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My date with the gym.

Monday, January 21, 2013

I haven't set foot inside a gym since I was at school, and even then it wasn't my favourite place. That position was held by the library. I didn't hate it, however, and some
of our activities were very much fun. We lived in the North of England so Scottish country dancing was on the curriculum, and sometimes we played a version of statues where,
when the music stopped, you had to be on some piece of equipment or rope or you were "out". My NZ school was too new to have a gym so it was mostly outdoor exercises and competitive (VERY competitive) sport in which I had no interest. I tell a lie. When I was teaching years ago I ventured once or twice into the gym with the girls for an
after-school aerobics session. The students were amazing - almost protective of these beings who led them in more conventional classes, and always ready to encourage us when
we flagged.
But until today that was the extent of my familiarity with a gym. So bootcamp trainers, multiple and fearsome machines, and lycra clad super athletes were, in my mind, the
embodiment of today's fitness centres - and definitely not for me. So it was with some trepidation that I turned up today for my first session of the 20 to which I have committed.

Why then did I go?
Well, the sessions are FREE because they are a combined trial run by the gym (which has a resident physiotherapist) and the local health board to see how excercise can
improve the situation of osteoporosis sufferers. Something good for me for which I do not have to pay - no contest, I'll do it! I came across the course by accident on the
way back from persuading a video library to unlock a DVD I purchased on-line and which must have escaped their unlocking device. This was the day after I had sat for 30
minutes in the doctor's surgery having an infusion of something supposed to help my bones - fate? happenstance? a happy coincidence? Karma? stochastic? Serendipidy? Not the
time, I thought, to look a gift horse in the mouth.

So, to use a cliche, it was with some trepidation that I ventured forth (actually I ventured the 25th minutes it took to walk there; I thought I might as well incorporate the daily walk so that if all went to custard I would, at least, have done my usual excercise.

But I didn't need to worry. I think I might have been one of the younger people there, and the others (who were at different stages in the course) were friendly, helpful and devoid of lycra. The trainers were not dressed in jackboots and lycra either and, although they definitely had that "no nonsense" tone that goes with the territory it tended to instil confidence in their ability to improve your performance. The machines were not as terrifying as in the imagination: I think my viewing of the Biggest Loser finally paid some sort of dividend as the trainer thought I had used a rowing machine before! I haven't. The same for the instrument that strengthens muscles around the knees by making you lift a weighted bar laid across your ankles.

But the VERY BEST bit was the assessment at the beginning, and if nothing else comes of the 10 weeks this makes it worthwhile.

After filling in a form about medical history I went through various excercises and measurements which I think I will have to repeat at the end of the 10 weeks.
- there's very little room for improvement in the straightness of my back - so the dowager's hump isn't incipient, and I will do my best to ensure it doesn't have a chance!
- my balance is good. This was a huge relief because I've had a fall or two and was beginning to worry that it was becoming a problem. Now I know they were just accidents.
- I'm very fit. The physio said that she had trouble keeping up with me when I did 2 minutes of knee lifts! Thank you Leslie Sansone! Thank you SP for inspiring me to get walking again; thank you fitbit for encouraging me to walk up hills.
- I'm stronger than many my age and was given heavier weights than the others for my arm excercises. This was particularly pleasurable for me because I broke my left wrist in
3 places about 18 months ago and my wrist strength is normal in both wrists!

All in all, a positive experience. Thursday's session is circuits which will be another new thing.

What would I say to others about joining a gym?

First of all, if expense or access present problems, I don't think it's absolutely necessary for fitness. If you can walk/jog and/or skip, do jumping jacks etc, and do ST at home (Spark articles and videos are helpful here) I suspect it's at least as effective as formal exercise at a gym.

If shyness or lack of confidence are holding you back, and you've always quietly wondered what it would be like, I'd say give it a go. Just like anything else, however, I think a bit of a consumer survey would be useful to ensure that where you go suits your needs and comfort level. Some places are for athletes, others more for the general public. The gym offering this course also advertises physiotherapy - not just for sportspeople and athletes but for those recovering from surgery or illness. There wasn't a body-builder in sight! Many offer free trials; one of these would be useful, if only to get the assessment of current fitness.

Off to do my ST homework!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post

    It wasn't very long ago I wrote a blog almost ditto to yours. I was terrified of going to a gym in my shape and having all the young & beautiful looking me up and down. But I was determined to at least give my local Ymca a try because my husband gets it free for him and a spouse. I too like you found it pretty much the same. I had several helpful people fill in anything I forgot the next week I went. Now I get emails from my free trainer(1 time) as to how I am doing and do I need to have anymore guidance or questions. He keeps up with what I log on my ST machines. So I am slowly introducing him to Spark people so he can tell others about it too.

    You are very strong to overcome your fears and step into that ever so frightening place until you know what actually goes on most of the time. Now I walk in with my head up like hey, I belong here, lol and I am sure you will too. I hope you find you love your workouts as much as I do. Next I am going to take on the world of iceskating, lol at 53 I am going to learn how to skate, that should help the old ticker burn some fat. Lets do it together! Sparkinator Sue
    1853 days ago
    Very beautifully written piece! Thank you! Yes, I am at a gym for a few reasons. I think it might be equivalent to your gym. Mine does cardio rehab, weight loss, musculo-skelatal, and various other programs that are covered by insurance. I am just a general member but the average age of membership is 55. My gym is called the "Heart Health Center" which is a name less inclined to attract the young and the beautiful than a name such as "Buff Bodies" or "Jazzercise" or "Hard Candy Fitness Center" or "Hardcore Bodies by Shawn".

    The trick, for health and for weight loss, next is to get addicted to the experience. Find the way to get your dopamine/seratonin connected with the place. If it happened to me, a long and hard-core enemy of fitness, it can happen to anyone.

    1857 days ago
    emoticon emoticon PENNY
    1858 days ago
  • MLH148
    Glad you had such a great day. (We knew your baseline emoticon assessment would be great!)
    1858 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/21/2013 5:27:48 PM
    I'm so happy for you that it was a great experience! You'll reach your 20 visits without a problem. I hope you can find the means to sign up more permanently if you continue to enjoy the gym!
    1858 days ago
    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1858 days ago
    Way to Go!!! Walking into any gym for the first time can be so intimidating....so happy for you!
    1858 days ago
    How wonderful that you had such an upbeat experience! The For Free part certainly has appeal. Keep being adventurous and give up reports! emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1858 days ago
  • NAVYMOM133
    Love this gym report!! Way to go, girl!! I can't wait to hear about your progress! I am getting my fitbit set up today - FINALLY!

    1858 days ago
    emoticon on confronting your fear / dislike of the gym I'm sure you will fall in love with the gym
    1858 days ago
    Sounds like a good program and that they did a good assessment. Carry on.
    1858 days ago
    I am like you, when I was glowing up. I did not pay attention to gym or physical exercise . But at school, you could not find me in the library either. Lol)) I did not started to do physical activity much later in my adult life. But now yes, I can say I like exercise. It's feels good to move your body and enjoy feel good hormone from your brain. I am glad that your assessment at gym went well. Have a fun and enjoy your gym and physical exercise.

    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1858 days ago
    well done Penny
    1858 days ago
    I've put off - for various reasons - attending any kind of formal fitness classes, but I've slowly come to the conclusion that the time is right. I haven't had any of the serendipitous announcements such as the one you saw (lol) but with the PT for the knee in the near future, reading your experience is genuine encouragement. Thanx, Penny, I'm looking forward to it - and it would be so nice if you were here to "buddy up"!
    1858 days ago
    I love working out. Good for you!
    1858 days ago
    Woohoo...go you...I have put my gym membership on hold till I get back from holiday but am looking forward to going back...we don't have Lycra babies there either
    1858 days ago
    YAY!!! Glad it went well, that you found out how fit you are, all that! Good job to you and SP!
    1858 days ago
    Ohh Wow Penny, way to go!.
    I still have a gym and pool membership ..and I would just love to go back.
    Unfortunately I am not allowed too till the doctors get my Atrial Fibulation under control.
    Have heaps of fun and think of all the bone mass you are saving and the strength you are building .. Much love my friend .. Susie emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1858 days ago
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