Saturday, July 13, 2013

Having nothing to do with pilates

This post first appeared as a column in the Good Living section of The Press, Christchurch

Ken Strongman

The other day, I was on the outskirts of a conversation between my lovely wife (not retired) and two other fine women of our acquaintance.  The discussion was energetically animated, or animatedly energetic, comparing the breathing techniques used during pilates and yoga.  It was something to do with the stomach hollowing on the in-breath in the one and the out-breath in the other.  A surreptitious mental probe of my stomach as I attempted to breath in this exciting atmosphere suggested no movement at all.  Thus I was provided with another good reason to have nothing to do with either pilates or yoga, in any of their forms.

Other than some confrontations on the squash court with other aged partners, my gym preferences centre on the cardio rooms and in particular the cross-trainer.  We even have one at home, bought by my wife in an enthusiastic moment but to what I think is her delight, used by me.  At least it is being used.

The cross-trainer is, in my view, one of the great inventions.  One can go at any speed, with any resistance (including some at the top end that are impossible to move against) for any length of time, using arms and legs, legs only and even arms only if one pretends that the legs cannot move of their own volition.  All the while, a heart rate measure reassures one that life goes on and the calories are being counted.  I really hope that those calorie counters are roughly accurate although there is no way of checking. If not, there is considerable room for delusion.

There are some unusual possibilities that I have not yet been game to try on what I now regard as my personal cross-trainer.  I might sometime have a go at the arm blaster (how can that work?) but am definitely not game to try the X mode. Most odd though is the glute kicker.  While there are quite a few people I wouldn’t mind kicking in the glutes, I don’t often deserve this myself and am puzzled as to how the machine would accomplish it. I’ll only ever find out by mistake.

Sometimes it is worth trekking to a gym to use another style of cross-trainer surrounded by other enthusiasts rather than by cars and ladders in the garage.  These public gyms are a mixed blessing.  There is much comfort to be gained from sidelong glances at bodies in worse shape (it is to be hoped) than one’s own.  And there is some misery to be gained by unwitting glances at the other sort.  The real problem is that, with the ageing frame, the best that can be hoped for is a sort of maintenance rather than aiming at the fantasy body that prompted earlier years in the gym.

So, it is usually best to keep one’s eyes to oneself in the gym – it helps concentration.  Although, it is pleasant to be asked by some young thing how to raise the seat on the bicycles.  The down-side comes with the knowledge that for oneself, it always has to be lowered rather than raised.

Thinking of gym conversations, one encounter began with a question from another ageing semi-jock – having glanced at me, he asked: ‘how many are you pulling?’  At first puzzled by this since I was not sure that I was pulling anyone and, in fact, I’d probably forgotten how to, I smiled politely.  ‘Come on’, he said, ‘how many?’.  I clicked and told him how old I was.  He grinned and proudly told me his age, which was a couple of years more than mine.  I’m not sure what he was proud of, perhaps something like having made it longer than me in the gym.  I don’t know what has happened to him but he’s not been around for some time.  And I’m unsure whether I’m pulling my years or they are pulling me.

Just as a footnote and in case, inspired by this column, you are thinking of looking in at a gym, beware the changing rooms.  If you have not been in one for some time, you will find that they themselves have changed.  The showers are individual and have locks on their doors and there are electric hair driers chained to the wall.  Are these the expectations of youth?

As Winnie the Pooh has it  “A bear, however hard he tries, grows tubby without exercise.”

No comments:

Post a Comment

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 New Zealand License.