I recently started working out (beyond twice weekly yoga on the floor in my apartment) and one of the things I like best about it is that it breaks me out of my peer group bubble and foists me into a broader cross-section of the community. In particular, I love the older ladies who hit the gym on the regular, riding the stationary bikes while reading a magazine, taking the Gentle Hatha Yoga classes, and gossiping in the hot tub.
Do the old ladies in the pool sometimes clutter up the Medium and Fast lanes, bobbing around with their pool noodles? Sure. Are they a bit slow on the uptake when it comes to closing the steam room door? Of course. Have I heard complaints about these old ladies – with all of the time in the world – failing to sign up for or hogging the machines? You bet. But I still love them.
While I often overhear women my age talk about improving their appearance and then picking apart every conceivable detail of their bodies, these older ladies seem so confident and so completely comfortable with their bodies. They talk about their kids and grandkids and husbands; they talk about where they’re going on vacation and what they’re reading; and they talk about their workouts not like they’re some necessary torture to conform to some imposed physical ideal, but one of the best parts of their day.
These ladies remind me that a commitment to health and exercise isn’t just something you do in the flush of youth, when you’re trying to seduce some dude or squeeze into a high-waisted bandage skirt in time for New Year’s Eve. It’s a lifelong commitment, and one that doesn’t have anything to do with a particular shape or size. It’s about making an effort, every day, to do something that makes your quality of life a little better and gives you a sense of accomplishment. And so seeing the old ladies at my gym makes me happy, and gives me hope that I’ll be there, swimming my lengths and taking a steam, for the long haul.