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Published: Thursday, 7/29/2004

Getting back on the fitness track

The goal is to get into the white skirt comfortably by Labor Day weekend. After that, we all know it's a fashion faux pas to wear white unless you are a nurse or a nun.

The skirt hangs in full display on the hall rack as a constant reminder of the last time it was tried on. Then I managed to pull it up over the hips and by sucking in the belly enough to almost lose my breath, the skirt was buttoned. It was an achievement after many months, I thought, until I performed a pirouette before a full-length mirror and saw the rear view. I don't know whether women look worse with tight clothes pulled over full stomachs or protruding hips. A long overblouse does not disguise what's beneath either as much as we would like to believe it does.

The white-skirt picture may sound pretty grim, but three months ago, before I began calorie cutting, it was worse. Then I couldn't force the button into the buttonhole without the aid of a rubber band. That's a trick that seals the top waistband but leaves the zipper open.

All of this is a warm-up to my reporting that I have returned to an exercise program. This writing is after the third visit to the fitness salon, where only women take to the machines. Whether it's the older generation exercising in slow motion or the fast and furious pace demonstrated by young women who are smart to get a head start on fitness, the important thing is that they are all doing something to improve their well-being.

Shame best describes my feeling about finally returning to a program. After being faithful for two years to gyms and personal trainers and do-it-yourself programs, I fell by the wayside last January. All it took was a minor illness to hang excuses on for weeks, then months. To add salt to the wound, the exercise program was paid for and I still didn't attend, telling myself instead I was too tired, I didn't feel good, I had to do the laundry, bake cookies, call someone, or anything just to not go.

Two weeks ago I drove the 12 miles into Adrian to exercise at 8 a.m. Instead I had breakfast in a restaurant and went shopping until 1 p.m. when I told myself I was too tired to exercise.

After many false starts, I made an early morning trip to the fitness salon. On the first go around, it was not easy moving the old legs in the direction the machinery dictates and that night, I could tell that I had done something that day besides the laundry. The second visit was easier and the third time was quite rewarding because I began to feel better.

Now I believe I am on a roll and even though it is a 12-mile drive each way for a half hour workout, the spirit of commitment to better the body through exercise is sparkling. Ten years ago when I welcomed Digby the dog into my home I told everyone it was because I needed company to walk with up and down the country roads. So far that hasn't happened. Walking is hailed as great exercise, but personally I like using the gym equipment that is designed to work different body parts.

It would seem that running up and down the stairs to accomplish household chores would suffice as exercise. Goodness knows, at the end of the day we feel we have moved all body parts. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the right ticket to fitness.

A recent birthday anniversary brought about a resolution to see another one in 2005 in good health, and I am convinced that exercise and health go hand in hand. And, guess what? When I got home the laundry was still there.



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