Fit as a Fiddle-Faddle

My stomach hurts. It hurts so much that every move I make causes suffering. Rolling over in bed is now something I wish to avoid.

Why, Suzanne? What is wrong? You ask with deep concern mixed with a little bit of fear…

No cause for concern, at least on your end. What has happened is that I have discovered that I have muscles in my abdomen, muscles that have gone unused for a very long time. Muscles that are having a very rude awakening now that I have decided to get my flabby ass to the gym.

Getting fit could be the death of me.

Last time I went to the gym I took a Walkman with me, so needless to say, it’s been a while. Instead, I’ve been a Runner: a running fool, to be exact. But with my recent move towards 50, I have noticed a swift decline in my poor, battered body’s willingness to absorb the incessant pounding, and recovery is much slower.

The reality is, I’ve never had to “recover” before and now I do. During my last trip to Florida, I ran eight miles on the beach and had to nap for two hours afterwards. My mother’s comment: “If it takes that much out of you, why are you doing it?”

Because it makes me feel good?

So I slowed down and began walking – oldlady exercise. Due to the cold weather and my deep shame at not longer being an athlete, I slowed my walking to a stop and began spending a lot more time reading.

I’ve been reading The Classics to justify this behavior.

And then one day I found myself wearing yoga pants and a flowy top out in public, thinking, “I could dress like this every day – it’s so comfortable.”

Houston, we have a problem.

So, remembering that I had actually loved the gym before, I decided to go again. I didn’t tell anyone that I was going – so sure that I would then have to tell people that it was a huge fail.

After getting dressed, I entered the workout room with a plan – get on the elliptical machine, which I remembered with great fondness from the Walkman years, warm up, then move on to weights.

I was so confident about ellipsis that the thought of it being a challenge never crossed my mind.

I grabbed a People, put in my ear buds, tuned in to Fort Knox Five and began stepping.

And…you actually have to press


And…I couldn’t really see the START button, having left my bifocals in the locker room.

And…that clearly meant no People magazine, so I threw that on the floor.

I began. It felt familiar. It felt good. So good that I decided I would really challenge myself, really work up a sweat. I increased it to Level 2.

Hell, yeah.

I’m going. I’m rocking out. I’m reading the news on the three television screens in front of me.

I’m yelling at the Fox newscaster.


Suddenly, my ass is sticking out all cattywhumpus and my arms and legs are flailing. The beat of the music and my own personal tempo suddenly don’t jive and I lose the groove and am bent in half trying to get it back.

So I stop and get off, pretending that I really need a drink.

Never mind the fact that I have a water bottle with me.

Splash some water on my face – make it look like I’m sweating – and back onto the machine.

I figure out that the only way I can keep my rhythm is to close my eyes. If I open them, I get distracted, and then lose my footing again. This eye-closing serves a dual purpose. When I can see, I obsessively watch everyone else, enviously comparing myself and then quickly shifting my gaze when they look up and catch my eye. Unfortunately, I do it so often that I know I’ve already gained the reputation of The Creepy Gal Who Stares From the Elliptical.

After my strenuous 3 mph in-place hike, I move on to the weight machines. The one that I have been eyeballing with fear and trepidation is the abs one. Problem is, there’s a guy who has been hogging it the whole time I’ve been warming up. Apparently that’s the only reason that he came to the gym.

He holds court – sitting there in-between reps, charming the ladies and being one of the guys. I think he doesn’t realize that they are actually just hanging around waiting for him to remove himself.

He finally does and I race over there, raise the seat, like, 100 notches, and reduce the weight, like 100 pounds.

Like a toddler, as soon as he sees me settle in with his toy, he wants it back. So he hovers.

I twist my body and extend my leg out at a 90-degree angle so that he can’t see that I’ve set the weight to a whopping 10 pounds.

I feel my muscles working with each rep. Feel the strength increasing with each crunch. I suddenly think, “If lifting makes my arms bigger and bulkier, then will these crunches make my stomach bigger and bulkier too?”

Or will it just firm up my muffin top?

So between the guy tapping his foot three inches away from me, and the strain my abdominal muscles are feeling, and the deep shame I feel at my wienie-ness, and my fear of an extended gut, I move on.

I go to the bathroom. I hit the water fountain. I head to the big machine that has all kinds of bells and whistles. And I realize that I have no idea of what to do with all of those bells and whistles, so I move on.

Eventually I make it back down to the locker room, take a shower and admire my huge muscles in front of the mirror. I picture myself in Florida, strolling along the beach, waves lapping at my feet, biceps rippling in the wind, rock-hard roll sticking out from between my tankini pieces, with an ass like J. Lo’s.

Then I put those bifocals back on, don my stretch pants and Mumu, and head on home for a nap.

Suzanne Strazza writes from Mancos, Colo.

From Suzanne Strazza.