Thursday, March 29, 2012

Defeated by Exercise Toys

Is there a law that says exercise has to be deadeningly dull and/or painful? Past  the age of 60, it's a choice of exercise or freeze in place. I want to do it, I need to do it. I also want it to be fun. There's already too much on my Gotta Do list. It's a good thing there are so many toys available. Sooner or later I will find some that I can and will use.

I like the exercise ball, but one attempt to follow a Pilates video using the ball was enough to persuade me that the instructor luring me to try things in a sweet soft voice was really a member of a drug firm that produces painkillers. Exercise instructors make things look easy. I should have kept in mind that she probably worked for a year to make 20 reps of a movement look that easy.  The first time, it's probably enough to do 3 repetitions  --  roughly the number of days it took my shredded muscles to stop screaming after my one and only attempt to keep up with the instructor. It's been a couple of years, and I haven't gone back to it. I keep the exercise ball because it does improve balance, and  it's fun to bounce on.  

Yoga mats are nice. They make doing floor exercises possible for people whose knee cartilage is not what it used to be. I used my mat frequently, until a cat decided that the mat was in attack mode and killed it completely dead by shredding it. The mat was a pitiful thing, full of gouges and holes. Now I attempt to exercise on the bed, which  bounces and shimmies. I'm pretty sure that I'm using muscles not originally targeted by that exercise. It's movement, though. Did you know there are fads in the thickness of yoga mats? My first ones were 3/4 inch thick, rolled nicely, and unrolled without complaint. When I tried to replace it, the mats were so similar in thickness to  mesh carpet pads that I couldn't imagine they'd protect my knees. Recently, I saw one as thick as garden kneelers.

Once upon a time, I paid $3.50 for a  child-sized hula hoop. The couple across the hall had just spent $2,000 on something that involved skis and guide wires and took up a great deal of space. $3.50 for a thing that only took up space when I used it seemed reasonable. Hula hooping had been fun in 1958. In 1998, with the largest hoop (30 inches) on the market for kids, I got frustrated because on the rare occasions I got it going, I couldn't keep it up for longer than 3 minutes. It may be possible for people under 5'3" to hoop for 10 minutes with a 30-inch hoop from K-Mart. I can't. I probably could manage the requisite 10 continuous minutes with my friend Martha's adult hoop, but my brain keeps saying, Hey wait a minute, $60 for a toy? There are instructions on making them yourself, but the tools and materials add up. If you're making 8 hoops, this is the way to go.

Jump ropes are inexpensive exercise toys. I thought I'd upgrade from my polypropylene clothesline cord to the Muhammed Ali cotton jump rope with swivels set in wooden handles. Unfortunately I am not tall, and the professional quality jump rope was made to appeal to male folks, who are usually taller than 5'2". The most sensible place to take up the extra  length was in the center. As often as not, the loop caught on things, including my foot. I think I should have gone with the dollar store version for kids. 

Mini-tramps are fun, and I love to bounce. It was safest to bounce outside where there are no ceilings. The formerly-significant other believed that accident statistics involving trampolines applied to mini tramps, and repeated them each time he saw mine. This meant I had to get it out of his sight or kill him for repeating the same warning daily. After months of keeping it in the basement where I could not use it at all, I got rid of it. For awhile, though, I got a lot of practice wrestling it up and down the basement stairs.

Bicycles, you say. No, I haven't forgotten bicycles. I still haven't gotten over coming home from college in the 70's to find that my department store  3-speed bike on which I had enjoyed many picturesque casual rides had been upgraded by my father. My father made it easier to go fast, making it great for long distance bike rides. Too fast for me. I now have a hearty distrust for self-propelled wheeled vehicles.

I haven't found the right low-cost exercise toys. I may have to stick to my stretching exercises and walk longer distances. I'll park the car as far from stores as possible, and hike the length of the parking lot. Unless, of course, it is one of those enormous malls where you need a native guide and a golf cart to ensure that you get where you need to go.