You have to understand a few things about me before you can really appreciate this story. If you picture me as an award -winning basketball player in high school or even one who played a bit in university, but had to quit to focus more on my studies, you’d be wrong. If you picture me as a grade school baseball player enthusiastically cheering the team to its big win, you’d be wrong. If you picture me riding a bike or even bowling a spare at a five-pin bowling alley at any time in my life, you’d be wrong.
You might begin to get the picture if you saw me sobbing in 1967 when everyone was supposed to do those darned Participation exercises to get at least a red badge for participating. I stayed home the day they gave out the badges.
You might begin to get the picture if you imagined me hiding behind the piano in the gym when it was time to jump over that horse in grade seven. If I got caught, I’d simply say, “I’ve had my turn.”
You’d really begin to get my number when I confess that I was the one who lied about my background to get my first teaching job in lean times, and ended up being assigned to half time Junior Phys Ed. We did a lot of health and folk dancing that year.
I am one who carried my body around for many years, resenting that my intermittent, begrudging efforts at that nasty thing called exercise didn’t give me hip bones that stuck out – ever!
Nor did it give me a waist that went in. Or a size where my hips and my breasts matched. In fact, I always believed if the rest of my body matched my bust size, I’d be pretty well perfect.
So understanding these things about me, you can begin to imagine my inner turmoil as I lied about my age to get into the SIM Gym (Seniors In Motion).
It wasn’t the lying that horrified me, as I’d had much practice in that department about “things exercise” throughout my life. (For the record, I don’t have to lie anymore. I’m well in the over fifty-five range now. )
Much has been written about my first time there, my discovery of the meaning of “rows”, “reps” and other gym-jargon, and the shame with which I realize I need to put stickers on the calendar not just for ninety days like most change theories suggest, but to this day.
After seven years, I continue to be motivated by the sight of even the cheapest sticker. I race to the calendar as soon as I get home, put on my sticker and gloat – even before turning on the coffee pot or showering. If I’m in town, I rarely miss – dutifully attending two strength-training sessions a week and often two or three aqua fit sessions, too.
Given my shady background, you can guess that my transformation hasn’t come by falling in love with physical activity. Although I can claim that I am slightly less grossed out than I used to be at the sensation of sweating.
It’s all about the people. I am the youngest in the class, the least fit, and the special needs child, having to adapt every one of the circuit stations, especially since I tore my meniscus and a few other bits of my knee a couple of years back.
My classmates cheer me on especially when I’m about to burst into tears and run out of the room. (Yes, I admit, it still happens but not as many times as in the first five years.) They talk to me about other things, reminding me I have a brain and expertise in other parts of my life. I am more than the vision of my weakest parts.
But the greatest of all are the trainers! Not once, but twice, they’ve made surprise sessions that have thrilled and delighted us and made me feel oh, so special.
The first was on my birthday a couple of years ago. Grudgingly, I went to my Strength Training Class because you know it’s a good thing to do for yourself – working out on your birthday. So I’m told.
When I arrived I was greeted with a crown to put on because it was a Princess Party! One other woman’s birthday was close to mine and each of us was given special wands to begin the relay. After completing each exercise, the wand was passed to the next in our team until every muscle group was worked and the singing of the wand had been enjoyed to the fullest.
Next came a big box held high over each of our heads. As we chose a plastic bag full of goodies from the box we read out the body part that was to be worked with our turn. Mine was triceps, so I led the group through my favourite triceps exercise and was thereby allowed to keep my baggie full of candy necklace, fun bubbles, a ring pop and a chocolate golden coin.
We had intervals between which we were to squat while putting together a jigsaw puzzle of an ugly frog – reminding us of the many kisses required to find our handsome prince.
After much laughter and a pretty good workout, we moved out of the gym studio to find a table bedecked with a princess tablecloth, matching napkins and plates. Beautiful homemade treats were nibbled as we chatted and sipped coffee. One of the trainers had even made star-shaped sugar cookies mounted on wands ready-wrapped to take home.
I know those trainers enough to understand that they had great fun planning and preparing the Surprise Princess Party for us, but words could not express the gratitude so many of us felt at their efforts, but we tried:
“I can’t remember when I’ve laughed so hard!”
“I’ve never been to such an amazing birthday party!”
“I can’t believe the work they did to get all this ready for us!”
And you’ll never guess what happened the last Thursday before my wedding! They planned another special day - wedding-themed – complete with special bouquets for me and another woman who was to be mother-of-the-groom two weeks later. We’re gob smacked. It truly is the best gym ever!
Lori Edey loves to embrace the role of Princess whenever she can. Being humbled by real life, three felines, and her struggles at the gym, the opportunities are few and far between.
See Brian Henry’s schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Alton, Barrie, Bracebridge, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, St. John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Halton, Ingersoll, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.