Pivot This...!

by Karen Laven

"To exercise is human. Not to is divine." - Robert Orben

I was one hard-bodied babe...a decade ago. I exercised regularly, consistently craved fresh carrots instead of caramels, and was jam-packed with stamina. Life was lithe.

Then something changed—drastically. The faintest internal whisper: "Alright, you may have a couple of cookies once a week," evolved into a bellowing, "Aw, eat what you want. Life's short, and so are your legs."

It took me a year to admit that my baggy size 8's had steadily morphed into skin-tight 10's. Truth was, my rear now begged for its rightful place in the 12's buried at the back of my closet. Uh-oh. Where had all the muscle gone?

Soon after, I got married and held my own. Then I got pregnant and held Lake Superior. Finally, I deposited an eight pound twelve ounce bundle of colic into the world, yet my bulbous bod refused to part with the extra fifty-two pounds (I'd consistently claimed was water weight). Hmmm, it had apparently become quite fond of it.

Still, I knew there was hope since I'd decided to breast-feed. I'd read that those pesky pounds would plummet by the mere act of sitting in a recliner, kid latched on of course, thumbing the remote control. (Oh yeah, I guess it's supposed to be good for the child, too.)

After nursing that tot for seven and a half months, I watched the complete season of Doogie Howser and my scale dip a whopping twelve notches. At that rate, I figured I'd need to breast feed for six or seven years if I wanted it to peel off that post-natal load. No way, no how.

So, I leaned into action upon an ancient treadmill my mother had bequeathed to me. It looked like an abacus—lidded with a sheet of orange rubber. I timed my routines based on how long I could remain vertical.

Let me tell you, those two to three minutes always ended painfully—my kneecaps were soon tri-colored. I consumed many a doughnut during the dreaded "treadmill era," for comfort. In fact, by the time I'd tied the white flag upon the "moving maimer," I'd actually gained three pounds. I told my husband to return it to mom, (warned her to watch her hip), and went in search of new inspiration.

I found it a mile or so down the road at a garage sale. It beckoned to me in the sunshine and hardly looked used at all! (Duh). It came complete with pivoting handles and a built-in timer! This was it! This contraption would gel my thighs and stretch my legs beyond...where they were. Ten bucks exchanged hands and a stationary bike was mine.

It took my husband’s strength to transfer it to the basement. It took me very little strength to admire the shiny chrome machine, then hop upstairs and devour a burger and onion rings.

A couple of months later, however, I watched a particularly inspiring talk show highlighting the "before" and "after" of people who had actually used their exercise machinery! Wow! That could be me! I dropped my cookie and took those first tentative steps towards that bike.

With the tension on high, I programmed the timer for twenty-five minutes and pedaled continuously until the ding...donged. Afterwards, dragging myself up the stairs, I blubbered about my lack of sanity, popped aspirin like M & M's and took baths the length of miniseries. Yet, I forged ahead (figuratively speaking, of course) on that contraption daily. 

My thighs appeared slimmer and my overall endurance gradually increased—as did my hemorrhoids. (Those brick-like, miniature seats are killers.)

Undeterred, I continued to rotate those chains, until I stumbled upon yet another talk show and heard a woman describe how her weight (I'll admit she wasn't petite, but still...) had caused the bicycles metal pole to burst through the vinyl seat and inside her body.

Needless to say, I abandoned my basement bike and watched hapless and helpless as my lower appendages returned to their genetically pre-determined stocky selves.

I was starting to use excuses now, telling myself I had a great husband who loved me as I was, etc. You know, the stuff you feed yourself, (along with bacon) when you feel defeated but aren't ready to admit it.

In fact, it was while I was "consoling" myself with such crap when one of those stationary cross-country dealies arrived, courtesy of my niece, who had found it at a garage sale, of course. As my husband unloaded it out of our hatchback he finally put his foot down. "This is IT. My back can't take any more of your exercise. I nodded, grinning, sure that this was the equipment that would work for me. With an anticipatory exhale, I placed my right foot on the plastic pad and reached for the pole in front. Oops...a bit shaky!

I regained my balance and positioned my left tennie beside the right while stretching to grasp the other pole—which proved to be a constant inch out of reach of my (still somewhat greasy) fingers.

'Twas then that the old patented glide step did what it does best: One leg went north, the other went south. I discovered (albeit the hard way) that I could still do the splits. (And just for the record: if you've ever wondered if women can get groin pulls? Yep, they can.)

What's next? Brunch. I'm done exercising (and not exercising). Finished. Flabby. I've cleaned my garage and my husband has lugged the three unwieldy fitness gadgets inside its walls. (My mom refused to take back the treadmill). It's time for my own garage sale, don't you think? Give some other person a chance to glide, stride, and pedal towards the E.R., perhaps?

Well, I'm thankful that my man adores me just the way I am. I'm so darn fulfilled that I'm apt to burst and, coincidentally, so are my stretch pants.

I am straddling this stage of my life with my arms spread wide (along with each resting thigh) relishing homemade bread and icy lemonade. I'm no longer a slave to the chrome and plastic weight-loss promises of before.

You know, watching my self-esteem increase simultaneously with my underwear size has caused me to wonder: How long can it be 'til I'll be hosting my own "Don't weight to believe in yourself" seminars? Can a book deal and infomercials be far behind?

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