Monday, November 21, 2011

Exercise: A Young Mother's Memoir

I like to think of myself as a fairly dedicated person.  While I may not be successful right away, I work hard to see something through.  And, I also like to think my dedication extends to the buzzing realms of exercise. 

It's true, I've always been active and I really enjoy playing and doing 'sporty' stuff.  In high school, I played tennis and I loved it.  I got to be on my feet, dodging back and forth on the green courts and swinging really hard at some sprightly yellow balls...not to mention the happy white tennis skirts!  I also played volleyball and loved it every bit as much.  While the court may not have been green, I was able to use raw force with those volleyballs and serve them up like they was fast flyin' hotcakes!  The knee pads were not *quite* as sightly as the tennis skirts, but hey, who doesn't love feeling like a pro when you dive around on the floor after a rogue ball?!  I LOVED playing sports.  I loved being active with friends and focusing my mind on fast moving, flying kept my attention, mostly. 

After graduation, I mourned the loss of my weekly matches/games and wondered how a girl stays 'sporty' without playing sports anymore....hmmmm.  So, I took up running.  It seemed like all the cool girls ran, and I wanted to be cool too, so I ran.  It was...well...alright, I guess.  I really didn't look forward to staring into space for 45 minutes while my feet pounded out a monotonous 2-3 miles.  And I didn't even have any fast moving, flying balls to chase after!  I was bored when I ran.  The scenery was lovely of course, but when you're not a born runner, the trees and ferns instantly appear to be gasping for breath and though to be mocking me in my voluntary state of cardio agony.

College came and my friend Amy introduced me to her company gym and we worked out together on her lunch break.  I still tried to run, and this time, I was introduced to the fabulous, new fangled world of the treadmill runners.  It seemed awfully cool, so I hopped on and ran.  Luckily, this time around there was no pesky scenery to get in my gasping trees and ferns to mock me, no fresh air, no sunshine, no nonsense!  I was focused!  Focused like the freakishly serious work-out-a-holics in the girly magazines.  My focus quickly turned to boredom.  So, now I was bored on the treadmill....and I even kind of missed my tree and fern friends....and sometimes, I even remembered those fast, flying tennis balls.

After one husband and two children, my need for physical activity increased, while my body's responsiveness to it has....decreased.  What a maddening irony of life..."Congratulations on your amazing husband and two beautiful children and countless hours of unpaid's your dumpy new body, complete with stretch marks, a mushy belly and flabby arms.  You're welcome,  MWAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!".  Yep, that's about how it feels.

So, I go the gym and for lack of any other creative exercise idea and for the LOVE of all things familiar, I silently roll my eyes and step on my old friend, the treadmill.  I am just about the slowest runner alive.  Truly, I don't even think I can consider it 'jogging'.  I pace myself at a 5.5, whatever that means and thump thump thump away.  I miss my tennis balls and I haven't even reached a quarter mile!  I see myself in the mirrors across the gym and through the fit and flabby bodies in between.  There I am.  My bouncing head and swaying ponytail.  The lighting is not my friend today.  The sway of my hair casts shadows on my shoulders and I look like I'm shrugging in agony.  The guy two machines over from me is so cool.  He's running really fast and he was running before I even got onto my machine...."Don't look at his display board, Samantha!  You'll only get depressed!".  Too late.  5 miles....the showoff.  I may be able to feel a little better about my running if I didn't keep looking into the mirror.  Half a face is here.  There is no hiding it.  I've always been a red-faced-runner.   I look like I've been running in a sauna and it isn't pretty.  No man would dare come near me now for fear I may be about to explode into a billion tears of shame.  But, I've really come to grips with my exercise-face.  When you've had two kids, I guess you just don't care as much what people think...especially about your face. 

But, I keep running.  Not because I want to run a marathon someday, and certainly not because I love it.  I keep running because it just *has* to be done.  I run because my fear of giving up and being weak outweighs my love of chasing after tennis balls and my dislike of that cursed treadmill.  I know I'll never look like how I used to look, but I MUST try.  I MUST never give up, even when, after all of my efforts, I gain weight.  I will not yield!  I will always keep trying and hope that in three months, when my body is truly my own again, I can whip it into submission. I may not ever be able to go back to exercising my little heart out on delightfully green tennis courts or squeaky volleyball courts, but I dream of running after those sprightly yellow tennis balls and diving for those leather-y volleyballs as I thump thump thump my mundane miles.  And sometimes, I even dream of those pesky trees and ferns mocking me.


David & Linda said...

Oh Samantha how I wish I could write like you! Thank you for a few good chuckles today. :) I admire that you are so dedicated to working out even if it isn't fun. I wish I could be more like you!

Tabitha said...

Tee hee! I know exactly what you mean about looking at other peoples' display boards at the gym. I do the exact same thing, and I try not to get depressed ;) I'm also a red-faced exerciser ... curse that rosy Welsh complexion!

Truthfully though, the only thing that keeps me sane during exercise is listening to audio books on my MP3 player. Otherwise, I would go CRAZY after about 5 minutes on the elliptical. Truthfully, I still do watch the clock quiet a lot, but it helps. And you're right, it just has to be done! Speaking of which, it's about that time ...