Several months ago, I wrote an exercise post that I’d like to revisit. The post wasn’t bad, and it wasn’t wrong, but I realize today that it was incomplete. I wrote about how exercise improves physical fitness so that we can do more of what we need to do and want to do in order to live a full, independent life. That’s correct. I wrote about how exercise improves brain function and helps prevent cognitive decline. That’s correct. I wrote about how it’s important to find some form of physical activity that you like so that you’ll stick with it. Correct. As an illustration, I talked about how I loved heavy gardening and hiking with my dog and that just because exercise is fun doesn’t mean it isn’t good for you. Correct.
But here’s what I want to revise. I also mentioned in that post, “I cannot tell you how much money I have wasted on gym memberships, only to remember each time that I absolutely hate going to the gym. Being a resourceful person, I can always find an excuse not to go. It’s such a setup for failure.” I'd like to amend that statement. What — or, who — I hadn’t considered when I wrote that was Zumba Paul.
I am currently in western New York state at the Chautauqua Institution, which I can best describe as an idyllic summer camp for Nerds of a Certain Age. There are lectures, concerts, workshops, and all sorts of other high-falutin’ activities. And then there’s Zumba Paul. Every morning, I go to Paul’s Zumba class and have, as I’ve described to him “the most fun it’s possible to have while being in middle of a heart attack.” For an hour, I’m moving and gasping to upbeat music and the most upbeat and least judgmental instructor in the world. Paul is, I believe, a retired Broadway dancer. The people in his class do not have similar resumés . We are of varied ages, sizes, and fitness levels. We each do our best and don’t care what anyone else does. When Paul jumps, Janice steps. When Paul leaps, Janice — well, doesn’t leap. He couldn't care less. I know that Paul is amused, if not impressed, by me because I smile the whole time and keep coming back.
And that’s the point. Every morning, I tell myself that I don’t have to shlep to class today because I was such a good sport yesterday. But I go. And ten minutes into the class, I’m wondering if I can get through the whole hour. And then, the energy of Paul and the music takes over, and it’s just so much fun that I can hardly believe it. So here’s what I’m thinking: when I get home, I’m going to give a gym another try. I’m going to look for a teacher and a class that can stimulate that small reserve of endorphins that still inhabits my brain. I'm going to try something new. And then, hopefully, come back to Chautauqua next summer. Paul's class is where I do my Personal Best and feel my Personal Best. And isn't he just so damn cute?