Column: This side of reverse

Somebody slap me, quick! I’ve been thinking about joining an exercise class in spite of an embarrassing string of exercise-class failures. I am simply not an exerciser. I don’t like all the bending and stretching and I especially don’t like all that sweat. My idea of daily exercise is to hold the remote control in my left hand and coffee cup in my right; first I lift one arm, then I lift the other. Then repeat, repeat, repeat, whew! followed by rest.

Exercise wears me out, which is why I so strenuously avoid it. But about once a year, usually around this time when I see so many other people exercising, I feel the urge to exert myself. There was the time I decided that I need to walk more, so instead of driving the scant mile to the post office, I would set out on foot. By the time I got there, my cheeks were blotchy, sweat dripped off my nose and I was frothing.

Maybe you’ve even seen me on those occasions, standing in the middle of the street, crying and hysterical, throwing myself in front of cars until I forced someone to give me a ride. One friend who drove me home and then helped me into my chair suggested that instead of walking I might want to try aerobics. Been there, done that, I told her, when I got my breath back. Almost 20 years ago and it almost killed me, I told her. Actually, I lasted several months. Three times a week, I, along with two dozen other women, went to the school gym and followed the lead of our Barbie doll-sized aerobics instructor who was so limber she could bend over backwards and kiss the floor if she felt like it.

She urged us to bend, stretch, sweat and, if we felt like it, kiss the floor — activities that have never appealed to me.

She assured us that we could set our own pace. Mine was slow — just this side of reverse. Other women in the class loosened up so much they could not only touch their toes but also place their palms flat on the floor and hold the pose for 30 seconds. I could almost do it, with help. Not touch the floor with my flat palms, exactly, but at least I could clasp my shins. While the others stood in the middle of the gym, I never moved away from the wall beside the girls’ locker room door. It was that wall that kept me from tipping over. The reason I had to use the wall was because the instructor took away my chair, even after I explained that my own “pace” involved sitting.

However, after just one month of aerobics, I did feel much better. Healthier, even. I could dance until dawn and shop without dropping. On trips to the city, I could walk for miles and outrun a taxi and/or a Doberman if I had to. Four weeks of bend and stretch, hop and jump, twist and shout had turned me into a superwoman.

I stuck it out for three months to justify the expense of the leotards, tights and $100 Nike aerobics shoes. Then I decided to quit. One of my exercise-nut friends tried to talk me into staying. Didn’t I feel wonderful? Hadn’t my general health greatly improved and wasn’t it swell that my derriere no longer hit the back of my knees? “Isn’t that worth the effort?” she asked.

“No,” I answered and threw my aerobics shoes in the box with my jogging shoes, my speed-walking shoes, my tennis shoes, my biking shoes, my jazzercise shoes, my bowling shoes and my volleyball shoes. Oh, and I almost forgot, my tap shoes. (It’s a very big box.)

But that was a long time ago. Not only have the sands of time shifted since then; so have even more of my body parts.

The other evening when I was passing by the Legion I heard some lively music and discovered that they were doing Zumba in there. Zumba is dancing but it’s exercise, too! So I’m thinking about it. But first I have to find out if Nike makes shoes for that.

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