The Reluctant Athlete

The Reluctant Athlete

“I haven’t done this since the eighth grade, so be gentle with me.” Those were my first words to William, a personal trainer, at our first session.

And I wasn’t kidding. I had avoided sports and sport-like activity all my life, including televised sports. In college, where Phys. Ed. was a requirement, I chose my classes based on whether or not you had to change your clothes. The result: I took bowling, archery, shuffleboard and bait casting (I’m not kidding). Thank you, Penn State.

At 58, though, I had finally given in to the inevitable ‘use it or lose it’ reality of physical health. By most standards, I was in good shape: physically active, not overweight, with no current health problems. But nagging in the back of my mind was always the feeling that I needed some structured physical activity to improve my overall health and peace of mind.

Did I mention that my college waistline of 28 was now 34? While my weight had remained steady, it had shifted — and not in a good way.

Enter William to my life. In his early evaluation of me, he handed me a “Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis Meter” (or, as I called it, the Fat-O-Meter), which electronically measures percentages of body fat. That first reading — before a single dumbbell was lifted — was a startling 15%. “Gee, that’s what most people aim for, and that’s where you are starting,” William said.

I was not impressed. My lack of the standard American obesity is primarily genetics (thanks, Mom; thanks, Dad), a lifetime of being a careful eater (no fat, small portions), and being physically active in daily life (gardening, pet grooming and weekly grocery carrying.)

So now, twice a week, I was William’s personal-training slave. He showed up punctually with a notebook, timer, Fat-O-Meter and a big smile like he actually liked doing this to other people. Whatever he said, I did — no questions, no complaints, no excuses. That first week, I asked if he trained at Abu Ghraib. He laughed, I didn’t.

What I discovered with William’s help was the hidden, sleeping athlete within.

Who knew? Certainly not me.

William kept track of my “personal bests,” and not only did I show serious improvement session to session, but I also had very little soreness or fatigue the following day. William called this “remarkable recovery ability,” then simply took to calling me a “genetic freak.” I think he meant it in a good way.

I am now in my second month and feel great. Better posture, better energy and a new respect for structured physical activity. Do I like it? Not particularly, but I am reminded of those old Jack LaLanne exercise television shows I watched in the black-and-white 1950s, with LaLanne in his famous belted jumpsuit. “I hate to work out,” LaLanne has been quoted as saying. “I hate it, but I like the results.”

Well said, Jack. And by the way, where can I get one of those jumpsuits?

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