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Gym Dandy

I have what you might call a tenuous relationship with exercise. Every 10 years or so, it occurs to me that I might need some, and so I do something dramatic. I buy new fitness equipment, I map out a running trail in the neighborhood, I pull out the Tae Bo tape. It’s like clockwork. I told my husband I wanted a gym membership for Christmas, and without lifting his eyes from his book he replied, “Oh, has a decade gone by already?”

In fact it has, and this one is hitting me particularly hard. It was easier in the old days, somehow. In my late 20s, before children, I knew if I worked hard enough I could look like the girl in Flashdance. In my late 30s, after children, I knew if I worked hard enough I’d be able to look down and see the floor past my stomach.

Unfortunately, my dramatic phases were not always successful, because if I don’t see immediate results I get frustrated and quit. And by immediate, I really mean the first day. So after each phase I spend the next 9 1/2 years convinced that avoiding apple fritters is the answer.

Now the next phase has hit, and since I’m older, more mature, I’m hopeful that success will be mine. It really must be, because this last decade has not been kind to my body. I was trying on a pair of pants recently and realized I have the old lady butt. Pair after pair, old lady butt after old lady butt. There was no escaping it. My bottom has dropped, as everyone said it would. Of course they didn’t say that it would specifically drop on Dec. 8, but that hardly matters now.

And that’s not all. My arms swing—even when I’m not swinging them. When I’m writing on the chalkboard in class, I’ve noticed that the place where my triceps used to reside is apparently now rented out to the Flab Sisters, because as I write, I almost have to duck to avoid being clobbered by my own errant flesh. God forbid I try to do jumping jacks with my daughter’s karate class. The kids would be running for their lives.

This should not bother me, I know. I’m healthy and happy and have a terrific life. I have wonderful children and a husband who still loves me despite the fact that he’s seen both the “before” and “after” pictures. And God help me, I’ve been working on not letting this bother me for many, many years. And who knows? Maybe someday it won’t, when I’m 116 or so. But do I want to be dodging my own arm flab that whole time?

I do not, so I’m joining a gym. I really want to get in shape this time. I mean it. This is not like the thing with my daughter, who insists she loves saying “Shih Tzu” simply because it’s fun to say. I truly want to be in better shape. I’m not going to be strapping an iPod to my arm just yet, but I think if I make a schedule and stick to it, I may have a chance. I still believe beauty is measured from the inside, but right now, my inside will feel better if my outside tightens up a bit.

And maybe I could be an example for others like me, people who think “Nautilus” is a ship of some sort. They could watch me and say, “Hmm, she has dimples on places other than her face, and she ain’t got a prayer of squeezing into that Spandex, but she still works out once in a while anyway just because it makes her feel good. Maybe it’s not so bad after all.”

Maybe I could even inspire people who never exercise to walk a few minutes each day. I’m serious. These people could see me in my little leotard doing leg curls and think, “Hey! I can do that! I’m no more slovenly than she is!” Maybe Nike will even want to get involved. I can see their new tag line now:

“Just Do It . . . Every Ten Years or So.”                                                                                                                    ■

Maggie Lamond Simone is a book author, award-winning writer and mother of two living in Baldwinsville. Reach her at maggiesimone@verizon.net.

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