Walking and Thinking of Howard (kind of long)

Posted on 05.11.2011

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When my mom died, I was living in Rosedale. I got a decent amount of money, because she died, from her life insurance policy. I paid off a student loan, invested some of it into two separate accounts (one liquid, one IRA), and did something for my health. I joined a gym.

I’d never belonged to a gym before then, because the only one in my area was amazingly expensive for one person, and we were a family of four. When I was living at home, there was no need for a gym membership: I played sports year-round and we had a pool.

My mom died a year after I graduated college (to the day, which is an entirely different story that I’ll tell later), and also a year after the death of my ovary. I’d come out of the hospital severely underweight from 3 weeks of a liquid diet and no physical activity aside from dragging myself 5 feet to the bathroom in my hospital room. When I came home, things weren’t much better, since I was sequestered to bed rest for a MONTH. It didn’t matter at first, since I literally couldn’t even sit up on my own (this is what happens when they have to go in THROUGH your abs to operate). Complete bed rest couldn’t happen, since I had to either lay in my bed/bedroom and pull myself 10 feet into the bathroom, or lay downstairs (as I prefered) watching tv and then have to drag myself up a flight of stairs to the bathroom. I was so drugged up in the first week that all I did was take my painkillers and go back to sleep. I slept for a week. After that, though, it was a speedy recovery thanks to the amount of movement necessary to get to the bathroom.

At that point, I weighed about 110 pounds. I hadn’t weighed that much since early high school. I made it a point to try to get back to my ‘normal’ (read: preferred) weight of 120. A year later, when my mom died, I had grossly overshot my goal and was at 150 pounds. I accomplished what I’d wanted to, but because I wasn’t allowed any sort of physical activity (save for walking) for 6 months, it wasn’t muscle I’d gained.

I’d moved in with my boyfriend at the time, and he had a penchant for eating at Burger King, McDonalds, or TGIFridays as often as possible. So it was easy to gain weight, living with the guy who never cooked and never gained an ounce. I weighed more than him by at least 20 pounds at my heaviest.

I was disgusted, tired of buying new clothes and tired of feeling that way. That’s when mom died. I took it as a sign that I needed to take better care of myself, and so I used about $2,500 from her life insurance payment to join Bally’s for 3 years. It was a great investment. They had a pool, and in my head I felt like it was a great thing to pay for. It meant, to me, that no matter what happened, even if I was homeless, I would still have a place to go every morning and shower. This is honestly what I thought as I signed the papers and wrote the check.

I don’t think that way anymore, but the years leading up to my mother’s death were really hard, emotionally and financially, and that’s where I was emotionally at the time of her death. I could be homeless and still take showers and appear presentable. That was the idea. It felt more like a safety net than a gift to myself. Kind of like the rest of ‘my mother’, sitting in an IRA. That was another safety net, c/o mother and father’s planning ahead.

I could have afforded a personal trainer, but I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to learn everything I could about how to tone and shape my female body. I bought books. I read them. I did the math and altered my diet, and counted calories as if my life depended on it. It was all a simple math equation. If your weight is 150 lbs, ingest less than 1,500 calories. I planned my meals in advance and had it all ready in the fridge, ready to go.

I became a morning regular at the gym. I would go there before work, then shower and drive across the street to my job. I’d chosen Bally’s because of the pool and the convenience: they were across the street from my store. Perfect. I always worked mornings. Even better.

That’s how I met Howard. Howard was (maybe he still is, I don’t know) a personal trainer, and arguably one of the better ones. He was there all the time, while the other trainers went in and out like a revolving door. He was definitely original: he was probably my height, but heavier, and cut like a brick shithouse. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on the man. He was also bald. He was like a shorter, more muscular version of Michael Chicklis (Fantastic 4). At first we just exchanged greetings in the morning, but then he started asking me about my routine, since I was often down in the weight room rather than using the machines. I told him what I was doing, how it was going, etc.

Somehow, it went from talking in the mornings to me offering to give him a ride to work in the mornings. He lived on my way, and I was usually there as soon as the gym opened. It wasn’t a big deal.

Want to know how to get personal training for free? Drive a personal trainer to the gym really early in the mornings. Howard did this kind of group thing in the morning, where he’d line two or three people up at the same time and train them together. He had a basic routine that we all followed, it was just a question of the weight and reps we each did. I met some nice people this way, and got free training out of it.

One of the things he made us ALL do was walk for an hour before and after our workout. It was the part I hated, because I get bored so easily. We could walk on the track or on the treadmills, it didn’t matter. Sometimes I’d get on an elliptical or run instead. But that walking made my workouts hit the 3 hour mark, and it wasn’t something I always had time for. He always said that walking was the best fat burner, but I kind of didn’t believe him or notice, since the weight was falling off of me. I thought it was the weight I was pushing at the gym.

Fast forward to my move to Germany. When I first came here, I enrolled in  German classes. My only issue was the bust schedule: the bus from my village got me to the school an HOUR before the class started, or else I could take the later bus and get to class late. I opted for the early bus, and learned the city center by walking it for 45 minutes each morning before my class. Once again, the weight fell off of me. I thought it was all of the training I was doing. I think it was a mixture.

Now I have to make the time to even take that walk, and it sucks. But since my ONLY goal for November is to get back to doing something for ME, I’m learning to schedule the walking back in. I used to walk Haiku every morning, and then walk again at the gym. I don’t have a dog and have to take an early bus to class anymore, so I have to find the time to take that walk at some other time in my day.

It’s funny. I haven’t thought of Howard too often since I moved. But I always think about him when I’m just walking. What I mean is, I walk all the time. But when I’m out, just walking to walk (as in for fitness and not to get from A to B), I always think back to him and my grueling, boring walks on the treadmills at Bally’s.

There are 24 hours in a day. If we could all just take one or two of those hours, each day, to do something for ourselves, I think we might all be a little happier and a little healthier, too. I’m going to do what Howard always told me and walk every day. For me. And because I can. And because I live in a gorgeous place that people move to in order to heal or recover. The air is good, the weather is great, and it’s terrible to live in a place like this and NOT enjoy how beautiful it is.

I’m happy I got to walk today. I brought my two cameras along and got some great photos like the one above. I’m going to go out every day. It’s the perfect time to meditate and just get back to myself.

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Posted in: fitness, goals, life