Generally speaking, I am not a good long-term planner — I need specific and short-term goals. Which is probably why I found myself starting to exercise again just one week before Memorial Day Weekend.
Of course, whipping a 44 year old body into bathing suit form is not a short-term task. I should have started exercising regularly in February. But in February, I was trying to get two teenagers through the drudgery of mid-school-year with inspirational phrases like,
It’s high school, no one is happy! Don’t worry, you’re doing great!
Summer hadn’t occurred to me yet.
Now that bathing suit season is here, I am ready to start using the exercise bike that has been taking up space in the corner of our office. Really the only thing standing in my way is that I hate the exercise bike.
Between the firm leather shoes that
send me sliding across our hardwood floor like Bambi on the ice pond lock me into the pedals and the annoying overzealous instructors broadcasting workouts on a screen, it’s all a little much for me.
In the commercials, everyone who rides the bike is sculpted and shiny which, for some reason, looks like joy. The models are covered with a sheen of perspiration so that high cheekbones and taut triceps glow. There are open mouths of very white teeth, which the viewer notices because everyone is smiling.
None of them look like they waited until Memorial Day to begin exercising. None of them look like they hate the bike. In fairness though, none of them look like they have spent the last nine months ushering children through the school year. Certainly, no one on those commercials looks like they are raising teenagers.
Snapped onto the bike, I pedal for thirty minutes, my knees rising and falling, my feet spinning in big smooth circles. A cute virtual instructor talks to me as if I’m in front of him and encourages me with millennial platitudes like: You came to slay! You don’t have to be extra, just be you! Lose yourself in Pitbull! You are here to live your best life, boo! Half the time, I don’t even know what he’s talking about.
At the end of each ride, I have toiled and raised my heart rate and burned about 106 calories, which is about the equivalent of the lemon I put in my water.
I will not look any better in my bathing suit tomorrow than I did yesterday.
The problem with the bike is it too closely mirrors my real life. Getting to this point in the school year, for me, has been a lot like climbing onto the bike everyday. I spin my wheels, huff and sweat. My efforts seem to make very little discernible difference.
When our children are small, we look for timely developmental steps — making sure that, by a certain age, they start to speak, walk, toilet-train, read. Getting through the teenage years, however, is all about the long term goals. The focus is on larger life skills that we hope to equip them with; the fruits of this labor will not show for a few years.
In the meantime, the short-term outcomes are sometimes downright unpleasant, with clipped responses and artful eye rolls.
Today is my son’s last day of freshman year. Despite my wheel-spinning and worrying, he ends the year a better student than he began. For my daughter, the end of junior year brings a new level of independence — she’s doing great, it’s me who’s struggling to keep up.
And this morning, about halfway through our bike ride to school, my first grader turned back to me and said, “I know how to get to school from here, I’ll bike the rest by myself.”
Maybe all my pedaling pays off in ways I don’t see.
Despite my complaining, I snap myself onto the exercise bike and put in my headphones with the promise of being more fit and
kick-ass abs a stronger heart. How I look in my bathing suit is less important than my overall health, which is good because I probably won’t start to see results until sweater season.
Like my cute virtual instructor always says, You are not your numbers, boo! I think I know what he means. Still, it’s a good thing he can’t see my response through the screen.