Joan Rivers said: “I don’t exercise. If God had wanted me to exercise, he would have put diamonds on the floor.” But she’s skinny; I need to exercise because my middle is growing, even though the numbers on the scale haven’t changed much. All of my pants are too tight in the waist- except, of course- for the elastic ones.
I began running at 24, when I lived in Salem, Mass. My daughter Bonnie was a year old; and my high-fat nursing diet had added ten ugly pounds to my middle. I began running in place, in the living room, and when the weather got nice, I took my show on the road. I also rode around town with Bonnie on the back of my bike, and walked, pushing her baby carriage, for miles around Salem. I lost weight and found bliss.
When we moved back to Philly, I continued to run. I ran on days that were so cold that little crystals of ice formed in the hair at the nape of my neck, under my hat, and days when the temperature reached 100 degrees with in-your-face humidity, and people yelled at me to stop. I ran in snow and rain, just like the US mail.
Throughout my thirties, I swam, played racquetball, worked out at the gym, and rode my shiny orange and purple Raleigh all over Philly. In my forties, in Japan, I ran along the river, studied Tai Chi and biked everywhere. I even learned to ride my bicycle while carrying an umbrella. Back in Philly and through my fifties, I biked everywhere. I stopped briefly when I shattered my clavicle in a bicycle collision with a trashcan.
When we moved to Costa Rica, I became inert. Bicycling here was too hard: the roads are too steep, narrow, and potholed, and way too dangerous. Some people bicycle around here, but they’re mostly skinny guys with bulging leg muscles, wearing the tight little lycra uniforms of professional bicyclists. I tried swimming briefly, but fell off the wagon when the rainy season arrived. I found a Tai Chi teacher, but the class fell through. I bought a wii, but didn’t use it.
Then some friends told me they’d lost tons of weight by walking. At first, I resisted the idea. The nearest road to our house is gravel and dirt, and it’s steep. If it were any steeper, it’d be rock climbing. But I decided to try.
When I first began, I couldn’t make it all the way to the top of the hill. I persisted, and soon I zipped along, listening to Led Zeppelin on my iPod, and reached the top in 20 minutes, hardly out of breath. It’s been raining day and night for several days now, and I haven’t walked, because the road is too muddy. But I will.