Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Gasping our way to good health

Our employer is sponsoring a three-month fitness program whereby employees form teams and commit to exercising a certain number of minutes a week. No doubt this has to do with the soaring cost of health insurance, but I can’t be too cynical about it because I am, after all, one of the 162,375,953 Americans who has vowed several times over the years to Get in Shape and then done little or nothing about it. This program has actually worked so far because it feels like a group effort (both team-wise and going to the gym with a friend), whereas going it alone was always intimidating and discouraging. So here we are in Week 2, and I’m pretty proud of myself that I’ve managed to achieve some modest progress already, such as interspersing a five-minute jog into my treadmill walk last week, and increasing some of the Nautilus weights from “pathetic” to merely “puny.” Also, after working out yesterday, I felt really good for the rest of the day -- relaxed and loose, yet alert.

Then came today’s workout, which consisted of me and my friend going to an hour-long class in one of those scary rooms with mirrors. I had braced myself for a ridiculously energetic spandex-clad instructor, and for obnoxiously repetitive, rapid-fire techno music (right on both counts). But I should have known what I was really in for when we made our first stop: the equipment room. Apparently this class required as much paraphernalia as an army platoon going into battle. I picked out a padded metal rod in a pleasing shade of chartreuse (I didn’t know the color corresponded to the weight), two hand weights (smart enough to pick the lightest, thank God), a rectangular stepping thingy and two smaller square thingies to support it, and a blue foam mat. Then followed an hour of self-inflicted burning sensations in every muscle group in my body. Some of the exercises -- the mellower yoga-type moves and heaving the weights around -- were OK, but some of the other demands left me quietly snorting “As if!” while lying on my back panting. The hardest parts were actually things that didn’t involve any weights, like hoisting my own oak-like legs into the air at various angles. Plus the excessive amount of crunch-type exercises. Rock-hard abs... I think NOT. The other “as if” moments involved not strength but grace and coordination (never my strong suits, God knows) such as balancing my entire body on about two square inches of my right buttock. If you wonder whether I accomplished this feat, you haven’t been paying attention.

Now I feel beyond relaxed -- sort of like overcooked manicotti. I might go again next week if my condition doesn’t worsen markedly in the next day or two. I guess it’s nice to feel like I’m becoming healthier, even though I still think exercising basically sucks and the time spent on it would result in much greater pleasure and enrichment of my inner life if I were curled up with a book. Also I have to see whether exercise gives me more energy as the muscle types insist. Last night I fell asleep about two seconds after my head hit the pillow (which in turn was not long after the kids were put to bed), with the result that my husband had to send me an e-mail while sitting right next to my slumbering self, so I’d read it after I got to work and he’d forgotten what it was he wanted to tell me.

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