My Fitness Plan: Pretty Painless( Cheerful) and Free ( Cheap)

In my post-partum twenties I wrecked my knees by running on Chicago sidewalks in Keds — I couldn’t afford real running gear. In my thirties (time capsule moment) I sweated with Jane Fonda — not with a video, but to an LP on a turntable! I stopped when I was fit and skinny, and when I just couldn’t stand the back pain doing all those abs exercises sitting up from a hard floor.

In my forties I got serious about one muscle group: my upper arms. I started with one military (not Girl) pushup, and after six months and a couple of drinks I’d astound fellow party guests by giving them fifty. (Lou criticized my form throughout, and I was grateful —  if I was gonna embarrass men half my age I didn’t want any technical points taken off.)

A thread through all this is yoga. Post-partum, I watched “Lilias,Yoga and You” on PBS when Honor napped and I threw down the occasional Sun Salute. This was the seventies, and the first wave of Yoga Fever. I was interested enough to go to Kroch’s and Brentano on Wabash and buy a thick paperback called something like Yoga. It featured every asana ever conceived by any Indian God or Goddess, excellent written instructions and great photos of a gorgeous blonde hippie chick to inspire me. Damn, I wish I still had that book. It was excellent with no woowoo about it.

I was always the last girl to be picked for a team in gym class, which doesn’t haunt me because I was too dim about athletics to care. Hey, I wouldn’t have picked myself: I had no clue about competition in sports –I still don’t. For me, fitness is a private thing: you might have noticed that I learned about it from books and 33 rpms. And I’ve never joined a gym, a fitness center or paid for a yoga class. I’m a fitness autodidact.

This is the one area of my life where I’m a Scots puritan. The idea of paying someone to do something I should have the fortitude to do myself makes me crazy guilty.

When I got canned I thought that my new life on my ass would make me fat. It didn’t. I’ve lost weight without trying — while reading thrillers on my tummy on the couch and strolling the intertubes. The reason is, of course, that I’m not stressed and bored, and there isn’t a snack machine dispensing medicinal Cheetos and Mars Bars. My typical redunadant lunch is a poached egg on toast or a tuna salad sandwich. And no longer do I hit McDonald’s on the way to work for a bacon egg and cheese biscuit or the BP station (!) for an asiago bagel with a schmear.

I’m not fat, but I’m old. A few years ago I said: “Mummy, you’ll tell me when my arms are too flabby to wear a sleeveless blouse. Promise?” She said: “Sure.” and I know she meant it. I’m wearing a tank top today and getting away with it — no dewlaps — but I want guns like Nadal or Stosur. So last night I pressed out five pushups. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty but I did it. I’ll add, starting tonight, the greatest, most effective, painless ab excercise in the world: I call it the Standing Yoga Pressup.

Plant your dawgs a foot apart, and put your hands on your bent knees. Exhale. Then roll your abs upward, and  push them down. Repeat until you run out of breath. Do it again.

Like him. It’s as effective as all those situps and pretty painless.

Then there’s the after-you-brush-your-teeth spine exercise. Raise your arms above your head in a backwards angle. Then slowly, slowly, slowly bend forward, never pushing, just letting the weight of your arms drag them to the bathmat If you can’t put your palms to the floor it’s no biggie — the beauty of yoga is that you get all the benefits of trying, even if you don’t succeed.

I’m making a vow to these basic three exercises: until my pushups improve I can fit them into ten minutes a day without major pain or stress. There’s a hole in this fitness program a tennis court wide — the aerobic thing. God, I hate sweating! And I don’t have the right shoes. And I wilt in the heat.  And I’m lazy. Does weeding count?



Filed under Body, Born in Chicago, Free, History

2 responses to “My Fitness Plan: Pretty Painless( Cheerful) and Free ( Cheap)

  1. Gretchen

    I love this! I will try push ups…my arms are awful!

  2. Kim Shook

    Oh, how I need to do this. To make a commitment to being fit in ANY form. After having a gastric bypass, I lost 100 lbs. and have let 20 creep back on. I need to lose that 20 (plus) and try, at age 50, to firm up (FLAB city) And I tell myself that if I just didn’t work, I’d have time and energy to eat right and exercise. That is a very comforting thought. Good luck, Miss Maggie!

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