Muscling middle age outta the way


I can already tell I am going to fear Leslie Snyder.

Snyder, group exercise director at the Walla Walla YMCA, had warned us this might be the case.

“I might be nice, but I’m never going to be easy.”

It started so innocently. Feeling like I had gained some understanding of my nutritional needs through a previous series about diabetes prevention, I told the Union-Bulletin’s Health & Fitness editor it was time to take the next step.

Now in my, ahem, mid-50s, gaining and maintaining strength seemed logical and wise. For starters, I would like to be able to wrestle Camo Man to the ground on occasion and subdue him with kisses. I also want to muscle furniture here and there whenever I wish, not just when stronger backs are available.

I’d like to not lie prone on the floor in agony after I flip mattresses or spend the day weeding … just sayin.’

Then I decided my friend Ann should also want those things. Having known each other since we were 4, we are not shy about naming our goals for other.

I was grateful when Ann and I saw this opportunity to get stronger with the same eye. She’s eager to add core strength to continue hoisting cases for her wine business and to put long-term muscle on her petite frame.

The day we were to meet with Leslie arrived and Ann and I walked into the Y like we owned the place.

For a minute only, I assure you.

In her office, Leslie listened to the two of us throw out our wish lists — stronger arms, knees that don’t hurt, upper body oomph.

Good backs that don’t spasm after housework or lay us low for no reason at all.

“A strong back is a healthy back and a healthy back is a healthy body,” Leslie told us while I nodded vigorously,

My nodding ended there.

“We’re going to find out your body mass,” she told us. “What the scale says is just one small part of the puzzle … it combines everything. But body composition tells us everything. How much is fat and how much is muscle.”

I smiled, but I felt the blood drain from my face. I think I can speak for many women when I say we don’t really want to know how many layers we’re hauling around under our “shapewear.”

However, as Leslie pointed out, we can look all kinds of skinny and still be medically obese. She sees women every day who go like crazy on treadmills and the like, but don’t do the lifting and pushing that becomes more important than good makeup after we turn 30.

Ann and I made appointments — separately — to be pinched by calipers, measured top to bottom and make our biceps scream in agony. We might talk about every little thing, but we weren’t ready to share those numbers.

That’s bound to quickly change, however, in a relationship where one workout partner can ask the other: “If I wear Spanx, will it reduce my BMI?”

Hang on. I’ll recount this adventure in this space over the coming weeks. If you work out at the Y, please limit your eye-rolling when you see Ann and me. And if you have any strong-girl tips, stop by to share.

I think it’s all going to be worth it. As Ann said, we want to be driving Corvettes at 90 years old. That means having the leg strength to lower our aging bottoms into the seat and getting back out without hydraulic lifts.



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