I can remember when the only gym around was the gymnasium at school. Now it seems there a gym with a big sign in a big building suspiciously near every McDonald’s on every corner. In fact, a recent unofficial random survey revealed that there are, and I quote, a “really honkin’ lot of fitness centres in town these days.” You can’t swing a cat without hitting something called, “Sweat City” or “Crossfit Crazy” or “I Love Muscles Fitness Boutique.”
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Judging from the latest North American health statistics it’s clear that, and I quote, there are “a really honkin’ lot of unfit people these days.” And I’m not talking about those growing numbers who are unfit mentally when it comes to politics, I mean those of us who are about as physically fit as the average garden slug.
I must admit I have an unfortunate genetic aversion to any type of exercise. It was way back when we all took “gym” (aka “phys ed”) at the comp because it was supposedly “easy credits” and it was co-ed, meaning there would be girls in the class wearing attractive gym shorts and t-shirts, that I discovered that exercising simply wasn’t in my DNA even though DNA hadn’t been invented yet.
The part of gym where we played volleyball or baseball outside in the spring was just fine and often bordering on fun, but when Mr. Albrecht regularly put us through what he called “calisthenics” – which I’m pretty sure was known in the teachers’ lounge as the “Time to Torture Teenagers” class – I knew in no uncertain terms that I should’ve signed up for typing 101 instead of gym. (Later, I did in fact take Typing for the same reasons cited above – except gym shorts and T-shirts weren’t involved, unfortunately – and it turned out to be one of the few extremely valuable things I actually learned in high school.)
These days, however, it seems my steadfast avoidance of any kind of physical activity except the good kind like chasing the cat has begun to catch up to me. Now, casual chats with family and friends seems to mostly include the words “sore knees,” “aching hips” and “had to have a nap.” I mean, some days I can barely unload the dishwasher without having to go sit down for a rest half way through. And forget about mowing the lawn in one go anymore, and believe me, it’s a really tiny lawn. So I did a reckless thing. I signed up for an exercise program. But it turned out to be not so foolish after all.
Because of the damn-demic, the free six-week program guided by Caitlyn and Chris, the hospital physiotherapists was conducted online, which meant that our two wonderful fitness experts, myself, and seven or eight nice limping ladies of a certain age met on Zoom every Tuesday and Thursday for an hour and a half of guided torture. And, as mentioned, none of us are teenagers, which sometimes made the torture even more, well, tortuous.
But here’s the thing. This is the last week of formal Zoom sessions and it doesn’t seem like we are entering the Chamber of Torment anymore. And get this: I am personally experiencing a marked difference in everyday physicality, and the Better Half is experiencing a significant reduction in my constant complaining. I can even get up and down the stairs and in and out of the car, more often than not, without registering 9.8 excruciation on the Richter Scale.
Now the trick is to keep it up after the program, of course. But I think I can do it. After all, it’s not Mr. Albrecht’s dreaded high school calisthenics at the Lindsay Thurber gym anymore. This time, it’s real life.
Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. Send him a column idea at firstname.lastname@example.org.