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Exercising the Fitness Option

Classes, equipment, videos! The strain of mulling over an endless array of choices weakens the workout resolve.


I admit it. January is barely a whisper in the wind and I've already fallen off the diet wagon. Can you blame me, with leftover chocolate Santas, mixed nuts and gift packages of cheese.

So what if my annual salute to health, fitness and clean living went the way of most New Year's resolutions. Most diets start tomorrow anyway. Besides, February fitness has a smoother ring to it.

Still, starting over is hard to do, until I flashed on this image of myself come summer, the season of slim, cowering under a sweat suit. Even snakes shed extra baggage after a long cozy winter. I was whipping myself up for cookie deprivation time when fate kick-started me toward the goal post of health and fitness. It happened at Wal-Mart.

My husband and I were wandering around the store while our 15-year-old car got lubed and pampered into giving us a few more years when this exercise mat practically reached out to clutch me. I'd always wanted one, even put it on my Christmas list. But Santa figured it was just another whim, so I got See's candy and microwaveable slipper socks instead.

The mat was on sale for $8.95 plus tax, serendipity in action. Now, it leans up against the treadmill in the bedroom where it nags at my conscience each day until I drag it into the living room. Who could resist an exercise mat that comes with instructions on one side including pictures of models demonstrating flutter kicks and prone arches?

The treadmill is another story. It's been in our family for a few years, a handy spot to hang clothes on their way to the closet. I took trips to nowhere on it for a while, but it got boring, especially when I couldn't watch TV programs without getting kinks in my neck.

My husband added a shelf to hold reading material, but that lasted a heartbeat or two. Now, our 18-pound cat, Murphy, suns himself on it, while his slinky sister, Mitzi, swats the swinging catnip mouse when she's not tormenting birds. So it's not a total loss.


Back to the exercise mat. If I'd had it last year, I might have stuck with the yoga class at the local park, the one I was going to take after the yoga video I bought ended up in the garage sale bin. I skipped the class because who wants to lie on mats that other strange bodies have grunted on before you?

Actually, it wasn't the borrowed mat so much as the thinner-than-Twiggy classmate with the double-jointed body who held awesome positions while I tried to keep my knees from unfolding from the lotus position. Also, try concentrating on a mantra with 10 tiny tots singing about "short and stout" teapots in the next classroom. I took it personally.

Actually, it worked out for the best because a fellow yoga dropout and I continue to meet weekly to walk and eat breakfast, sometimes switching to breakfast first.

OK, there was that time we skipped the walk altogether and sat around California 66 listening to the piano player while we split an omelet filled with ground beef, spinach and mushrooms--biscuits and gravy on the side.

Meanwhile, we monitor each other's health habits: She no longer smokes while eating or walking, and I am now known to drink an occasional glass of water, even when I'm not swallowing a pill.

But back to the exercise mat. Experts advise you to go easy when starting any exercise program, so I bought Angela Lansbury's "Positive Moves" video. Moderation is the operable word here: easy stretches, nonthreatening lifts and movements, and rhythmic dancing at the end.

Even I can do it, except that I keep falling off the mat when I hip-roll from side to side. The rhythmic dancing is kind of fun, too, even though I'm certain the cats are laughing at me under those inscrutable whiskers.

I considered other exercise videos, but some of the models look like they're auditioning for X-rated movies. Others intimidated me with those muscles I didn't know even grew in those places. Anyway, Angela suits me. When she's philosophizing about life and arthritic joints, it's like having a soul mate. My kind of pal.

So, about my mat. Now, I can quit scraping the barnacles off the exercise bike standing in the rain through the winter. The wheels no longer turn and the seat tilts sideways so laundry baskets can't balance on it. That's how my friend Jackie uses hers. Incidentally, rowing machines are great for holding outdoor plants, according to my friend, Mary Rose.


You might say the mat has become my new friend, but sometimes I get lonely on the living room floor doing leg lifts.

Staring up at the skylight when Angela says I can rest gives me pause to notice things--like the dead bugs up there and a spider that parades back and forth.

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