dodgeball far behind me! That’s what I get for doing my own thinking.

Did you know that there is a mammal that drinks nothing but water, eats nothing but seafood and seaweed, and swims constantly and is STILL enormous? It’s called a whale. The problem is, I was beginning to see the resemblance. I was also having a hard time going up and down the basement steps without taking a break, or tying my shoes without getting winded or a charley-horse or both. It was time to do something about it. I joined the local recreation center here in Parker.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned since I took this step a few weeks ago:

On the day I signed up, I was excited to hear that because of my age and my military service, I qualified for a couple of discounts. I love saving money! I filled out all the paperwork, gave them my credit card, got my picture taken, and got my gym ID card. Of course, the first thing I did was check the picture to make sure they got my good side, but then I noticed a strange word floating in the white space beneath my picture: SENIOR. WTH?

A few days later, I had “Weight Room Orientation”. There were three other people waiting for the instructor when I arrived. It seemed to me that they might be a little old for something as challenging as weights, but then the instructor arrived, and he, too, seemed a little long in the tooth — he was fully qualified and credentialed as a Senior Olympian, but I was sensing something here.

Instead of going directly to the weight room, we went into a little conference area and took a seat as he passed out the outline for orientation. I thought to myself that this is a very well-organized program. As a former instructional designer, I appreciated the systems design approach. Then I looked down at the paper, and I began to seriously smell a rat.

It was titled “Fitness for ‘Seniors’.”

Seniors. That word, again. I was beginning to get annoyed!

We finally got to the weight room, but not before we talked about what fitness means: strength, flexibility, agility, stamina, and balance (I swear there are a couple of those dudes I haven’t seen since my last child walked); what happens if you’re not fit: you get sick or fall down or die or some combination thereof; and some methods for achieving those things, some of which sounded terribly unappealing (i.e., running), and something euphemistically called Silver Sneakers. Nothing quite says “this is for old people” like Silver Sneakers, eh?

So there you have it. The first thing I learned is that I am old.

Did you know that rabbits run, hop, jump and eat their veggies and only live a max of 15 years? The tortoise, on the other hand, doesn’t go anywhere fast and can live to be over 400 years old.

My next lesson was that I have all the wrong clothes and shoes and things. When I did PE in high school back in the 1960s, girls wore bloomer-shorts and puffy-sleeved blouses with Peter Pan collars and white canvas sneakers. In the 80s, I lived in sweatpants with elastic ankles. I was pretty sure I knew what athletic wear consisted of. I went to Sports Authority and, after I circled the entire store twice, I had to ask for help. You guessed it: no bloomers and no sweatpants or at least anything recognizable as such.

They asked me what kind of activities I was going to be doing. I set aside my early delusions of swimming laps, pumping iron, spinning, and being a Zumba queen and muttered something about special PE for old people. They fixed me up with shoes and socks and yoga pants, but no one has yet explained to me why none of these pants come up to my waist anymore and are always falling off my behind.

The biggest thing I learned was that I needed this. I went to my first Silver Sneakers class (Silver Sneakers Pilates) and the first thing we had to do was to get down on the floor. Now, mind you, I have a bad hip, a bad knee, and as you might have guessed, a bad attitude. I looked around the room. Yep. Old people. But they were all making their way to their mats on the floor, and I was the straggler staring at the mat and trying to figure out a way to get down there without hurting anything that didn’t already hurt. I looked across the room at the lumpy white-haired woman looking back at me in the wall-to-wall mirror and suddenly got that I was in exactly the right place…and none too soon, from all appearances.

I may be old, and out of shape, and walking around with my behind hanging out of pants with no waist, but I am off the couch and moving. I won’t be running or hopping like the hare. The orthopedist who replaced my hip has asked me not to do that, please; and besides, like I said earlier, hares have a rather short life span. I’ll be more like the tortoise. There is nowhere I have to be in a hurry.

About Sharon

Like anyone who lives long enough, I have experienced great loss and survived. I am convinced that my survival depends on my own participation in creating the reality I am living in, and I am determined to be a thoughtful and active participant/creator. These writings are my way of documenting that creation. As the song goes, "I will survive!" I chose the title Staying Vertical because I find that surviving isn't just staying on my feet physically. Keeping my thoughts and emotions on the vertical plane keeps me alive and moving forward. Thanks for joining me!
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