Thursday, Apr 19, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Mary Alice Powell

Social skills exercised along with muscles

Women have a lot to talk about and they find numerous places to do it. The proverbial backyard fence comes to mind. Other favorite talk stops are the supermarket and retail stores. Old friends spot each other, pull their shopping carts together, and talk. The beauty shop is another prime location for chat.

Another place for ongoing woman to woman chatter is the fitness center.

The one I belong to is a national chain that allows me to visit other locations. I have worked out at franchised units in my hometown of Adrian; downtown Lahaina, Maui; Florida; Toledo, and Maumee. I sign in for fun and news of the day as much as to tone the tush. Fitness may be the reason for joining, but conversation and camaradarie also rate high. I hope to find a center on an April trip to Scotland as a chance to talk to local women.

American women often make exercise a package plan. They share transportation so they can stick together for lunch and shopping.

No matter how much you know you should exercise, it boils down to self discipline. It's easier to do a load of laundry or telephone a friend, but when you are committed to a group, there are no excuses.

A newcomer can feel left out, much as she might as a new member at a first club meeting. But attending the same fitness location the same days of the week guarantees recognition and new acquaintances. After working out three weeks in the same St. Augustine center, I eavesdropped enough to be able to join in the conversations which are mostly about children, grandchildren, grocery prices, the weather, and where to have lunch. More than once women who boasted they had been faithful members for 5 and 10 years corrected my form using exercise equipment.

My fitness regimen is based on a half-hour's worth of 30-second workouts. I'd be interested to learn how well the program works (there are numerous before and after testimonials of success stories). To be sure, it's not an intense workout, but the old girls are giving it their best and having a good time. That beats settling down in a comfy chair to watch soap operas.

According to my unscientific eight-month observation, seniors are in the majority of users. Some seniors exercise in slow motion despite constant upbeat background music. Others, 80 years old and more, work the machines with dexterity and determination, then do strenuous light-footed jumping and twisting on recovery stations.

Recovery stations are four- foot square boards that are placed between each exercise machine. This is where the women do their own thing according to personal aptitude and desire to jump, step fast or slow, twist, or wave arms frantically to the music. There is no time to be embarrassed. In 30 seconds the announcement to move on to the next station is loud and clear.

This gets your blood circulating, one senior said. Another admitted that she has more pep pushing the shopping cart after the 30-minute workout.

For women who didn't have fitness in their vocabularies while they were rearing families with little attention to fat, salt, and sugar, and exercise was mostly chasing children around the house and cleaning it, the fitness experience with friends is more for fun than it is work.

I say hats off and gym shoes on for their efforts.

Mary Alice Powell is a former Blade food writer.

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