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Start your own fitness evolution

If you were to tell my high school PE teacher Jack Gayaldo that I belong to three health clubs and religiously exercise seven days a week I’m not too sure whether he’d bust out laughing or have a heart attack.

And — if he heard people call me “athletic” — he’d laugh so hard it would kill him.

After 30 plus years of dedicated exercise I am still a klutz. I can’t shoot a basketball to save my life. I’d be happy if I could swing a bat like a girl. And I’m never going to win the Tour de France. I exercise because it is a health thing — mental and physical.

I’d have no problem comparing my weight, blood pressure or resting heart rate with anyone — including jocks. And I am far from body perfect. Setting aside the body image thing where I still see myself as a 320 pounder from 31 years ago (you are always a recovering overeater), I’ve got a lot of reasons to exercise that people would construe as reasons not to exercise. They include two massive bunions that alarmed my current primary physician when he first saw them, hammertoes, mild scoliosis, a knee cap I pounded into the ground twice at 40 mph in a bicycle crash, a hairline crack in the shoulder, and a family history of crippling arthritis.

Does it hurt to exercise? Yes but it is more painful not to exercise.


Exercising is not just

about physical health

That may sound like I’m hooked on endorphins. I probably am. But I’d rather be addicted to endorphins than subservient to pain and being sluggish. The physical health benefits of being active — even if all you do is walk briskly a lot — is obvious. But what most people seem to forget or never realized is how sustained physical activity cascades into other areas of your life from alertness and the quality of sleep to mental health and your ability to concentrate.

So what do I do?

For starters I’m paying $85 a month to exercise under the guidance of instructors as a 60-year-old when I avoided it like the plague when it was free and I was 16 years old in a high school PE class is more than a tad ironic.

While you don’t need to join a club, it is helpful. And I am far from being club dependent as I jog and do mini-workouts with free weights at home before going to bed six nights a week. That also happens to coincide with work nights that make it easier to fall asleep after pushing to meet a 1 a.m. deadline.

I know that it goes against conventional wisdom, but here’s the most important rule of all to follow when you exercise — figure out what works for you and do it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try new things and give them more than just one shot. It means you need to find something that works for you that you and makes you happy so you will keep doing it.

Paying out $85 a month for health club dues works for me because I’m after one thing — group exercise class variety at times that work with my schedule given I prefer to do a group class six days a week. And with three club memberships that get me access to four clubs in Manteca, three more in Tracy, and eight in Stockton so I can match a class that I want with the time I can squeeze in.

Two of the club managers actually refer to me as “the class guy.” It’s not that they aren’t other guys in group exercise classes although they are about as outnumbered by women as Republicans are by Democrats in San Francisco. The moniker comes from the fact I do  not use anything else in the gym — cardio equipment, swimming pools, weight machines, tanning beds, saunas, or showers — except for grabbing heavier free weights as the dumb bells in group exercise rooms stop at 15 pounds.


So what is it about

group exercise classes?

 So what is it about me and classes? I’m not overly social in such settings and I am still a tad self-conscious. I’ve got to admit I have a big advantage over other self-conscious people as my eye sight is so bad that once I remove my glasses when the class starts — I sweat so much the glasses would either slip off be impossible to see through — that I don’t notice anyone.

That bit of information may cause so people who already give me plenty of room in exercise classes to move away even farther from me next time as if I have the plague, but it is the truth. I also tend most times to be a tad intense.

Carrie in Tracy calls it being hyper but to tell the truth exercise calms me down.

What I get from group exercise classes is something I can’t get on my own. Each instructor and each exercise class whether it is RIPPED, Body Pump (which I can do without), Insanity, Pi-Yo, yoga (if you want a laugh just watch me try to do yoga), high intensity training, or cardio blast has their own take and unique knowledge.

They will all tell you to keep moving if nothing else and to work on form. They provide the framework and you make the workout your own. Some may jump, you might not. When the move calls for weights, some may use light ones, some may use heavier ones, and some may use no weights at all. If something is daunting or hurts that day you may elect to modify the movements. And if you get confused and frustrated as I sometimes do learning a new exercise segment, you may another movement until the class finishes with the one that is frustrating you.

You listen to your own body. You monitor your own progress.

Some say it works because they have a set time to block off on a specific day to exercise. Some say it’s a way to hold themselves accountable as they feel guilty in that they think they are letting others down. For me, it allows me to pick and choose new things to work my muscles in new ways that work for my body thanks to instructors who concentrate on learning the ins and outs of specific movements, how they impact the body, how to do them to provide the best results and what not to do to avoid injury.


From ‘Body by Linda’

to “Body by Et Al’

Linda Plooh — who for years was the 6 a.m. instructor at Manteca InShape when it was the Manteca Racquetball Club — was viewed by some as a genuine crazy in a good way. How good was she at getting you to move? Let’s put it this way, for years I’d get home and fall asleep by 2 a.m., get up 3 hours and 45 minute later, jog to the gym, take an hour class from Linda that had about 15 guys and 5 gals at any given time, jog home and go back to sleep for three hours.

Linda occasionally would hand out T-shirts reading “Body by Linda” and expect us to wear them.

If I wore a T-shirt like that today it would have to say “Body by Donna, Linda, Angel, Susan, Mary, Marg, Jennie, Tami, Tara, Wendy, Nonnie, Yolanda, Nicole, Jill, Channa, Judy, Joann, and et al.”

Every one of those instructors has helped me to get where I’m at today. I’m a few days shy of 61 years of age and I’m healthy and happy.

As far as my schedule, I do something every day. If I hit a class in town — Cal Fit or InShape and starting in April Fitness Evolution — I will go there and back. It’s a nice warm up.

I had a front desk person who was 19 or so one time who asked why I jogged to the gym every day. I looked at him like he had a hole in his head. But then again it never ceases to amaze me when I see people who aren’t handicapped circle the gym parking lot to try and get a space as close to the front door as possible on a clear sunny day only to go inside and run on a treadmill for a half hour.

I try to hit classes — I get a two-for-one trip when I hit the Pershing Avenue InShape where Margy Nelson offers high intensity training followed by yoga — Monday through Saturday. If I can’t fit it in I go for a long jog. I will skip the Saturday class if I’m able to get in a day hike in the high Sierra. Sunday is my cool down day that is simply a jog and no light weight workout at home the night before.

I’m sure “experts” will rip that workout to shreds. But it works for me and it works big time.

Thirty-one years ago my “old” routine that included no exercise and more than enough questionable eating habits for three people, had me at 320 pounds, ready to pass out after a flight of stairs, and a resting heart rate in excess of 80.

Today I’m at 170 pounds, can go on a 22-mile round trip hike to the summit of Mt Whitney at 14,505 feet and do a 12-mile hike the next day to an eastern Sierra pass, and have a resting heart rate dancing around 55.

I’m not an athlete. I can’t play basketball. I don’t have a perfect body.

But who cares? I exercise and I’m healthy and happy.

It’s unfortunate that most of us ignore truisms about our body when we aren’t into exercise.


Simply put, it’s true about your body — use it or lose it.