THE PARKING LOT
It is 8:00am on a Saturday morning and I drive into the parking lot looking around at the cars, all there for the same reason. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of vehicles lined up like tanks on a combat mission. We get out of our cars and suvs in our Lululemons and our North Face coats, checking our iphones one last time as we will soon be together for a tech free hour. Pounding, sweating, jumping, pushing, sighing, and occasionally laughing aloud at the absurdity of it all thinking we have some control over our health and the lucky privilege we share living in a coastal community. I don’t think anyone but me notices, but maybe everyone is thinking the same thing as they begin their warm up of running in place or skiiers.
We drive from a variety of locations to be together to get ready for the weekend or recover from our past week, all there for a different reasons. For the young ones, 20 somethings, they are there because they were brought up to know fitness. Fitness is a part of them like the internet. For the 30 somethings, perhaps they are getting ready for a wedding or a baby or post baby making sure that their bodies, in the prime of their lives, stay the way Shape Magazine has told them they are supposed to be.
For the 40 somethings, hampsters on a wheel, knowing that beach season is right around the corner and still clinging on to the bikini from last summer with the hopes that they will continue in their forties fit and healthy like all of the other women in their children’s school look.
For the 50 somethings, me included, fitness has completely moved out of my physical appearance demands and into the feeling of incredible joy it gives my insides. This shift has been a blessing in my life as I work out to achieve mind health first, the rest is pure gravy. My whole life prior to the past 5 or 6 years, fitness was something I never enjoyed. I was raised with women who complained about fitness who dreaded a workout, who couldn’t imagine moving except to the mall for shopping or the grocery store. Fitness and sports were not part of our makeup. Arts, culture, music, were the preferred outlet. It was one or the other, I don’t think it ever occurred to my family that both could be possible. So I drive almost 40 minutes each way to this boutique gym for a workout like no other. To look around at all of the fit women and an occasional man writing checks for ridiculous amounts so we can talk about our battle wounds and share in the many reasons we are there together in the early morning.
We sit together in the hallway with our bottles of concoctions while we wait for the 7am class to come out looking exhausted and energized, sweaty, red faced hoping that the workout we are facing will keep our fit bodies fit. To stave off the love handles, the wrinkles, the flab. To keep the weight off, the heart attacks and diabetes at bay and the cancer safely in the articles streaming at us in newpapers, television and every internet blast.
Sometimes when I am peddling on the spin bike working out with a 30 something partner as she does her burpees and chest presses and every other crazy contortion our 53 year old super smiley super fit instructor has written on the whiteboard, I smile. First of all, I can’t see the whiteboard because I don’t wear my glasses while I am working out so I have to repeatedly ask my partner what the next exercise is. I laugh lovingly as I think about my grandmother who died at 92. At 37, in 1957 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She survived a radical mastectomy and never had cancer again. Her activity was some tennis, some swimming, some bowling but that was about that. Mostly she relaxed by the pool doing NYT crossword puzzles. Mind fitness was her focus. She was. a 92 year old breast cancer survivor way before pink ribbons showed up on license plates. Way before doctors even referred to breast cancer by its name, back then it was ‘female problems’ and no one talked about “it”. Way before there was genetic testing and brch2 gene mutations were even a consideration. I should feel happy that not only can I talk about it, but I can be self defacing, I can cry, I can write, I can take photos of how my breasts look before I go in to have them both removed and new ones put on.
I suppose I should feel fortunate because despite all of this working out, pushups, chest presses, planks, 50 something year old breasts go south. I have had most of the positive experiences my 50 something breasts will ever have so the timing in many ways completes a life cycle. Nipples are no longer in the center of my breast dartboard, they have moved on pointing downward that only a 100$ professional bra fitting can make them look centered in a t-shirt again. I should feel lucky that I will likely not have to worry about the upper body workout I power through so my breasts look like my 20 year old workout gal pals. I peddle faster to ACDC or Eminem looking down at my cleavage and everyone else’s for that matter. I wonder if I am the only one holding on for dear life. Privately knowing about the diagnosis that will soon force me to miss months of these classes that I so love along with the camaraderie of like-minded women I jump around with sharing the war stories of our workouts on a sunny beautiful day in February.