Thursday, January 20, 2011

"I never even picked up a racquet"

As some of you know, I have been a gym member for about 6 1/2 years. In that time I have gone through spurts of super- dedicated weight training and cardio 5 days a week (with the regular help of a real trainer), as well as months that I didn't even darken the door. Yet I have kept my membership because it is so darn cheap, and I will never get a deal like it again. Since I am not giving up my membership, I feel like I need to use it, so that usually gives me the incentive to go back if I have lapsed in my dedication. For the most part, my gym attendance falls somewhere in between the two extremes- several days a week of some combo of cardio/weights, but nothing too strenuous (this may be why I haven't actually seen any serious weight loss or change in my body in that time, sigh).

Since I am a semi-regular I notice more or less, people who are also "regulars". I usually don't engage in conversation, as I am not one to chat up perfect strangers, instead I prefer to get in, do my work out, and get out, with minimal eye-contact. After I had been going for several years, in the middle of one of my more consistent periods of exercise, one man kept smiling at me and finally introduced himself. (Now before you get any ideas, it was perfectly innocent and friendly- I call him "the Mayor" because he knew everyone and greeted everyone. I think he is at the gym every day for at least 2 hours, possibly 3, so he knows who the regulars are. After that initial introduction I would say "hi" when he was nearby, and this went on for several months. After some time we got into conversations occassionally, he told me about his kid, I told him a little about mine, I invited him to church and he said he'd come (but still hasn't).

One day we were talking and the subject of racquetball came up. I noticed him playing with different partners each week and said I didn't know how to play, but I was intrigued. He offered to play with me once a week. I was very hesitant as I am not the "athletic" type. But I finally agreed because he said it was a very good workout. We decided to play one morning a week, and for the first couple of months I was very, very bad. I missed the ball, I had very little coordination, power or direction on my hits. It was so embarrassing that I almost quit one week, but decided to do 'just one more' week, mainly because the workout really was great. I needed to consume large quantities of water throughout, I would get winded, and I also felt it in my muscles the next day. The next week I turned a corner and started to improve enough that I was encouraged to keep trying.

Up until this point I hadn't purchased a racquet, instead using the "lost" ones in the lost and found, not wanting to invest in my own until I was sure that it would "stick". After another month of modest improvement, I decided that part of my problem was that I didn't have a "feel" for my racquets. One week I was using a racquetball racquet, the next, a junior tennis racket. Not exactly great for consistency. So I went ahead and purchased my own racquet. I also got some necessary undergarments for increased support, which greatly helped in comfort while running around.

I continued to meet up with the Mayor every week, gradually getting better. All of this time we were just hitting the ball back and forth, but not playing a real game. Finally, last week the Mayor decided that I was ready. We played a short game in which I "won", but not really since we only played until 10 and I had to go before we could finish, so I just happened to be ahead. This morning we played 2 games, and although I lost both, it wasn't by much, 12-15 the first game, 14-15 the second, and I got in lots of good shots that he couldn't return. I am so excited to have found some kind of physical activity that I look forward to, something that I can honestly say has never happened, from field hockey and softball in HS to the present mixture of whatever it is I do for 20 minutes every morning. I like the challenge and the feeling of actually getting a cardio work out, without all the drudgery of running on the treadmill or elliptical. I think this sport might actually "stick". Now if only I could find another partner and add another day of the week to my schedule. I think this is the start of a better, more "in shape" version of me.

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