Fitness at This Age

Here is my elliptical trainer, a great exercise machine bought several years ago with the best of intentions. It now serves mainly as a clothes horse, though I do get on it and work out occasionally. Somewhat occasionally.

When a friend moved away from here two years ago he gave his little-used rowing machine to another friend on whose back porch it now sits gathering dust. We elders are prone to fight exercise as much as some others enjoy it. We know regular exercise does us a world of good, so why is it such a battle to engage with it?

I’ll speak for myself. It’s because our brain turns off all our good motivations to work out and do it regularly. We manufacture other, more pressing things to do. Or we promise ourselves to get on the old ellipto today and something always comes up. Or we just find it boring. Or we get turned off because we get winded easily or have a cramp.

Usually, it’s just plain avoidance, and we older people are pretty good at that. The older you get, the more one gives in to whims and capriciousness. At least I do. We dismiss the joys of having a fit, well-toned body. For a while before I moved here I was a pretty regular gym rat, had a good bod for someone my age, and enjoyed a better mental attitude. I miss that and still do nothing about it.

I played sports and swam competitively in high school and college, then quit because it took so much time away from drinking and partying. I miss the good health and good feelings it brought, and when I get in a pool now I get winded quickly. I’ve had a few medical problems and use them as an excuse to be sedentary. All this is mental evasion.

There is so much foofaraw about how important it is for oldsters to just keep walking. Well, Oaxaca’s sidewalks are like tank traps, and I’m not so steady on my feet these days. So it’s easy to promise yourself you’ll do a session on the ellipto instead. Consequently, I’ve gotten pretty skinny and make regular vows to put on some muscle.

When you get sufficiently fed up with the sedentary life, you may finally get serious about exercise. As I’ve suggested, it’s also a matter of vanity. I don’t want to end up looking like a bag of bones. On the other hand, being with people who take physical culture so intensely is a real turn-off. Look what it did to Jim Jordan, whose devotion to dominance and aggression through wrestling made him the prick that he is, an “unyielding combatant, whether grappling on the mat or in the halls of Congress.”