Every Tuesday and Friday morning, the recreation center gym in the town where I live is lined with chairs for a free Senior Citizen Exercise Class. My friend, Anne, talked and nudged and encouraged me for months, maybe even a year or longer, to meet her there to exercise with her.
I had enough excuses not to go stashed in my arsenal to last a lifetime, or at least what I thought I had left of my lifetime, but she was persistent. Finally, last fall I told her I’d go. But on one condition – she would meet me there and show me what to do. I was NOT going to walk into that gym by myself, not knowing anyone. Being the introvert that I am, it is very difficult for me to go into a new environment where everybody is a stranger or where I don’t understand the ropes of what is expected of me. Anne agreed to my demands, and told me she would look for me the following Tuesday. She assured me that it would be lots of fun, that we would be on the back row, and that nobody would care if I made mistakes in learning the exercise routines.
So, I went. When I entered the gym, Anne was looking for me and caught my attention. My God! There must have been close to 100 people in the room, all milling around and talking – some were walking laps – while waiting for the instructor to arrive. Anne had gotten there early, as I would learn that she always does, to claim a row of chairs on the back row for her and her buddies. If I hadn’t spotted her, I would have turned around and walked out, from the sheer numbers of strange old people I saw, all of official “senior citizen” age, with an abundance of white hair.
Anne introduced me to a handful of women who had staked their claim near us. I was soon to find out that the chairs were primarily there as place holders. Occasionally an exercise would require sitting or holding on for balance, but mostly their purpose was to hold water bottles and keep us (or me, mostly, as my new buddies were soon to learn!) from running into each other during an exercise routine. I liked these women immediately, and they seemed to be happy that I had joined their little tribe at the back of the gym.
I’ve been going to exercise class now for 9 months. I’ve just about learned all of the routines to the groovy songs that our instructor selected for us. It’s my kind of music – a lot of 60’s rock n roll, with a bit of a more modern mix that has a good beat stirred into the pot. I still turn the wrong way from time to time, forget what I’m supposed to do next, and kick the wrong leg out in front of me – hence, another purpose for the chairs. They keep me from running into my neighbor and doing bodily harm to anyone. I have a really good time, and nobody seems to care that I head in the wrong direction a few times each week!
Along with overcoming my shyness, I have met some remarkable women who I probably would not have met if it weren’t for Tuesday and Friday mornings. While the class is co-ed, and there are a number of men who exercise with us, the majority is female, women who are concerned about their health, eager to ward off old-age as long as they can, and who want life to stay active, interesting, and fun!
They say that growing older is only for the very strong and brave. I agree with the statement, but have to add that growing older is also for those of us who want to be really alive, to experience new adventures, meet new friends, and share our life stories.
Exercise class is one of the best things that has come my way in quite awhile! Thank you, Anne, for never letting up with that prod to get me there!