I’ll leave fitness to the old folks

Posted: May 18, 2012

You couldn’t call me a gym rat, but for the past several decades, I’ve frequented fitness centers enough to stay in decent shape. Now in my early 60s, I don’t have a stomach that suggests I’m in my second trimester, and I can take a flight of stairs without bursting a blood vessel or huffing like a SEPTA train squatting at the station. I can even outdo guys half my age, provided they’ve just had ACL surgery.

For me, working out had always been as automatic as brushing my teeth. Over the past couple of years, however, I’ve lost my appetite for exercise and have cut back significantly. Bring on the cavities.

Part of the problem is the atmosphere of the typical gym. I’m tired of the clanging and thudding and mindless piped-in music. I’m tired of the imbeciles who plant their posteriors on the equipment and — unless someone larger and angrier than me glowers at them — refuse to budge until they’ve completed their half-dozen sets.

Mainly, I’m tired of the aches, pangs, and pulls that parade through my body.

Most fitness pros prescribe a day off between workouts. I’d like to take about seven years.

Strangely, though, as my sweat-and-strain sessions have tapered off, my octogenarian parents have taken up the cudgel. Prompted by serious stints in rehab and doctors’ orders, both have joined gyms and begun exercise regimens. My mother has even retained a personal trainer, almost as if she were, say, Demi Moore or Charlize Theron.

Every day, my mother recounts the high and low points of her exercise routine, heaping praise on her trainer — let’s call him “Ishmael” — who also supervises her diet and encouraged her to purchase equipment for use at home. I have been called on for measurements and will tell you categorically that fitting a home gym into a 12-by-14-foot bedroom is a challenge, especially with a king-size bed.

“I have to remember to keep my head up and my shoulders back and my spine straight,” my mother says of one of her movements. “Ishmael is such a nice young man.” (He’s about 50).

Across the country, in the sunbaked California desert, my father has transformed the contours of his once-useless left leg into those of a young Schwarzenegger. His aide reports that his strength has increased fivefold, and his pace on the stationary bike is approaching velodrome levels. This is without steroids, though with lots of Ensure.

It’s as if the planets are misaligned. Neither Mom nor Dad had ever set foot in a gym until recently. Now exercise interests them more than, respectively, The View or a Phillies-Dodgers game.

While these two codgers pump iron, I have retreated to my Barcalounger to suck down Rondnoirs and ponder the world’s weightier issues. The generations have changed places, the “Greatest” reasserting itself while this boomer takes a powder.

But I have no regrets. Life is short; so what if it gets a little shorter?

Jim Waltzer lives in Chesterbrook. He can be reached at jmwaltzer@gmail.com.

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