Tag Archives: Health

The gym, the f-word and the mama

For me as a mother, besides fighting against racism and sexism, besides homework, besides working with her school on issues large and small, besides cleaning and keeping food in the house–there is my own body.  I know a number of mothers who go to yoga and zumba classes and my sister gets up at a ridiculous hour to go to boot camp.  I do none of it so far.  I do know for many of us women/ mothers– there is a real battle to even get keeping our physical selves in good shape– onto the to-do list.  What I’m trying to say is women’s health is a feminist issue and I am slowly coming to realize that this is an important frontier in my busy, all-female household.

Over the Passover holiday I asked my sister, who was part of the out-of-town Pesach team, to go with me to the gym– where I’d gone exactly once since I started my job in February 2012.  My sister has been very into exercise in the past year or two.  She goes to boot camp and doesn’t do her thing at a gym– she doesn’t even like gyms, but for me, she obliged.  We made several trips to the gym.  That routine fell off the map after she left but will be back on again starting this weekend when I meet with my new trainer.  I am trying to bring some semblance of regular exercise, strength and flexibility back into my life.  I want to be in better shape, I really want to be stronger and much more flexible and I want to model being a woman who does this and who enjoys it– for my daughter and the other young girls in my life.  I want to take better care of my own female body.  For me.

So the other day, I called the male general manager of my gym to clear up something about a few personal training sessions that I bought but haven’t used.  He was very nice, much nicer than the last general manager I had dealt with at that gym.

After we got clarity about personal training sessions I said, “By the way, I’m a woman, I’ve been a gym member for two years now and I really want some of your regular groups and classes centered on people over 45– for strength and stretching and cardio.  I don’t need to be only with people in their 40s and 50s and 60s– but I’m tired of being the only one over 45 in a sea of 20’s and 30’s.”  He still sounded interested and courteous and he said ,  “There’s a class on Tuesdays and Fridays at 9:30 a.m. called, ‘Aging with Elegance'”.  We were on the phone so he didn’t see me wince and roll my eyes.  I think I also actually snorted a little.

In his defense, he sounded like he knew this wasn’t really going to fly when the sentence started out of his mouth but he didn’t have anything else.  I decided I would set aside sarcasm and try to educate him.  He seemed attentive and earnest and was being nice to me.  He had only just begun to seem to me the littlest bit condescending but maybe he didn’t make up the name of the ‘Aging with Elegance’ class.

I said, “Look–I am sort of out of shape, and I could use to shed some weight but I want to give you a picture of where I am in terms of my physical activity level.”  I wasn’t defensive– what do I have to defend?   I said– “I have an 11- year-old daughter and she weighs about 110 and I play-wrestle her often.”  I went on.  “Also, I live on the fourth floor of a walk-up with no elevator (really the 3rd floor, but we park and enter in the basement)– therefore, I carry ridiculous amounts of groceries and laundry; I carry small and not-so-small pieces of furniture of all kinds; cases of seltzer water, potting soil and other things up and down three flights of stairs about every day.  But I’m not a 28-year-old who pumps iron four days a week or runs marathons.”  With that I heard him wince a little and felt him listen with renewed respect.

I paused so he could digest all this.  I closed with, “And one other thing is this.  I work a very full-time job for our legislature and I am definitely not ever available at 9:30 a.m. on weekday mornings.”  I could tell he was embarrassed by the class he had offered and he said he’d think about it and talk to some of their early morning teachers.  He meant he would try to figure out something that might  work for laundry-grocery-trash-hauling-wrestling- moms like me.  Obviously I don’t know where this will go– so we’ll see.  In the meantime I’m heading off to see Trish, my new trainer, on Saturday.  She just had a baby I hear, so she will either be a little on the stiff, sore, exhausted side herself– or she’ll be a remarkable female specimen capable of having a baby and returning to spinning class that same afternoon.  Either way, I hope we’ll like each other and once in a while I’ll write about my progress on this– another feminist project.

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Working out with iPod– Kidd Russell

On the first leg, the San Francisco leg of our spring break travel, I went to the YWCA several times with my friend, L.  She has mostly, throughout our long friendship in different cities, been more devoted to regular exercise than I– though I was, for a long time, a very regular two-to-three mile runner.  But a nerve problem in my foot and an infant put an end to that about 10 years ago.  L.’s children are older than my one child is– so for her it has been longer since the demands of parenting have required totally giving up on so many things that one does for oneself and while visiting I thought it would be great to follow her back into exercise.

On our first morning after we arrived, she said she was going to the Y to go to a spinning class and I said I was going with her.  I’d never been to a spinning class.  I’m not in the greatest shape.  When I do things like running or spinning on my own, I come up against a wall of hard feelings– feelings of it being too hard and feelings of it being impossible to go on.  In some ways I’ve understated this; I had very bad asthma as a very young child and sometimes when I’m exercising, that same feeling comes over me– same as when I was young having an asthma attack; “I can’t; I’m going to die.”  This feeling has certainly hindered my ability to get regular exercise that involves pushing past that feeling.

But L. has a wonderful sense of humor and this unstoppable, cascading laugh and with her on the bike next to me, looking over periodically and laughing hysterically about the absurdity of spinning and sweating all together, I found I was able to keep going way past the point I could have done on my own.  Not as long as the best of them but 38 minutes isn’t bad for someone as unexercised as I have been lately.  And I had to admit I kind of loved it.

When I came home I decided I would join a gym– I’ve not had a gym membership in years.  Recently strangers here and there have just begun acting very strangely toward me– it’s the particular sexism directed toward women who are, in someone’s eyes, older.  I rode the bus at rush hour the other morning with my partner and two 30-ish people asked my partner and me if we wanted their seats (we were standing).  I said, “oh no, thanks, I’m fine.”  But it didn’t end there and they must have interrupted our conversation three more times on a 10-block ride to see if we wanted their seats.

When I went to visit three gyms in order to choose one– they did something similar.  They talked in these strange condescending tones.  They asked me slowly if I’d ever belonged to a gym before (yes, yes, I have) and what I liked best about working out.  I laughed out loud and said, “I hate working out.  I hate it.  That’s why I’m so out of shape and why I’m looking to join a gym today.  Does that answer your question?”

Despite these silly, deflating sales pitches, I did join a gym.  I joined the one that was the cheapest, that is around the corner from my daughter’s school, that is walking distance from home– but has metered parking right out front where it is easy to park at most times of day.  I joined the gym with ugly tee shirts and no incentive to browse their “pro shop” and the one that doesn’t have lovely pitchers of water with mint and lemon wedges throughout the gym.  I joined a gym where I go in my sweat clothes and put my backpack down beside the machine and get aerobic exercise for about 40 minutes.  Then I pick up my stuff and go to another area and stretch and then I go home.  I don’t generally shower there, I don’t make friends, I don’t buy things and I don’t do anything except work my body harder than I do sitting at the computer.  I’m loving it.

Since I don’t have L. at my side, laughing– I generally bring my iPod.  I find music with a kind of lightness and a good, happy beat, or a driving soul or disco beat.  I recently found this guy– Kidd Russell– who’s from Chicago and whose song, She Feels Like Home to Me– does feel like home to me and keeps me moving– not quite, but a little like a friend to cheer me on.