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Sweating to Get a Workout


Sweating to Get a WorkoutFour times a week I slip out of the house and drive to a place where I’d rather not be seen.

I check the rearview en route, though I know it’s silly. No one would be shocked or upset to learn where I go.

Or would they? Outwardly they’d be polite, but inside they’d think, Man, what happened to him? When did it happen? And, will it happen to me?

I’m certain the paranoia will pass. In fact, I’m already feeling more comfortable, in part because those already busy inside couldn’t be more welcoming. Collectively we enjoy the quiet, the camaraderie and the ability to burn some calories at the local senior center gym.

Yes, that’s the city-run, wear-your-badge-at-all-times senior center.

Residents in our neighborhood are eligible once they hit 60. It’s hard to overstate the benefits of the facility, where users predate machines by at least six decades. A yearly membership is cheaper than a month’s worth of name brand coffee. Soft light, no blaring music, and a window wall that looks out on a small forest and the setting sun make it more pleasant than the crowded franchise gyms. Think Quartet versus Whiplash.

No one shows off, grunts are rare as rainbows, and no sweat ever stains the state of the art equipment, as the rules require wiping off after working out.

So what’s the problem? Well, the center, nice as it is, was for years that quaint place tucked away in the back of the neighborhood for the old people.

Now, each visit is a step into the past, the present and the slightly unsettling future.

Twenty-five years ago, our small children delighted in the annual Easter egg hunt, held on the center’s grounds. The kids would race from tree to tree, eyes bright as they unearthed the plastic eggs and piled them in their baskets.

There is a wooded exercise trail that runs through the back. It was there that our son, while learning to ride without training wheels, fell and knocked out a baby tooth or two. Oh, the screams.

And it was in this parking lot years later that I taught the kids to drive a stick shift. We limited this activity to Sunday when the center was closed.

These memories come flooding back each time I go for my workout. There is also a slight concern if a regular doesn’t show up for a few days. Has anyone seen Walter?

Turns out Walter is just fine. Moreover, it’s the seniors who are not exercising that are far more likely to run into trouble.

Here are some guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control:

Physical Activity for Everyone: Older Adults

And here’s a New York Times piece on a recent study that dissects how exercise keeps us young:

How Exercise Keeps Us Young

In the end, I’d rather accept the senior center as a reminder of my own mortality than deal with: spinning instructors who believe we all need to hear their lame playlists; gym rats who don’t get that dancing to music only they can hear makes them both awkward and possibly dangerous; and cell phone callers who treat the treadmill as private office space.

We’ll save tattoos for another time. I have no objection, and frankly couldn’t tell you whether the senior crowd has them or not. That’s because most folks work out in the same clothes they walk around in.

That could be because it’s more convenient, or perhaps they just aren’t ready to let everyone know where they’re headed.

Read more posts by Steve Piacente, a former print journalist and correspondent. Steve is a blogger for JenningsWire.

 

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