By Linda O'Connell
One look in the full length mirror, just one month before vacation, was the impetus I needed to get myself to a gym. The rules stated that members should wear tennis shoes and bring a hand towel; also jeans were forbidden on the exercise equipment. If I could have gotten away with flip-flops and stretch capris I’d have been ecstatic. But instead I laced my tennis shoes and stuffed my flab into my old nylon jogging suit with the iridescent stripe down the leg.
I prided myself on not using the elevator; I walked down a flight of stairs to the lower level and eased myself onto a stationary bike. I draped my towel across the handlebar and encased my shoes in the foot pedal straps. I ignored the TV news anchors and tuned out the soap opera drama queen two bikes over blabbing her personal business. I was pedaling like Lance Armstrong, gaining momentum, clocking the miles, zipping over tundra, up and down mountains in my mind when suddenly, I hit a roadblock. When I tried to turn the page of the magazine perched on the ledge above my odometer, it slammed shut and thunked on the floor. Slow down? Bend down and retrieve it, or push on? I had to know what happened to the mother of too many so, still pumping frantically, I leaned down. One foot dislodged from the pedal. I looked like a kid dragging her leg on a brakeless bike. I tried to act nonchalant as the bike came to a halt.
I grabbed my magazine and proceeded to the treadmill. I placed my magazine on the reading ledge. Walking was a breeze, so I pressed the incline button. I hit my stride, moving at a great clip, every inch of me jiggling uphill. Then, my towel vibrated off my neck, so I leveled the treadmill and reached for the stop button. I must have pressed fuel injection. That conveyor belt carried my feet faster than I could run, and I almost shot off the back end like a bullet. I yanked the emergency cord tethering me to the machine. The treadmill abruptly halted, and I found my footing. I had to get away from those thin, hard bodies who were staring at me, not to mention the kid behind the counter whose efforts I had rebuffed upon my arrival. My words haunted me.
“No, thank you. I know how to operate these machines. No-no, I don’t need a quick lesson.”
I wiped my dripping forehead with my baby blue kitchen towel, completely forgetting about protocol and wiping off the treadmill handles.
I hurried to the changing room and opened a locker. Somehow, over the course of a year, my flouncy swim suit skirt had shrunk from modest cover up to bare-my-thighs mini. I showered and avoided the mirrors, wrapped most of myself in a towel and flip-flopped to the indoor pool. I figured if the lap lanes were in use I would relax and swim the lazy river. I belly flopped into the water and began to dog paddle in the one open lap lane. I overheard the water aerobics instructor mentioning to her class about building momentum. I had reached my peak. When she instructed the nine women to grab a partner and tug each other up and down the lap lanes, I sized them up and did some calculations. Nine was an odd number and even though I wasn’t in the class, I knew that I was a prime candidate to even things out if I stayed there.
I headed for the lazy river and decided to walk against the current for more resistance and to firm my thighs. I did fine until I reached a water jet that propelled me around a bend backwards and into a woman using foam water weights.
“I am so sorry. That looks like fun.”
I grabbed a set of weights and imitated her. I was enjoying it so much that I startled when a woman came floating by and warned, “Watch out for my noodle.”
It was then that I realized the gym is not the place for me. I went home, poured myself a cup of coffee and ate the last slice of apple strudel.
I kept the gym membership for six months, but I avoided the mechanical contraptions and stuck to paddling in the slow lane and floating the lazy river.
I have since discovered that dancing to my own music, at my own pace, in my own home is just the right kind of exercise for me. I can shake, rattle and roll to my heart’s content, and I can wear my stretch capris and leave my kitchen towels folded neatly in the drawer.
About this writer
- Linda O’Connellis a seasoned preschool teacher and award-winning freelance writer from St. Louis, Missouri. Her prose and poetry have appeared in books, magazines and anthologies. As Linda waltzed through the decades, she discovered her age of elegance was in her forties, but she isn’t complaining. Life has been an adventure. Linda resides in the Midwest but her heart and soul hang out at the beach.