So my healthier pals–those folks who go uphill mountain biking for fun and fling themselves off cliffs to hang glide–often invite me to lag behind hiking, rollerblading, waterskiing and such. Determined to get in shape enough to reduce the entertainment value of having me along, I have joined a gym. Nevermind that the last exercise I did was jumping to conclusions, I am tromping off to the gym in the dark.

I’ve found that I have to exercise verrrry early in the morning. Before my brain wakes to question what I’m doing in sneakers and sweats at 7:30 a.m. instead of enjoying a cup of tea and a bagel. The trainers have been patient and encouraging, showing me proper technique for dead lifting all of twenty pounds and showing how to modify the exercises from the full-on grunt-inducing level. They have helped other desk-bound souls work off fat and tone up muscles. One fellow in the early workout group confided that he lost forty pounds in a year. I would be delirious if I could lose twenty. Frankly, weight doesn’t bother me as much as shape. I miss my waist.

In my fondest, wildest hope, exercise will take years off my body. Let’s just say that gravity has been unkind. I’ll have you know that in suiting up for the gym I reverted to age 12. The sports bra made my back and front appear interchangeable.

Monday the dawn patrol group alternated between jumping rope and hefting kettle bells. When I left I felt fabulous, alert and full of life. Jumping rope is a kid’s game. It reminded me of younger days. Tuesday morning I staggered to the bathroom and wondered if I had been beaten in my sleep. Wednesday, I braved another day and thanked my Lord that the exercises didn’t involve jump ropes or kettle bells. The trainer grinned and said, “So you’re back” like he had lost a bet. I didn’t witness money changing hands, but I am confident the trainers can easily separate the serious athletes from the hobbyists. Hey, I was kinda surprised I was back. Maybe the isolation of writing and editing has taken a toll on my social life as well as my body. It was pleasant to meet new people, most younger, some older. Getting out of one’s comfort zone is a growth experience, and exercising with cross-training is far, far away from my comfort zone.

This weekend my athletic pals are hosting a fund-raiser that involves rowing a canoe or kayak or paddleboard seven miles. I signed up. I will keep my cellphone in a waterproof baggie inside my life vest in case of the need to dial 911. Even my hubby was shocked that I signed up to row seven miles. He knows exactly how out of shape I am. But determination counts for something, too. Wish me a fierce tail wind.

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