Definition: The “a-ha” moment. When least expected, one is hit smack between the eyes with a realization of why one thinks, believes or acts a certain way, and then is tasked with having to challenge one’s thoughts, beliefs, and actions.
This past week, I had an “a-ha” that took me back more than forty years. Immediately I knew that, in order for me to be successful, I will be required to challenge my emotions to learn a new way to think about exercise.
Admittedly, the only reason that getting physically fit has recently crossed my mind is because two of my sisters in California are working out in a program using a “range of motion” (ROM) machine. The program calls for four minutes on the upper workout and four minutes on the lower workout. Eight-minute workouts and they are both getting incredible results. (I am in no way endorsing this product or program. Please do your research on this to make your own decisions about the machine, program, and the benefit of this type of program.)
Eight minutes. Except that exercise is worse than going to the dentist for me. But for eight minutes…if they could do it, then I could do it. Being the eldest, I suppose I come with a bit of a competitive nature.
I did my research. Nowhere remotely close to me is there an eight-minute workout.
Not wanting to elevate myself to the distinction of being the only sister not working out, I investigated several traditional programs in my area. I couldn’t justify spending my money on any of them due to the high initiation fees and monthly memberships.
Then there is the point of not wanting to go. At 54-years-old with 50 extra pounds, I cannot get excited about huffing and puffing next to a smiling, fit 20-something who thinks jazzercise is a “fun” thing to do. Nor do I wish to be sweating like a pig on a spit on its way to a luau.
My friend, Coach Stan, tells me often that when we “put something out to the Universe, the energy is out there and it will come back” to us. The local YMCA ran a promotion, waiving the $150 joining fee, to encourage membership. I figured that Coach Stan had some “in” with the Universe and that was my nudge.
I joined the YMCA on that Saturday and set up an appointment to start on the free 12-week fitness program. My orientation was scheduled six days later at 6:30 a.m. Getting me to go anywhere at 6:30 a.m. is like that aforementioned dentist pulling my teeth, especially when it comes to exercise.
Of course, I had every reason in the book why I could not get to the “Y” before Friday, but as I’d already made the appointment, and I’d made myself accountable, I reluctantly got up and made my way to my neighborhood facility. I was running late and, true to Murphy’s Law, there were no parking spaces near the front door, so I had to park in the “back forty.”
Making my way to the 12-week Fitness Room, I sorted through the files in my brain for the folder labeled “Excuses.” I felt that I needed a reason for being late. Instead I opted for a simple apology and the trainer handed me some forms to fill out.
Quite aware of my irritation as I began to read the questions about my motivation to exercise, or defining those things I like to do vs. don’t like to do, I asked her if I could take some time to really think about these. She agreed and she started the orientation with asking a few questions of her own.
“What kinds of things do you like to do for exercise?” she asked.
I hesitated momentarily, but responded with, “I don’t like to exercise…at all.”
She had a puzzled look on her face. “Is there something you like better than others?”
By that time, I was squirming in my seat and wondering how I was going to get out of there without being noticed. I knew that there were some feelings brewing and I wasn’t quite sure what was about to erupt.
I repeated my total dislike for exercise of any kind, and adding that I’d “been involved in the arts, not in sports” as a kid, as if might somehow give me a pass on going through with this silly idea to keep up with my younger sisters.
The questions continued, but my mind went into “analyze mode.” I do not remember what she was asking.
And then it happened. My “a-ha” moment.
I told the story of being the kid whose name was never called when choosing sides for any team sports in school; that I was the one a team was “stuck with.” I continued with the story of being made fun of because I was afraid of the ball, so that when it came at me I covered my face with my arms hoping that the ball would miraculously fall into my mitt in the outfield.
I shared the story about being chastised at home for getting a “C” on my report card in gym, because being average was seen as a failure. I ended with the embarrassment I felt as a young woman being the tallest, gawkiest, most uncoordinated person in aerobics classes, not able to find “cute” clothes, or athletic shoes that looked feminine at a size 12.
“THAT is why I hate to exercise,” I blurted.
I felt my face go flush and I choked back a flood of tears, though a few managed to roll down my cheeks. I had taken a look at the feelings behind these situations and now had the REASON I had such a disdain for exercise, especially team sports or group classes.
Once declared, I was able to move on. It was all out on the table.
The trainer simply listened to me. She allowed me my moment to feel. We set some goals for frequency of exercise during the week, and for the time spent doing so. Then she took me through what we will be doing over the next 12-weeks, showing me how to log into the computer system, and work with the cardio equipment.
These first four weeks, the goal is to become accustomed to getting more aerobically active, 20 to 60 minutes for 3 to 5 days a week with a targeted heart rate range.
Baby steps. One day at a time. Beyond that, I will not allow myself to think. That morning I logged a total of 45 minutes on the treadmill and recumbent bicycle, moving and getting my heart pumping as it needs to do for better health.
Last night I joined a classroom with 15 other women in a Zumba class, moving and shaking to rhythms that I love. It was my first exercise class in 30 years.
I wanted to leave after 30 minutes, but continued stepping. Though I could not keep up the pace, I did not stop. I remembered each step I took when I walked the 3-Day walks; I did not think I could go another mile in those events either. So, I did what I could do at the level of intensity I could do it. I made it through the entire 60 minutes.
One of the other older women in the class stopped me on the way to the car. We talked about our reasons for being there.
Then she asked me, “But did you have fun, at least?”
My response: “I liked the music…and I didn’t walk out of the class.”
For now…that is my Victory.
Note: The author received a diagnosis of early stage breast cancer in June 2007. After choosing a mastectomy and DIEP reconstruction, as of this writing, she is currently cancer-free. Her mission is to make others aware that early detection is key to beating this disease and that as long as there is a fight in her, she will continue to fight with others who have had to deal with this disease.