Monday, May 16, 2011

For the Sake of Exercise

I have taken Zumba, Cardio-Boxing, Aerobics, Yoga, Balance Ball, Nia, Pilates. I have walked the track, treadmill, lifted weights, power splashed, and balance balled. I have pushed myself under the direction of exercise instructors who wanted me to hurt just a little for a greater gain. And I have hurt. My body has ached for days after a workout and somehow that has meant that I did something good for myself. I was strong and deserved good things.

I have exercised to maintain or lose weight. I've used exercise as a way to stave off the consequences of overeating, a means to battle depression, and as a supplement for control. I've never exercised for pleasure. It's always been an obligation bordering on a chore. Despite that, I've always been a good exerciser. An A plus student who teachers sited as a good example of form and posture. I did every move required of me, never hid in the back, and always stayed until the end.

Then I had my babies.

Audra was 8 pounds, twelve ounces. I had to do physical therapy for a few months after she was born because my pelvis was out of line. I use to walk down the street leaning on her stroller as if it was a walker. After six months, I was able to get back to exercise and felt relatively fine.

Drea was 10 pounds, six ounces; no c-section and my body has never been the same. My muscles are tender like they've been bruised on the inside. My fingers are often numb. My shoulders are tight and in perpetual need of massage. My lower back is kinked and the bones in my feet feel like they might crack if I take the wrong step. According to my doctor, I do not have fibromyalgia and I am as healthy as a horse. Physical therapy did buptkus.

Regardless of these symptoms, I tried all the exercises I used to do because letting go of exercise somehow meant I was weak, would never lose the baby weight and gain an additional one hundred pounds. Inevitably, after a workout, I was left feeling like I'd been dropped off the top of a tall building and landed face first on the pavement. For instance, Nia is an exercise based on fluid, dance like movements. Participants work at their own pace. There is no impact. The median age in the class is usually sixty. The instructor says things like, "You're a wood nymph, a wood nymph! Flit around the room." When I took a class, I worked at a turtle's pace and barely lifted my arms over my head. When the instructor had us circle the room several times, a woman who was 70 if she was a day passed me on the left. The next day I needed a triple dose of Ibuprofen just to get by.

Consequently, I haven't exercised regularly for close to a year and a half and although I like showering first thing in the morning and getting dressed in real clothes as opposed to sweatpants that I end up staying in all day, I miss it.
I took care of the baby weight my losing twenty five pounds with Weight Watchers so I've been alleviated from the pressure to exercise in order to produce results. I've discovered that I miss moving continually though space with purpose for the benefit of my body and mind. Who'da thunk it?

I'd notice AOA on the exercise schedule at the Y for some time now. AOA stands for Active Older Adult. An "Active Older Adult" is anyone fifty five and older interested in classes described as "a combination of chair and standing exercises designed to improve muscular strength and flexibility." Take out the age minimum and they could have been describing me. I decided to try it. I hoped there'd be no reverse age discrimination and they'd welcome me with open arms and let me move my aching bones.

The class was like exercising in a big, warm, hug. The instructor and classmates called me, "Sweetie," and "Honey." At one point, one of the students; a retired music teacher, sang an old Swedish song while we did a combination in our chairs. And it wasn't too easy. The moves were actually challenging to this forty-one-year old-post-partum gal. I have found my Elysian-Fields.

These classes aren't going to burn many calories. They aren't going to train me for Iron Man. But they are going to be a place I can go and give good energy to my body, oxygen to my bloodstream, and peace to my soul. For the first time, exercise will be friend not foe. That has been a long time coming.