Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Measure of a Woman (Richmond, VA)

Despite my better and my worse judgment, I actually attempt to find a two-piece bathing suit to wear for my "before" photo in the Fitness Challenge I mentioned in my previous post. I go to one of my favorite thrift shops and check out the athletic wear and bathing suit section. Lots of workout pants and sleeveless tops. No bathing suits, because "it's not the season," according to the salesclerk. I guess we thrift store shoppers don't take too many cruises to the islands during the winter...

I take a couple of sports bras into the try-on room, but I have trouble getting them on. I smush myself into one, but I can't pull it back over my head or down over my hips. I fear that I'll have to call 911 and beg the rescuers to bring the Jaws of Life to cut me free. When I finally pretzel myself into a shape that nobody's body has ever been forced to achieve, I yank off the offending undergarment. My upper body, from shoulders to navel, smarts and reddens; it's as if I'd just ripped off a huge band aid.

I am resigned to wearing a bra that doesn't look like one (pink and white checks, decorative doodads on the straps) and some black athletic shorts that I inherited from my tiny, size none niece. I figure that the worse I look "before," the better I'll come out "after."

My last meal before I measure up and weigh in for my "fitness challenge": a gingerbread latte with whipped cream and a double chocolate chip cookie almost as big as my head. On to the hips and off to the gym....

Stacey tells me to weigh myself in the women's changing room. Wearing all my clothes and my shoes, I do so, knowing that when I return for my last weigh-in, I'll be minus all the extra shoe, cookie, and latte poundage. "I'm halfway to winning," I think.

I report the number to Stacy (not to you), who then whips out a measuring tape. She appears to have reversed my hip and waist measurements, but who am I to argue?

As I am ushered into the tanning bed-room to slip into the decidedly unflattering garb I'm about to be photographed in, I reflect on the waiver I've just signed. The gym can use my photos however they see fit -- or unfit.

I am planning to change my hairstyle, name, and address.

In a wink of a shutter, I am recorded for posterity, both posteriorly and anteriorly. I re-dress and exit into the waiting area.

"Have I won yet?" I ask Stacey who, I quickly realize, doesn't get my humor.

"The Challenge just started!" she says.

She doesn't know how right she is....

Monday, January 18, 2010

Fitness Challenged (Richmond, VA)

My gym is hosting a contest for people to get "into their best possible shape." Winners are to be chosen in multiple classes, based on age (by decade -- except after 60, when it's just 60+) and gender. I figure that this might be just the nudge I need to lose about 10-15 pounds. I plunk down my $35.00 (U.S.) entry fee before asking all the right questions, such as: What do I have to wear in the "before" picture? Will the before picture actually be displayed in public? Can I wear a mask?

The requirement that I wear a two-piece bathing suit probably increases my chance of winning in my age category, because the gym members of my age fall into two categories: those who are incredibly fit, shaped, and honed and those who really need to lose a lot of weight and increase their muscle tone, strength, and endurance. The women who fall into the first group have nothing to gain or lose by getting involved in this competition and the women who fit into the second group generally refuse to wear two-piece bathing suits.

I, myself, have not worn a bathing suit of one or more pieces for over ten years, although I've carried one with me in my travels, just in case an opportunity to jump out of a door or window directly into a swimming pool or ocean without anyone seeing me should ever present itself.

I tell Ed, the hapless manager of the gym, that I don't have a two-piece and that I am not going to purchase a new wardrobe for my "before" picture, because when I reach my "after" shot, my new clothes will no longer fit.

I don't own anything that exposes my midriff. "Can I tuck a t-shirt into my bra?" I ask the frowning Ed.

"I don't know," he says. "You can probably wear a pair of shorts, though."

"Shorts?" I stare at him incredulously. "I haven't worn shorts in twenty years!"

"You could cut down a pair of workout pants," he suggests with a look of helpless hopefulness.

"This is starting to sound expensive," I say. "Why should I have to ruin a pair of perfectly good pants for one one-shot shot?"

Ed, turning red, changes the subject. "Do you have a personal trainer?" he queries.

Of course, Ed knows that I do not have a personal trainer. One look at me would convince any gym manager worth his salt to fire someone who'd spent two years personally training a person who still maintains as many spare tires and duplicate chins as I do. Had I had a personal trainer for all this time, I would boast a bod that Madonna would die for -- or at least upper arms that don't wave in the breeze.

"No, I don't have a trainer," I reply sweetly. "Are you offering me one at no charge?"

"No," Ed says, looking somewhat alarmed. "A trainer will measure and weigh you.... Would you like Stacey or Tracey?" (Note: Names have been rhymed to protect the innocent.)

I can't quite decide which name I prefer so, in the interest of time and his other managerial duties, Ed directs me to look at the photos of the trainers that are displayed on the wall.
I am still finding it hard to decide whether a perky 20-year-old blonde or a perky 20-year-old brunette will be able to skillfully (translation: tactfully and without snickering) measure and weigh me.

I return to Ed and tell him that he should hire women of a certain age to train, measure, and weigh their cohorts, so we would feel more comfortable. My talented and delightful zumba instructor, who is a few years agier than I and a lot more certain, smiles in agreement, but decides not to place her job in jeopardy by offering any verbal support.

Ed, visibly frustrated, awaits my decision. I go for the brunette, figuring we can bond over our shared hair color and gender.

I am now entered and am scheduled for measurements and weighing-in this Saturday. I'm already geared up; in preparation, I'm going to eat everything and anything I want to before the "before." What have I got to lose?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Getting Hot in 2010 (Richmond, VA)

I sleep in thermal underwear, heavy socks, and a thick robe two sizes too big, under a mountain of blankets and quilts. I keep two space heaters blazing, yet my hands are so cold (do I have to wear mittens to bed???) that I can't even hold up a magazine or book to read before I conk out. It takes a good 20 minutes every morning to talk myself into braving my way into the bathroom.

I must traverse a glacial room to reach the bathroom, which at least has a heater of its own. Depending on where I situate it, it blasts me in the face or on the feet. It tests every fiber of my being to disrobe, but I jump into the tepid shower water, wash up and wash down, jump out into the steamy but still frigid room, grab my robe, make a dash for the bedroom and, for one blessed moment, feel warm. The feeling fades quickly, as I shiver my way into my clothes.

It's just a bit less chilly downstairs. No heat emerges from the vent in the kitchen; that room is only bearable when the door to the guestroom is left open -- and that is impossible if you are opening the kitchen door. The only hot spots in the living room are the vents. Unfortunately, I can't fit into them.

Why is my house so damned cold?

Because my husband believes that minus 12 degrees Fahrenheit is the normal temperature for the interior of a home in the southern United States in winter?

Because that same man thinks that we can save billions of dollars per year by "keeping the heat down a bit" and convincing ourselves that the icicles forming on our eyelids are all in my imagination?

Because he thinks that if someone is cold she can dress in 13 layers of clothing and that it will not be a problem if she looks like the Michelin tire guy or a 2-year-old in a snow suit or too much sausage meat overloading its casing and, therefore, cannot move and that THAT IS PERFECTLY FINE?

Or could it be that the squirrels, raccoons, bears, vampires or whatevers the hell are keeping me awake at night by dragging bodies across the ceiling and that live in the space between the roof and said bedroom ceiling that no human being could possibly squish his/her body into to get rid of whatever they are, are gnawing through the heat ducts and/or dragging the heating system into the neighboring house?

Or are the vents, thermostats, heat pumps and other mechanical systems in this house waging a vendetta against the humans who inhabit what the others think is their domain?

Or all of the above????

I don't know, but I can't take much more of this. If things don't heat up fast at my house, things WILL heat up fast at my house!