In several of my posts I have mentioned what I feel are somewhat childish aspects of American culture. Like waving little flags on demand, being entertained by waiters in silly hats at restaurants and such. And many other things I haven’t mentioned, like the need that museum tour guides apparently feel, to ask where everybody’s from, and when somebody mentions a state that somebody else is also from, that person will go “Woohoo!” Or the voice over the speakers in Disney World buses telling parents to make sure to hold their small children’s hands when getting off. I could go on and on. Having said that, there is one quite childish game that I am about to wholeheartedly embrace.
In Holland, I weighed around 125-130 pounds since I was a teenager. A bit more in the winter because of all the hot cocoa I’d drink at work, and less in the summer, when I went on month-long hiking trips up and down British hills and mountains with a 30-pound backpack. Apart from those “extremes,” I stayed in shape just by getting from one place to another, like everybody else. I cycled twenty minutes to work, and later walked when I got a job five minutes walking from home. I walked to the stores and the market to get groceries and general shopping. When I went to visit friends, I cycled, and if they lived out of town, I walked or cycled to the train station, walked up and down flights of stairs, took the train, and then usually walked again to get to their house. Exercising simply wasn’t necessary.
In America, I get from one place to another by car. Where I live, there are no other options. The distances are too big and the roads too dangerous for cycling, let alone walking, to work or the stores. And our vacations are usually road trips, where we see the country through the car windows. Yes, we do get down to take an occasional walk on a hiking trail, but nothing compared to walking all day, every day, to get to the next camping spot in the Cairngorms. So here I have to take extra time to get physical exercise.
It’s a hard habit to get into at age 34 when you’ve never had to before. After going to work (cycling), working all day (running from one end of the building to the other in the days before email and later running up and down flights of stairs), and going home (cycling again), my free time was spent relaxing. So that was my mindset and I’ve stuck to it.
I have started exercise regimes several times during the last seventeen years, but all of them fizzled out sooner or later. I recently turned 50 and around the same time I hit the 200 pound mark. So, interesting though it’s been to see if there’s any limit to how fat I can get (there clearly isn’t), it’s time to change. Time to start again at yet another gym. This time I opted for one of those 30-minute machine and aerobic work-out gyms. It’s also only a five-minute drive from my house and on the way to and from everything. So no inconvenience excuses. And I can find 30 minutes in a day. I’ve got to.
I went there to sign up and be measured and all that. The owner measured my body mass index and I’m obese. I already knew that. Then she had me measure my heart rate after she made me step up and down a 12” step at a certain speed for three minutes. It was 180 beats a minute. That’s literally off the charts. Now it’s official: I should be dead already. That could have been permanently discouraging news, but I’m really excited about getting started at this gym. More so than at any other gym. Why? Well, for one thing, most of the ladies there seemed to be at least my age and not much thinner, so I don’t have to feel embarrassed about the way I look in workout clothing. No Barbies around to judge me.
But the thing that really gets me excited is that they have all sorts of incentives and motivators to get you going and to keep at it. The owner showed me two races that are going on up on the walls of the gym. On one side there’s a large map of a part of the Rio Grande at Big Bend. The river is wide and made of blue paper, and there are trees and roads, etc.– also cut from colored paper. There are lots of little bright yellow kayaks on the water. You can sign up to have your own kayak. Apparently going twice around the gym’s circuit is the equivalent in calories burned of kayaking for two miles. So after each round, your kayak gets moved down the river. Whoever wins after a certain time gets a prize. Across the room a road undulates from one end of the wall to the other. On it are cars at various stages. You move along as you progress toward your weight loss goal. Again, prizes for the biggest winner—or loser in this case.
So I am ready! I find myself childishly happy now that I have my very own little cardboard car with my name on it. I’m all revved up to move my little car along to my end goal of losing 70 pounds. Toot—toot! Ready. Set. Vroom-Vrrrrrroooooooommmmmm!
What childish pleasure do you have? Send me your answer in a comment.