“A bear, no matter how he tries,
Grows tubby without exercise.
Our bear is stout and fat,
Which is not to be wondered at.
‘Bite me,’ replies the bear,
‘This is how I was stuffed.
See if you think it’s so funny
When I unsheathe my hidden bear claws and rip your face off.’”
With apologies to A.A. Milne
I was working out with Barbara yesterday.
We were in the big PACE room at Body Dynamics. We’d just run a mile. (In fact, we’d walked even more of that mile than normal as the humidity was so high you could pull water from the air by miming the wringing of a towel and I was having a hard time sucking in enough oxygen to power the machine.)
Barbara had finally isolated whichever of my muscles she’d wanted through a Torquemada-like contraption she MacGuyver’ed on the spot. (Mixed metaphor much? Can you imagine Torquemada and MacGuyver standing around looking at the rack and wondering if they could make it work without creaking so much? “Hang on – I’ve got my Swiss Army knife here…”)
I had a fat rubber band around my legs above the knee. I can walk in this, but it’s a lot like what I imagine wearing a mermaid dress must feel like. Then I had a second band around one ankle; that band was connected to a really massive elastic strap tied to the wall.
(There are more official names for these things, I’m sure – all involving syllables like “flex” and “thera,” but I don’t know them nor care to. How can I keep track of 1980s music trivia AND the name of all the odd work-out equipment at Body Dynamics??)
My job was to get to the far stretch of the wall-tied elastic. Then step one pace farther to the side and bring my feet together again – that puts resistance on the inner thigh. Then squat. Then stand up again and step one step back toward the wall without my leg flying out like it was being tugged by a long elastic band WHICH IT WAS. There are concentric exercises when you flex, and eccentric exercises in which you resist the relaxing of the flex. These people are crazy.
I don’t know what the band around my knees was doing, but once I did the exercise with the band, Barbara’s face brightened right up and she patted herself on the back. “I’m a genius,” she said happily.
I could only agree with her in theory; I STILL don’t know what was happening – but since we were apparently working a slacker muscle, I guess I don’t really need to know. At least she doesn’t want me to keep this rig on 24 hours a day.
So I was already dripping with sweat from the run. I had my aged brow furled in concentration. I was trying to remember to use my glutes AND my abs AND my inner thigh, but NOT my back to complete a highly-unnatural series of movements. In short, I looked like a teddy bear in a terrifying bondage video featuring latex and cursing.
Barbara made some note in her computer (“my client looks like a teddy bear in a terrifying bondage video,” I assume). Then she returned to her post of exactly in front of me to notice immediately when I began to cheat.
And in going from computer to surveillance, she happened to hop adroitly over the wall-tied elastic strap.
This was nothing. She didn’t even notice. But I did.
It was an unnecessary expenditure of effort, coming from a woman whose body is so obedient to her, so comfortably fit, that she can jump over a line instead of step over it BECAUSE IT FEELS GOOD.
I’ve been thinking about it. I’ve been thinking about how all the fit, attractive, kind people at Body Dynamics are persuaded that MY body can ALSO be obedient. They don’t have decades of contrary information to taint this sunny belief.
But YOU know what I mean, don’t you? You go on the same diet as someone else; they lose weight, you somehow manage to gain. You exercise regularly; you become a fat person with muscles.
My body has never been obedient before. It has its own ideas; it assumes that it is a teddy bear, stout and fat; that’s the way it was stuffed. Holding on to the determination to change that is beginning to wear on me.
I’m bitching, of course; my body HAS changed, and I need to keep that firmly in mind. But it hasn’t changed much recently, and I find I am impatient. What have you done for me LATELY, broad ass? Bulging belly? Lungs that can barely get through a mile-long run?
Wait. (I’m now lecturing myself.) I don’t ache when I get up in the morning. I no longer fear blood tests. I can walk from here to there without pain. Yes, I know all kinds of things my body CAN’T do – but I can’t forget about the things I CAN do.
And as I age, I’m going to be one tough stout teddy bear. A geriatric Winnie the Pru in a headband, working out with all the young toughs. Barbara will be leading the class, of course.
Keep going. Just keep going.