Baby Steps Are Better Than None

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on

I’ve done my best to keep up with a strict exercise routine throughout the pandemic. Of course I’m one of those persons who fudges a bit too often. Still, the desire to keep my arthritis addled body working as well as possible burns brightly in my intent. I even ordered a recumbent bike to add to my repertoire of walking, stretching and using small weights to stay fit. My results have been rather disappointing, but I comfort myself in imagining just how bad I would look and feel if I had been doing absolutely nothing since foregoing trips to the gym almost two years ago. 

I was actually patting myself on the back for doing my best in a bad situation when I awoke recently to see one of my neighbors working out in the home gym inside his garage. His was a routine that boggled my mind. I was glued to my front room window as he effortlessly lifted heavy weights and then began a series of mind blowing calisthenics. My jaw dropped as he performed perfect squats with his legs and buttocks parallel to the ground so that his body looked like a chair. 

I have to admit that I attempted to imitate his movements while hoping that nobody was glancing at my window. I made it through about four repetitions of something only slightly resembling a squat before I was winded. Believe me when I say that the only angles parallel to the floor came from the outstretch of my arms. My legs were bent in such a way that anything placed on my thighs would have immediately rolled to the ground. I comforted my pride by reminding myself that the young athlete performing on his driveway was no doubt a full forty years younger than I am. 

My fascination with the workout kept me staring in wonder, and it was not because he was in his usual attire of shorts with no shirt. On this morning it was cold outside and so he was wrapped in sweatpants and a hoodie that was secured up to his throat. It was his devotion to keeping fit that intrigued me along with the sheer beauty of his perfect movements. I can’t even talk about his planks. I’m not sure how any normal human is able to do what he was doing. 

He ended his driveway antics by jumping rope. His hands and feet were moving so quickly that my eyes had trouble keeping pace. Not even when I was ten years old and a champion of moving lithely over a rope was I ever as deft as this man. I suppose if someone had snapped a photo of my gawking it would have captured my jaw dropping onto my chin. 

The grand finale was a dash through the neighborhood. I suppose that I was actually jealous of that because my knees are now so bad that I’m not sure I would be able to run even in an emergency. I’m not quite the little old lady shuffling without lifting my feet, but I am slowly heading in that direction. I was winded such watching my neighbor keeping himself fit and strong. 

Each January I resolve to do a better job of keeping my body mobile and robust. Sadly age and nature do their best to fight against me. Nonetheless I soldier on. I’m am aware that a certain popular show has given people in my age group a warning to be careful on our bicycles. I’m not particularly worried that I will overdo, because in truth I am not any longer capable of going overboard with athletic feats. I’ve spent enough time and money on physical therapy to understand the limits of my own abilities, but there is a little voice in my head that reminds me of the vigor and endurance that I once had. 

I see that young woman I once was hiking to the tops of mountains and putting in twelve hours of hard labor without even a hint of aches or pains. Now I’m lucky to work for a few in the yard before my back and my knees tell me it’s time to take a rest. If I ignore those warnings and push forward, I end up in bed wishing that I had been more prudent. These days pacing myself is as important as staying active. 

They say there is a time and a season for everything. I can wish away the hitch in my get along, but it comes back to laugh at me when I do my best to pretend it isn’t there. These days I have to be happy with walking for miles rather than pushing myself to break records. My personal best means being able to lift my arms over my head or extend a plank for more than a couple of minutes. I have to face the fact that this old mare ain’t what she used to be. 

I’m not ready to be sent out to pasture yet, but on cold mornings I have to do more stretching of my limbs than making them bear weight. I’m determined on some days just to remain mobile. As my Grandmother Minnie often told me all of our kin gets “rheumatis.” As illiterate as she was, she nailed the diagnosis of my future when I was only a child. I am truly my grandmother’s granddaughter in almost every possible way. Because of that I know that I can work through the pains that seem to be baked into my DNA. She gave me the model and the homespun remedies for everything that ails me. 

So my resolution for the coming year is to stay the course. I’ll keep walking, riding, stretching, lifting weights, working in my garden as long as I am able. I won’t compare myself to an athletic man in his thirties, but I’ll sure have fun watching him from my window and remembering a time when I might have been able to match his energy and endurance. I’ll applaud his determination and stick with my more limited plan. Who knows maybe the angle of my squats may move a little closer to ninety degree angles rather than forty five. Baby steps are better than none.