GET­TING IN SHAPE

Start your own fit­ness evo­lu­tion

Escalon Times - - LIVING - By DEN­NIS WY­ATT 209 Liv­ing

If you were to tell my high school PE teacher Jack Gay­aldo that I be­long to three health clubs and re­li­giously ex­er­cise seven days a week I’m not too sure whether he’d bust out laugh­ing or have a heart at­tack.

And — if he heard peo­ple call me “ath­letic” — he’d laugh so hard it would kill him.

Af­ter 30 plus years of ded­i­cated ex­er­cise I am still a klutz. I can’t shoot a bas­ket­ball to save my life. I’d be happy if I could swing a bat like a girl. And I’m never go­ing to win the Tour de France. I ex­er­cise be­cause it is a health thing — men­tal and phys­i­cal.

I’d have no prob­lem com­par­ing my weight, blood pres­sure or rest­ing heart rate with any­one — in­clud­ing jocks. And I am far from body per­fect. Set­ting aside the body im­age thing where I still see my­self as a 320 pounder from 31 years ago (you are al­ways a re­cov­er­ing overeater), I’ve got a lot of rea­sons to ex­er­cise that peo­ple would con­strue as rea­sons not to ex­er­cise. They in­clude two mas­sive bunions that alarmed my cur­rent pri­mary physi­cian when he first saw them, ham­mer­toes, mild sco­l­io­sis, a knee cap I pounded into the ground twice at 40 mph in a bi­cy­cle crash, a hair­line crack in the shoul­der, and a fam­ily his­tory of crip­pling arthri­tis.

Does it hurt to ex­er­cise? Yes but it is more painful not to ex­er­cise.

Ex­er­cis­ing is not just about phys­i­cal health

That may sound like I’m hooked on en­dor­phins. I prob­a­bly am. But I’d rather be ad­dicted to en­dor­phins than sub­servient to pain and be­ing slug­gish. The phys­i­cal health ben­e­fits of be­ing ac­tive — even if all you do is walk briskly a lot — is ob­vi­ous. But what most peo­ple seem to for­get or never re­al­ized is how sus­tained phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity cas­cades into other ar­eas of your life from alert­ness and the qual­ity of sleep to men­tal health and your abil­ity to con­cen­trate. So what do I do? For starters I’m pay­ing $85 a month to ex­er­cise un­der the guid­ance of in­struc­tors as a 60-year-old when I avoided it like the plague when it was free and I was 16 years old in a high school PE class is more than a tad ironic.

While you don’t need to join a club, it is help­ful. And I am far from be­ing club de­pen­dent as I jog and do mini-work­outs with free weights at home be­fore go­ing to bed six nights a week. That also hap­pens to co­in­cide with work nights that make it eas­ier to fall asleep af­ter push­ing to meet a 1 a.m. dead­line.

I know that it goes against con­ven­tional wis­dom, but here’s the most im­por­tant rule of all to fol­low when you ex­er­cise — fig­ure out what works for you and do it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try new things and give them more than just one shot. It means you need to find some­thing that works for you that you and makes you happy so you will keep do­ing it.

Pay­ing out $85 a month for health club dues works for me be­cause I’m af­ter one thing — group ex­er­cise class va­ri­ety at times that work with my sched­ule given I pre­fer to do a group class six days a week. And with three club mem­ber­ships that get me ac­cess to four clubs in Man­teca, three more in Tracy, and eight in Stock­ton so I can match a class that I want with the time I can squeeze in.

Two of the club man­agers ac­tu­ally re­fer to me as “the class guy.” It’s not that they aren’t other guys in group ex­er­cise classes al­though they are about as out­num­bered by women as Repub­li­cans are by Democrats in San Fran­cisco. The moniker comes from the fact I do not use any­thing else in the gym — car­dio equip­ment, swim­ming pools, weight ma­chines, tan­ning beds, saunas, or showers — ex­cept for grab­bing heav­ier free weights as the dumb bells in group ex­er­cise rooms stop at 15 pounds.

So what is it about group ex­er­cise classes?

So what is it about me and classes? I’m not overly so­cial in such set­tings and I am still a tad self-con­scious. I’ve got to ad­mit I have a big ad­van­tage over other self-con­scious peo­ple as my eye sight is so bad that once I re­move my glasses when the class starts — I sweat so much the glasses would ei­ther slip off be im­pos­si­ble to see through — that I don’t no­tice any­one.

That bit of in­for­ma­tion may cause so peo­ple who al­ready give me plenty of room in ex­er­cise classes to move away even far­ther from me next time as if I have the plague, but it is the truth. I also tend most times to be a tad in­tense.

Car­rie in Tracy calls it be­ing hy­per but to tell the truth ex­er­cise calms me down.

What I get from group ex­er­cise classes is some­thing I can’t get on my own. Each in­struc­tor and each ex­er­cise class whether it is RIPPED, Body Pump (which I can do with­out), Insanity, Pi-Yo, yoga (if you want a laugh just watch me try to do yoga), high in­ten­sity train­ing, or car­dio blast has their own take and unique knowl­edge.

They will all tell you to keep mov­ing if noth­ing else and to work on form. They pro­vide the frame­work and you make the work­out your own. Some may jump, you might not. When the move calls for weights, some may use light ones, some may use heav­ier ones, and some may use no weights at all. If some­thing is daunt­ing or hurts that day you may elect to mod­ify the move­ments. And if you get con­fused and frus­trated as I some­times do learn­ing a new ex­er­cise seg­ment, you may an­other move­ment un­til the class fin­ishes with the one that is frus­trat­ing you.

You lis­ten to your own body. You mon­i­tor your own progress.

Some say it works be­cause they have a set time to block off on a spe­cific day to ex­er­cise. Some say it’s a way to hold them­selves ac­count­able as they feel guilty in that they think they are let­ting oth­ers down. For me, it al­lows me to pick and choose new things to work my mus­cles in new ways that work for my body thanks to in­struc­tors who con­cen­trate on learn­ing the ins and outs of spe­cific move­ments, how they im­pact the body, how to do them to pro­vide the best re­sults and what not to do to avoid in­jury.

From ‘Body by Linda’ to “Body by Et Al’

Linda Plooh — who for years was the 6 a.m. in­struc­tor at Man­teca InShape when it was the Man­teca Rac­quet­ball Club — was viewed by some as a gen­uine crazy in a good way. How good was she at get­ting you to move? Let’s put it this way, for years I’d get home and fall asleep by 2 a.m., get

up 3 hours and 45 minute later, jog to the gym, take an hour class from Linda that had about 15 guys and 5 gals at any given time, jog home and go back to sleep for three hours.

Linda oc­ca­sion­ally would hand out T-shirts read­ing “Body by Linda” and ex­pect us to wear them.

If I wore a T-shirt like that to­day it would have to say “Body by Donna, Linda, An­gel, Su­san, Mary, Marg, Jen­nie, Tami, Tara, Wendy, Non­nie, Yolanda, Nicole, Jill, Channa, Judy, Joann, and et al.”

Ev­ery one of those in­struc­tors has helped me to get where I’m at to­day. I’m a few days shy of 61 years of age and I’m healthy and happy.

As far as my sched­ule, I do some­thing ev­ery day. If I hit a class in town — Cal Fit or InShape and start­ing in April Fit­ness Evo­lu­tion — I will go there and back. It’s a nice warm up.

I had a front desk per­son who was 19 or so one time who asked why I jogged to the gym ev­ery day. I looked at him like he had a hole in his head. But then again it never ceases to amaze me when I see peo­ple who aren’t hand­i­capped cir­cle the gym park­ing lot to try and get a space as close to the front door as pos­si­ble on a clear sunny day only to go in­side and run on a tread­mill for a half hour.

I try to hit classes — I get a two-for-one trip when I hit the Per­sh­ing Av­enue InShape where Margy Nel­son of­fers high in­ten­sity train­ing fol­lowed by yoga — Mon­day through Satur­day. If I can’t fit it in I go for a long jog. I will skip the Satur­day class if I’m able to get in a day hike in the high Sierra. Sun­day is my cool down day that is sim­ply a jog and no light weight work­out at home the night be­fore.

I’m sure “ex­perts” will rip that work­out to shreds. But it works for me and it works big time.

Thirty-one years ago my “old” rou­tine that in­cluded no ex­er­cise and more than enough ques­tion­able eating habits for three peo­ple, had me at 320 pounds, ready to pass out af­ter a flight of stairs, and a rest­ing heart rate in ex­cess of 80.

To­day I’m at 170 pounds, can go on a 22mile round trip hike to the sum­mit of Mt Whit­ney at 14,505 feet and do a 12-mile hike the next day to an east­ern Sierra pass, and have a rest­ing heart rate danc­ing around 55.

I’m not an ath­lete. I can’t play bas­ket­ball. I don’t have a per­fect body.

But who cares? I ex­er­cise and I’m healthy and happy.

It’s un­for­tu­nate that most of us ig­nore tru­isms about our body when we aren’t into ex­er­cise.

Sim­ply put, it’s true about your body — use it or lose it.

Pho­tos contributed

TOP PHOTO: Group classes ac­com­mo­date all lev­els as this photo shows some do­ing tra­di­tional push-ups, oth­ers knee push-ups and oth­ers us­ing steps for their push ups. BOT­TOM PHOTO: In classes you will find all ages from teens to those in their 80s who are all at dif­fer­ent lev­els.

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