It never gets any easier to drag my butt to the gym. If anything, it gets harder because I need to increase the time and intensity in order to get the payoff. Women who love to work out remind me of women who love being pregnant. Both are alien to me. I prefer sedentary pursuits such as reading, listening to music, writing, and playing cards. Those that know me might say that I exercise my mouth too much. They may also question why I deem exercise imperative because I have always been thin, too thin according to most people.
Alas, my leisurely days are over, brought to an end by inflammation, contracted muscles, and life’s biggest motivator – pain. My doctor prescribed cardio and stretching exercises five times a week along with a physical therapy program that taught me not only proper technique, but also the reasoning behind this mandated torture. The deposits in my vocabulary bank included language like “range of motion”, “weight-bearing”, and “endorphins”. Endorphins are responsible for the maniacal gleam in the eyes of people who love to exercise. The word endorphin comes from a combination of the words endogenous, meaning “from within”, and morphine. Endorphins are naturally released neurotransmitters in the human brain and are 18 to 500 times more potent than any man-made pain-killer. The downside is that the best method of delivery is cardio exercise for 30 minutes that raises my heart rate for at least 20 minutes. Sex and chocolate also release endorphins, but at a lower level. While 30 minutes on the treadmill is like a meal that energizes and keeps me pain-free for hours, sex and chocolate are dessert. Sedentary lifestyles coupled with getting older contribute to inflammation, muscle loss, and muscle contraction, or shortening. This knowledge is difficult to digest, not because it means I have to work to feel good, but because it means I cannot deny getting older. By stretching my leg, arm, hip, and neck muscles daily I get to not feel older than I am. I watch and listen to older people, eager to glean what they can teach me from their experience. I find the most compelling evidence of what can happen to me in bad examples and hold onto images of women that cannot turn their heads or bend to pick up something from the floor, as incentive to do the stretches.
There are rewards to exercise other than not deteriorating or feeling pain. I can maintain a large, beautiful garden and walk around a zoo all day long with my energetic nieces. I can hike out to the tip of an island with my Mom. I can dance all night long at my daughter’s wedding reception. These abilities are priceless to me and that is why I drag my butt to the gym.