Every morning it’s a fight. Do I want to do it? Do I have to do it? When can I fit it in today?
Discipline usually comes fairly easily to me, but exercise has never been my forte. With a new medical diagnosis of myopathy and an explanation of just exactly what core muscle weakness means, I began to feel the pressure, recognize the benefit and dread the required discipline that all seem to accompany an exercise program.
After a bout with physical therapy I was on my own. Initially I set clear and numerical goals that proved to be too rigid for my personality. So instead of making myself be in the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I agreed to go at least three times a week. And I’m doing that.
But an experience in the gym last week gave me an insight that has made this demand on my time and energy much more meaningful and less onerous. Sitting on the raised exercise mat by the entrance to the fitness center, I was rising and then sitting 10 times without the use of my hands. It’s still a bit hard for me, and I was sweating from the effort, when a woman with a walker passed me. Looking over her shoulder, she shook her head sadly and said, “I wish I could still do that.”
Feeling a rush of admiration for her, I replied, “You’re here in the gym doing whatever you can, and that’s really good.”
I meant what my comment implied. It’s easy to go to the gym when you’re strong and fit, when exercise provides you with an adrenaline rush and a feeling of strength to be relished. It’s more difficult when it’s a medical necessity and the exercises are uncomfortable or exhausting to perform.
Living in a retirement community, I recognize the physical abilities of our residents run the gamut from athletic to unable. And what we choose to do to keep ourselves as functional and fit as possible is to be much admired.
Yes, of course I see those in the gym who are strong and well-molded. But I also notice those who come with braces, walkers or canes and dedicate themselves to a slower-paced workout.
Just like the woman who walked past me as I was doing the stand-up-sit-down routine, I sometimes think of the things I can no longer do physically, and I’m momentarily sad. But she is here in the gym and so am I.
We’re both focusing on maintaining what we can still do for as long as we can and building the strength to perhaps do more. In a special way she’s inspiring. She has reminded me that dedication and perspiration are what really count, and I’m grateful to her for that lesson.
Freelance writer Judy Kramer can be reached by email at [email protected] She is author of “Changing Places: A Journey with My Parents into Their Old Age.”