A few years ago, Audrey insisted that I read the book Younger Next Year. It’s a popular self-help book written by a cardiologist and one of his patients, both of whom are up in years, as we who are aging like to say euphemistically. The major thesis of the book is that you can ward off the evil effects of aging if you start a regimen of daily exercise, as well as a sensible eating plan.
It all makes a lot of sense, and I have taken two key steps toward meeting the book halfway: (1) I read a copy of the book that I checked out of the library, though I admit that I returned the book to the library as soon as it was due and didn’t even entertain the thought of purchasing my own copy for continuing reinforcement; and (2) I joined a gym and signed up for regular sessions with a personal trainer named William.
I have written about William before. He is what I like to call a “gentle sadist.” He has a vision of me as someone lighter, stronger, and, yes, even younger than I really am. I am trying not to depress him too much by continuing to demonstrate the “real” me at our sessions.
I try to exercise pretty regularly, but often take a day or two off. A person has to have time to rest and add calories, after all. Which might tell you how well I’m doing on the sensible eating part of the plan.
For example, today I’m taking a rest day because my calves ache. The pain is the result of a strange machine at the gym that William imposed on me yesterday during our “work on your legs” day. Here is what it looks like.
|(Needless to say, this is not a picture of me on the machine.)|
William’s idea is to set the machine for a weight a bit higher than what I consider comfortable. Then I am to place my shoulders under the two horizontal pads, stand with my toes on the bar at the bottom, raise up on my toes, and lift the pads with the “power” of my calves. Normally, I do three sets of 15 lifts. Though some days, like yesterday, William pushes me to 4 or 5 sets. You would think I would emerge from the machine with a sense of greater strength. Not so. I emerged with wobbly legs and moved “drunkenly” toward the next exercise. And today, I’m having a little trouble climbing stairs gracefully. Not to worry. This exercise stuff is not a sprint, as they say, but a marathon. Sure. . .
During my “day off,” I’ve been reading an amusing memoir by an Israeli writer named Etgar Keret. I recommend it highly. Here is his take on taking up yoga to get in shape.
I did try yoga a few years ago, At the end of my first beginners’ class, the pale, skinny teacher came over to me and in a soft but firm voice explained that I wasn’t ready yet to work with the beginners and should first join a “special” group—a bunch of women in advanced stages of pregnancy. It was actually quite nice—the first time in a long while that I was the one with the smallest belly in the room. The women working out were very slow, and they would pant and sweat even when they were asked to perform simple, basis actions, just like me. I was sure that I had finally found my place in the cruel world of physical activity. But the group steadily grew smaller: as on a reality show, each week another woman was eliminated. About three months after I joined the class, all of the members had given birth except me, and the teacher with the same soft but firm voice told me before turning out the lights on the studio for the last time that she’d bought a one-way ticket to India and didn’t know whether she would be back.
--Etgar Keret, The Seven Good Years
I figure soon, once I can walk into the gym without listing right or left, I’ll get back to the machines and to William’s pushing. Is this going to work the way the doctor suggested in his book? Sadly, I think it is more likely that I will succumb to a comment my mother might have made. “Get cracking. You know you’re not getting any younger.”