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Getting back into shape: Mission Impossible?
By JAMES GROB
So you want to get back into shape?
Step number one: Don’t wait 15 years to get started. Like I did.
Recently I took out a membership to the Ottumwa YMCA, with the intention of improving my personal physical fitness. On a scale of 1-to-10, with 10 being “perfect physical condition” and 1 being “worthless sack of goo,” I was professionally rated at a negative 27. One fitness trainer actually told me that, with a little work, deceased, chain-smoking, overweight veterans of the War of 1812 could be whipped into better shape than me.
In all seriousness, getting into better condition is a must for me, because I literally nearly died from a medical condition last summer. Although much of that situation was due to circumstances that were beyond my control, my lack of physical fitness probably did not help matters, and my recovery would have certainly gone much better had I been in better shape at the time.
So off I’ve gone to the YMCA, to exercise and improve my body and mind.
Allow me to mention that the Ottumwa YMCA is a most impressive facility — among the best I’ve ever seen. The kind young woman behind the counter gave me a tour right away, and she and the other employees there were polite and helpful. For those Ottumwans out there who are looking for something in this community of which to be proud, put the YMCA down on your list.
All the fitness equipment you could possibly need is readily available, and there seems to be enough of it to go around — so you’re not spending half your time sitting around waiting to use something that’s occupied.
I started with the weights.
I’m quite familiar with weight-training, as I did a lot of it in my younger years. Some of the machines are improved and higher-tech than they were way back then, but the concept is essentially the same. I felt no apprehension settling right in and getting started on my reps.
One thing I noticed right away is that the weights seem to be a lot more heavy than they used to be. For example, it seems to be a lot more difficult for me to lift 100 pounds now than it was 20 years ago. I think this may have something to do with the earth’s gravitational pull, and I’m surprised and disappointed that scientists haven’t looked into it.
I avoided the stationary bicycles for now, not because I have anything against the stationary bicycles, but because there’s an old and dreadfully catchy song by the rock group Queen about riding bicycles, and I was afraid I would get the song stuck into my head.
Once I get past this mental block, I think I’ll be able to put the bicycles to good use. It’s hard enough to keep the song “YMCA” by the Village People out of my head while I’m at the YMCA. At this point, I can’t risk getting two stupid songs stuck up there.
Before I put the swimming pool to use, I noticed that my weight-lifting routine had already made an impact when it occurred to me that I was unable to move my arms in any direction. I found this odd, and I am certain that this is neither normal or healthy.
I made use of the YMCA’s walking track while my arms gradually recovered. As I power-walked, I watched a group of young men in their 20s play a rough and ragged game of pick-up basketball, just as I used to do. I hoped for their sake they don’t wait 15 years between games, like I did.
After a while, I could move my arms as normally as any person in excruciating pain is able to.
The swimming pool was the best part for me, but then, I’ve always been kind of a water dog. The water was warm. I could tell by the way the lifeguard looked at me that he had some initial concerns, but once I began my laps and he realized that I wasn’t going to sink right to the bottom like an iron anchor, he relaxed a little.
You could say that I took to the water like a fish, if the fish you were talking about was moaning in agony and out of breath after about 45 seconds. Still, I did all the laps I wanted to do and finished strong. When I climbed out of the water, I couldn’t feel my legs for a little while — but for all I know, that’s normal.
So essentially, getting back into shape is not all that bad a deal, and I encourage all worthless sacks of goo who are around my age, and even older, to give it a try.
Once you get past the immense pain and humiliation, it’s kind of fun. I think I’ll go back to the YMCA tomorrow, or as soon as I’m breathing normally again.
Whichever comes first.