We grew too old, Susan and me. I worked at the fitness center, not in the gym or the pool, but upstairs with the management. I worked out the finances. Twice a week, I biked in before sunrise to instruct spin classes. These are in the news lately, spin classes, the online ones. Peloton made and then lost a bazillion bucks with these. When the fitness centers closed with covid, celebrities and everyone else flocked to online spin. Recently the fitness centers reopened, and Mr. Big dropped dead in a Peloton class. The star is fading.
Daily, at lunchtime, I emerged from upstairs, I broke away from the group known unaffectionately throughout the company as They or Them—as in They won’t lease a replacement treadmill, why don’t you take it up with Them. I scuttled down the long, steep stairs in my khakis and polo shirt, the stairs old people like me still use today to stretch their calves, the stairs that bootcamps ran despite my concerns over liability extensive accidents.
At lunchtime I lifted weights—fifteen minutes, just until the sweating started. You can make notable gains in fifteen minutes if you do it every day. The rest of my exercise was running outdoors. Never on a treadmill, I viewed treadmill runners with disdain.
Near the end of my employment, the fitness center offered HIIT. That’s High Intensity Interval Training. Susan loved HIIT. She returned home red-faced and sweaty, jacked up from her class “HIIT-IT!” she yelled every time she walked into the house. I liked it too. I saw it as an opportunity to show off in front of a room full of younger people. Lean, corded leg muscles, cut arms and shoulders, boundless energy. I was a poster-child for old people.
This morning I went to spin. We rejoined the fitness center in November after a four-year break. Eli wanted to lift weights after school with his crew. Susan wanted to take yoga classes. I shrugged my shoulders, “OK, I’ll spin.” My fitness has been in a years-long slide. Ever since I quit working as a spin instructor, I’ve softened. I see this gym membership as an opportunity to get back in shape.
Two weeks ago, Susan and I went to HIIT. It’s a hard class: twenty seconds of all out activity, then ten seconds of rest—eight exercises, four sets. A warm up, a cool down, and a minute to gulp water between sets. The whole thing takes a half an hour. Burpees, sit-ups and crunches, high-knee running in place, and jumps, lots of jumps. The next day, I couldn’t raise my arm over my head. My laundry list of prior injuries leaves me susceptible to new injuries, re-injuries. Multiple shoulder dislocations over a forty-year span leaves that joint sloppy. Bouncing around, up and down, is a recipe for pain and swelling.
In my mind, I’ve rebranded the class High Impact Interval Training—better suited for thirty-year-olds than sixty-year-olds. The other day, Susan and I walked around our neighborhood. We do this a couple of times a week, nights when neither of us plan any aerobic exercise. She mentioned that her knee was still twinging from the HIIT class. “Wow, I guess we’re too old for HIIT.”
I’ve fought hard against aging out of activities. I’m still running, I just restarted mountain biking a few years ago. Hiking, kayaking, some light weights (that shoulder!)—I’ve modified with age. I think my days of eighteen-mile weekend runs are behind me now, but it’s all still on my activity list. It looks like HIIT is now off limits. It’s the first activity I’ve dropped altogether.
I’m not sure I’m too broken up about it. Thirty minutes isn’t long enough for an exercise session. After forty-five minutes to an hour, I hit a meditative state that benefits me for the rest of the day. I don’t get that from HIIT. And that after exercise glow is my favorite part of the workout. Plus, I’m not fit enough to show off anymore. My tongue drags on the floor along with everyone else’s.
Spin seems to be the best indoor exercise for me. It builds my aerobic capacity, something I sorely need right now for mountain biking. For the past two years I’ve had trouble keeping up with the other riders after I hit the one-hour mark of a ride. Spin is helping bridge the gap between fall and spring. For once, I’d like to start spring more fit than I ended fall.
We’re buying gym memberships three months at a time. I have a hard time believing that I’ll want to ride a bike indoors when warmth and daylight return. But I suspect that Susan and Eli will want to keep using the membership. They can’t just transition yoga and weightlifting outdoors because the weather is nice. Maybe I’ll spin all summer. I did that as a spin instructor, and I’ve never been more fit.