49. Pool Walking

49. Pool Walking

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

Pool Walking

The water is your friend.
You don’t have to fight with water,
just share the same spirit as the water,
and it will help you move.
 ~Aleksandr Popov

Sitting on the edge of my bed, I contemplated how to approach day one of my Twenty-Eight-Days-to-a-New-You. Barely able to stand with my sore back, I hesitantly pulled on my sweatpants. I breathed deeply. In through my nose. Out through my mouth. I knew I had to keep today’s appointment. Tuesday was my day off and having to reschedule this engagement would only postpone the initiation of my healthy new lifestyle.

A few weeks prior, my husband made a decision for us—we were going to become members of our local fitness center, The Club, and we were joining that day! For years, when my husband, Anthony, brought up this idea I balked at the enrollment fee and the prospect of committing to monthly membership dues. After all, he’s a runner; can’t running be done for free and outside? With strong gusts of wind and a winter storm warning in the news, Anthony simply said, “We’re doing it.”

I’m not naive. I know exercising provides great health benefits, energizes all life forces and even helps people shrink a few sizes. Although this is what most people want, some of us (me) are not quite able to make the connection of how it applies to us. Of course we want the “endorphin high.” We simply prefer to achieve it another way. Lying across the couch, devouring a bowl of popcorn, and watching Guiding Light provided me with the perfect endorphin trifecta. Sedentary meets utopia. Through no doing of my own, my comfort level was about to shift.

At The Club, Shirley, the skinny-as-a-swizzle-stick membership coordinator greeted us. Pleasant enough in her skin-tight black skirt and Sex and the City pumps, Shirley spoke to Anthony and me during a club tour. Ms. Shirley had her homily down pat. Traveling this maze, we learned the 40,000 square foot sports club offered an array of state-of-the-art fitness equipment, a weight room, racquetball courts, classes such as kickboxing and Pilates, an Olympic size pool and a bullpen of personal trainers. My sleepwalking ended when I heard “. . .a sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi, and locker rooms complete with toiletries, including free disposable razors.” Our victory lap crossed the finish line at Shirley’s desk with the signing of many membership papers and a hefty check—no pun intended.

Slugging back to our car carrying The Club’s membership folder and free water bottle, Anthony sensed my horror at having committed myself to a life of exercise. He kindly suggested, “Why don’t you set up a meeting with one of the personal trainers to discuss your goals? This way you’ll know where to begin.” I was left with no choice but to nod.

So here I sat on this gray February morning in excruciating pain determined to get this appointment over with. With heroic effort I kept my 9:00 a.m. appointment; unfortunately, my new personal trainer did not. “Are you kidding me?” I thought. “Have I been stood up, when I can’t even stand up?”

The Club’s athletic director, Jerry, was mortified to learn one of his trainers forgot about a new client. “I’m really sorry about this Mrs. Molinaro; I see your appointment is in the book. I’m not sure how the mix-up occurred.”

Hunched over the reception desk with my bad back, I leaned in and whispered, “Jerry, it’s really okay. Postponing this consultation is actually better for me today. I injured my back and am more than willing to reschedule. Obviously, I can barely stand straight and shouldn’t have even come here today.”

Either Jerry couldn’t hear me or he wasn’t buying my story, because he switched into search and rescue mode. Jerry was finding me a trainer and The Club would reign! My stomach knotted. Oh, how I wished I had had the guts to cancel.

In order for Lynda, “my fueled by Red Bull personal trainer,” to develop the most effective exercise program for me, she asked a series of questions about my current fitness level and personal goals. Are you experiencing stress? When was the last time you exercised? Perched on a stool near the juice bar (for easy access should I need a banana smoothie), my only obligation was to answer her honestly. Throughout the hour, Lynda repeatedly responded to my monosyllabic answers with, “No problem, my mother doesn’t exercise either.” I warmly smiled. The second time she said this, I responded by raising my eyebrows and pursing my lips. How old did this twit think I was? By the tenth reference to her mother, I began rocking back and forth. Gym people have no soul. I hated her. I wanted out!

We slowly moved our meet-and-greet to a tiny dimly lit interrogation room so Lynda could weigh me. This was an entrapment. Hearing her broadcast “the number,” I began silently praying, “Please let me be one of those women who is weeks away from giving birth, yet had no idea she was pregnant.”

Finally, Lynda finished her initial assessment and assigned me my first exercise regime. “Walk in the pool,” she prescribed. “Walk in the pool?” I repeated in disbelief. Didn’t she know I couldn’t stand up straight and that I would have to wear a bathing suit in the pool? I felt like the 500-pound person they discovered in some apartment building on the ninth floor. She gave me a death stare. I stared back. The room chilled. That settled it. I was going pool walking.

Humbled, I returned later in the week for my sanctioned hour of pool walking. Sergeant Lynda provided handheld pool weights and a kickboard. The water was freezing. I walked forward, backward, and sideways. I grabbed the kickboard and swam a few laps. Within the hour my trainer was teaching me squatting and stretching exercises. My body was actually sweating. The water became tepid. After a few weeks of pool walking I got up the courage to attend a water aerobics class. I loved it! Years later, I still look forward to the Tuesday and Thursday morning classes, where women just like me edge into the pool and start walking!

What started out begrudgingly as a Twenty-Eight-Day journey to a new me, led to a three-year voyage of self-discovery—and a 15-to 20-pound weight loss (accepting fluctuation is a learned virtue). If by making simple food choices (not every sandwich requires cheese), moving more (I got out of my own way) and complaining less (the first step to grasping the endorphin high), this soap opera-watching woman was able to simply do it, anyone can. . . sometimes all we need is to be thrown in the deep end!

~Beth A. Molinaro

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