Shaping Up for the Summer

Updated: Mar 8, 2020


Photo by Victor Freitas for Unsplash


Whoops! It is swimsuit season again and I forgot to get in shape. I could have sworn I made a New Year’s resolution to do that. Now it’s June and I’m still the same flabby person I was in January. And that flabby person was the same flabby person she was the previous January.

I have no excuse, because in the Hamptons you can’t swing a kettle bell without hitting a gym. There’s a fitness activity for everyone: yoga, indoor cycling, indoor rowing, outdoor paddling, boxing, and even jiu jitsu. All of their websites use lots of initials: FMS, TRX, HIIT. I can’t imagine why I haven’t gotten off my A.S.S.

Maybe I’m overwhelmed by all of the options. I recently used the only fit muscle in my body, my computer-mouse hand, to peruse the internet to see what was out there. I admit I felt daunted. Even though all the gym websites promote inclusivity, teamwork and results, the videos they show of their methods look a little like torture.

Barry’s Boot Camp conducts its treadmill/floor classes in a red-lit room. It reminded me of every submarine movie I’ve ever seen, where the bridge is lit in red and they are about to fire torpedoes at the enemy. SLT (strengthen, lengthen, tone) uses a spring and pulley machine for its workouts. They call the machine the Megaformer ™ but it looks more like a medieval rack. I’m not sure if I would get in shape at SLT, but maybe I would get taller. That is, if I didn’t die.

These gyms remind me of middle school gym classes where I had to wear the dreaded one-piece uniform and participate in the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. That was like torture too. First, I had to endure the humiliation that was the girls’ locker room and don the polyester, school-mandated romper, which didn’t flatter any body type.

Then I had to complete the tasks of the fitness test. Although Jimmy Carter was the president at the time, I always cursed Nixon. I felt that only Tricky Dick could have come up with the torment of doing a requisite number of curl-ups, push-ups and pull-ups followed by the 12-minute walk/run, where we had to finish one mile within 12 minutes, by walking and/or running. Needless to say, I would complete that mile in 11:59, clutching the stitch in my side, fast-walking across the finish line, while being hollered at by scary Mrs. Armstrong, our aptly named gym teacher.

Given my history, the classes offered at our local gyms are probably not for me. I really don’t want to relive the experience of inadequately doing exercises ordered by a maniacal gym teacher. And I certainly don’t want to do that on a machine called the Megaformer ™ .

Yet the dangling fat under my arms indicates that I’ve got to do something. The inertia of sitting at my desk writing inane essays or lying on my couch watching silly television shows with dragons has clearly taken its toll on my body. I’ve got to move more, and that movement cannot consist solely of rocking back and forth in my desk chair while I stare at my computer screen.

I decided to go the kinder and gentler (thank you, President George H. W. Bush) route of working out with a personal trainer. Gordon Trotter, at Muv-Strong, is my guy. Two or three times a week, Gordon goads me into doing squats, planks and lat-pull-downs while I complain about doing squats, planks and lat-pull-downs.

I use every power I have to distract him from his task of getting me fit. I show up a minute or two late for our sessions. I tell him which parts of my body are hurting. I grumble through every exercise and ask him why I have to do it. I spend minutes objecting to bear crawls. I refuse to ride the stationary bike. I ask him to explain the benefits of the Ski Erg machine, a machine where I pull on wires to simulate the action of poling while cross-country skiing – an activity I would never do in real life.

I basically behave like a child who is trying to avoid her bedtime. Gordon puts up with it all. He doesn’t acknowledge that I arrive late. He patiently examines my sore ankle or knee. He lets me use the rower instead of the stationary bike. He ignores my grumbling and tells me that doing bear crawls will activate my hips. Then he explains why I need to activate my hips.

He can’t describe the benefits of the Ski Erg, because there are none. It’s a stupid machine. But I’ll forgive him because the Ski Erg is not the Megaformer ™ .

If I spent the same amount of energy actually exercising that I spend trying not to exercise with Gordon, I would have the body of an ultra-marathoner. That is not the case. It’s also not the case that I still have time to get fit before swimsuit season. My saggy arms will be joining me on the beach this summer. Never mind, there’s always next year.

East Hampton Press, June 12, 2019

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