Saturday, July 24, 2010

Yeah, I Did Richard Simmons

As my mother's body weakened and atrophied I felt a need to up my present exercise routine. I have always been an exerciser. When I was 16 years old I fell in love with gym class. I had no interest in competitive sports. But I loved the organized exercises: the jumping jacks, the sit-ups, the arm twirls so much that I would duplicate them on the cold black marble floor of our family bathroom. Of course, I locked the door. As a college student I cherished my small pamphlet from the U.S. Air Force Academy showing the necessary repetitions to keep all muscle groups strong and limber. I checked myself out of all my gym classes before I flunked unbeknownst to my parents. On the first day of tennis class I remarked to another student as I entered the court and saw the back of our tennis teacher, "Oh, I thought this class was being taught by a woman." The teacher turned and looked me straight in the eye and yes, she was a woman. I swear I didn't have a chance after that. As a young mother and married to a stereo salesman we were the first on our block to own the latest state-of-the-art equipment and this included a huge bulky box that could record television shows. Ah yes, exercise had found itself to the little screen. Aerobic shows in the early 70's were quite different than the present ones. The girls wore no shoes and a great deal of the exercise routine was performed on the floor to music that was similar to a ballet sequence. Their leotards were cut low in front and high at the thighs and their faces held expressions found in soft porno films. I always thought they were just entertainment for old men who were sitting around the house and had nothing to do at 2:00 in the afternoon. I dutifully recorded the hour-long shows and faithfully followed the girls. And then suddenly, exercise was everywhere. Everybody who was anybody had a VHS tape with their special formula for movement and weight loss. Say what you will about Richard Simmons he did get the obese and near-obese off the couch and into the exercise class. Up until then exercise shows featured only super models and guys with scary looking abs doing the reps. Now overweight people could wear leotards and sweat to the oldies. And Richard was encouraging. So, yes, I recorded Richard. The music was better than the schmaltzy ballet stuff. And since that time I always have CDs close at hand that include weight lifting and using a toning band. Upper body strength for women has been undervalued for a long time. If you're a woman: GET SOME. I recommend it.
Sigh. So yes, I get carried away on the exercise topic. Poor little Mom was curling into herself as she sat in her chair and watched the birds on the deck. There were days when her muscles would spasm and she could barely walk. A year ago she was still walking the river walk with her little bottle of water. There were several benches along the way so she could rest. She and Dad were great walkers. They scaled mountains in Colorado and the hills and valleys of Mines of Spain and Swiss Valley here in town.
I'm not sure why I am making my body work so hard these days. The exercise clears my mind somewhat and keeps the bad thoughts at bay. As the eldest daughter I identify closely with my mother. I would help her dress and realize how parts of her body resembled my own. And that is a fearful thing seeing your body in your mother and seeing what disease and inactivity was doing to it. After she died it was good to touch her body, hold her in my arms and not have her flinch or cry out in pain.

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