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  -- Beginning Fitness at 60

Beginning the Fitness Process at Age Sixty: Another View
By Judy Shepps Battle

We have a new gym in town. The Princeton Fitness & Wellness Center has opened a state-of-the-art facility that welcomes aging, out-of-shape, nearly senior citizens like myself. 

I joined because I really like the word "wellness" in the gyms name. It is a holistic goal -- to heal body, mind and spirit -- that I believe in. Over the years, I've made real progress regarding mind and spirit. I can identify and express my feelings and am in conscious contact with the god of my understanding.

Now it is time for my body to catch up. Naturally, I want this process to happen quickly and with no pain, just like the info-mercials on late-night television promise.

I forget that developing emotional and spiritual fitness was a lengthy process that took hard work (and definitely involved pain). I forget that taking the first step toward health is both difficult and noble.
               
Fortunately, my memory was jogged yesterday when I went to the gym for the first time for my orientation with a personal trainer. It was a great experience and I didn't feel any different from the younger people working out around me. At least, not until today.

I would like to share my diary notes regarding this process. The entries come from the heart of this sixty-year-old body. I hope readers can identify with these words. If not, perhaps your mother or grandmother might.

Saturday
Well, I took the first step and went to the gym today. Am I ever proud of me! A nice young girl put me through an upper body workout on several impressive machines. I thought I would just get a paper and pencil "plan" today and start working another day. Silly me.

She taught me to do five different upper body areas at 20 lbs. of weight, 15 reps and 2 sets (see how fast I pick up the language?). Some exercises are hard to complete, some not. I also did two sets on an all-purpose lower-body machine and felt very comfortable. I think this is going to be fun!

Sunday
It's  5:00 a.m. and I am wide awake with muscle spasms in the arch of my foot and calf. I also can identify each muscle area of my upper body I worked on by its level of soreness. Took a couple of Advil and a very hot shower but the pain is still there. It's not like anything was pulled; it's more like a burning feeling.

It's hard for me to accept that I am the aging poster girl for the natural consequences of physical inactivity. My mental image of myself is stuck at age fifteen when I could do basketball lay-ups effortlessly and shoot from mid-court accurately for hours at end.

My Inner Fifteen-Year-Old is deeply offended by the body betrayal resulting from a very simple workout and wants to jump into a daily routine starting today. In contrast, my adult self wants to use this pain as an excuse to forget about strength training and just use the gym's beautiful pool area to swim or relax in the Jacuzzi.

I feel like I have a set of dueling banjos inside of me, just like the ones from the movie "Deliverance." One part is saying "Exercise more and you will get fit faster," and the other is saying "There must be an easier, softer way to get healthy."

I also think my memory is going.

I am straining to remember the details of the correct way to use each machine that my trainer stressed. I know my elbows should be held close to my body but don't remember for which exercise machine.

I sort of remember that you can tell if the seat level is right if your eyeballs are on the same level as the levers, and that when using the lower-body machine, you have to remember to keep your toes higher than your knees. Or was it the reverse?

And, most assuredly, I am mourning my lost (fit) childhood.

I remember being eleven and invited to be a utility player on a college-age softball team by my physical education teacher. One day, she asked me to play the catcher position since one of the older players was ill. I was okay with squatting and standing for seven innings and proud as a peacock to be chosen.

 I also remember the next morning was agony. I almost fell down a flight of steps because my legs were stiff and would not bend. But a night's sleep restored me to normalcy and I was ready to catch another seven innings that afternoon.

A half century later, I'm not even sure I remember what "normal" is.

My diary was interrupted by the need to take more Advil.

I have rested and am going back to the gym after I finish writing this article. My plan is to share my body reaction to the first session, as well as my amnesia about proper technique with a trainer.

This solution does not completely satisfy my Inner Fit Teen nor my Inner Pleasure- Seeking Adult but, just for today, it seems a humble and appropriate approach to getting healthy.

I'll keep you posted!


Judy Shepps Battle is a New Jersey resident, addictions specialist, consultant and freelance writer. She can be reached by e-mail at writeaction@aol.com. Additional information on this and other topics can be found at her website at http://www.writeaction.com.

Copyright 2006 Judy Shepps Battle
First Published in The Princeton Packet, Princeton NJ


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