Steppin’ With Grannies

One nice thing about a county rec center is that I’m easily one of the youngest and fittest people there (particularly on a Monday afternoon). This is true only if you don’t count the day campers and personal trainers sprinkled amongst the retirees and apparent physical therapy folks.

I settle once again into a NuStep recumbent trainer, near two white-haired ladies. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have done this. A good gym strategy is to sweep the room, profile, gauge benefits and drawbacks, then make a quick choice. Which machine? Which type? Many variables to consider.

I realize in this moment, with bum legs, that any painless or low-pain movement is a win. “My friend Arthur,” or potential early onset osteoarthritis is no real friend. So, I ease into a machine that’s like lying back in a recliner, while you move your arms and legs. As quickly or slowly as you like, completely self-powered. It’s …… fun.

Feels easy, but after five minutes a right-knee twinge make me feel proud of the elderly ladies beside me. They’re likely over 80, and here I am at 41, worried and whining in my head about sore legs. Please.

I step on.


Day One

I am forging a whole new relationship with my own body.

This feels like a weird idea, even as I’m typing this.  But it is absolutely required.

All my life, I’ve felt connected to my bod – whether I was hungry, tired, active, not-so-much, whatever. But lately, it’s been living a life all its own. Without my permission. But definitely with my assistance.

A few health blips and scares since last fall wore me down into a comfortable winter-spring lounge and chow. Less movement, big delicious bowls of homemade chow, binge-watching TV on DVD. Doc Martin. Are You Being Served? Orange Is the New Black. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. And on. One main accomplishment I can name for this time period is stocking my pop-culture stores chock-full. And, learning how to make a mean Eggplant Parm and Ziti Alla Norma. Or better yet, having it made FOR me. Oh man, I’m hungry.

The problem was, by June my body also had settled into a kind of hibernation I’d never experienced before. Hello, 41. Turns out you can no longer, um, “pamper” yourself like this for a few months and come out not feeling like a pile of cinder blocks at the end of it. Leg and knee pain? 25 pounds gained? Unstable triglycerides? Oh yeah. Not so great.

So, as it turn out, pain – which I’ve been blessed to experience very little of in my life so far – is a fantastic motivator. Thanks in part to a sweet gift from my love/personal Italian chef, I just started a membership to the county recreation center. So, here I go.


In the “Cardio” room. Too many damned TVs on the wall.

“Cardiovision,” you can plug into with your headphones?

Hell, no.

No CNN and Bill Cosby and Donald Trump bouncing around in my head as I do this.

“NuStep,” a recumbent full body stepper machine that won’t give my poor knees (that much) hell. I tentatively take a few steps, decide that the mild discomfort is bearable, and pedal on.

Oh wait. HGTV? Househunters? Well, maybe. Just a little. Oh, whiny yuppies.

After three $200,000+ house hunts, I close my eyes, connect to the iPod, and relax into some good music.

I missed this, turns out. The gym. The shapes, the colors. Even the smells. I feel like me again. I feel stronger. Each step I’m grateful, each painless bend or stretch a triumph.

I’ve always been into sports, an athlete. Took for granted the physical things I could do, and never really realized there was very little I couldn’t. Jog a few miles. Serve or set a volleyball. Dive into a gym floor for a dig. Climb a mountain. Ride a bike. Yep. Oh, and bend or stand without pain. Or, use any exercise machine in the gym.

Maybe I didn’t FEEL like doing 30 minutes on that machine before, but if I wanted to, I could.

This realizations completely changes your relationship to your once more-youthful body, and the idea – opportunity? – of moving it whenever and however you like.

The iPod’s loaded with Soundgarden, Amy Winehouse, Elvis Costello. Not bad. Not bad at all.

My Temple

2015, My Summer Projects:

(1) Swim. A lot.

(2) Hang out with my dogs. A lot.

(3) Forge a new relationship with my body.


It’s 41 years old. Don’t I know it well enough already?

Well. Folks. If you don’t already know this for yourself, the only body your momma and daddy ever gave you is in a constant state of change.

My changed a lot this year so far. Both for better, and for worse.

So. In an effort to do what I love to do about vexing things – WRITE – I’ll be offering on occasion the daily stories, details, and challenges of this journey to a new relationship to the ol’ bod. What does that mean, exactly? Well, dear readers? Read on.