The Aqua Aerobics Ladies

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pool-side-1Three days a week, I drag myself to the gym. I go there because I want to weigh less, live longer, and because they watch my kid as part of the membership fee. I like going there, even though I’ll never be naturally athletic.

In my classes, I see the same people week after week. I’m on nodding-smiling terms with most of them. I notice things about these people I see so regularly. I love the middle aged male twins who sit on bikes on opposite ends of the room from each other. A lady who reminds me so much of someone I knew casually in Florida always bops her head along to the music. There’s a woman who is in almost every class I go to. She’s a mother, too, as I see her picking up her kids when I collect mine. She’s in perfect shape. She baffles me: In spin class, she never seems to break a sweat, while I’m close to cardiac arrest. I’m amazed by the amount of weight she lifts in Pump. While I’m putting weights that look like 50 cent coins on my bar, she’s hoisting on a couple of charger plates. There are others equally as fit, and plenty more across the range of “average,” like me. There are some well dressed in Lululemon, and some slumming in KMart clothes (me). I’ve been with these people who I don’t actually know for awhile now. I notice things – about them and about myself.

After class, we all shuffle off to pick up our children, get back to work, or whatever it is that people who can be at the gym at 9:30 on a weekday morning do with themselves.

I usually wander into the women’s dressing room to splash some water on my reddened face. Many weekdays, like today, it is full of much older women getting changed after an aqua aerobics class. I’d place their age range from 65 to 80ish. They are clad in draped towels or in various stages of undress between swimsuit and dry clothes, and I get a quick picture of where all of our bodies are heading in the future – softer, more wrinkles, less angles. I can see the inevitability, as the aging process hasn’t escaped any of these women. I always listen in a little to their conversations for the couple of minutes I share with them. They compare ailments and medications. “Well, that’s just how it goes,” is the phrase that ends most of these conversations, signalling that there’s no point in discussing it further, and there are more interesting things to talk about … like what they served at the dinner party last week or whose daughter recently married, and whether we approve of the beau. They also talk a lot about the other women in the class – why wasn’t Jan here this week? Has anyone spoken to Carole? Is Rosamund’s trip going well? How is Judith feeling after her surgery?

The aqua aerobics ladies always go up to the cafe for coffee after class, and they are certain to spread the invitation around, encouraging everyone in the group to stay for the drinks and companionship. Though I’ve been crossing paths, mostly unnoticed, with these women for nearly two years now, it was just today that something occurred to me about the aqua aerobic ladies, and that is that they are amazing.

Every one of these women has reached a place in their lives beyond what I have lived. I don’t know their stories, but I think it’s safe to bet that some have buried life partners, some have even buried children. They’ve fought diseases and some probably live with chronic pain. They’ve had careers, they’ve traveled, they’ve made good and bad decisions, and lived with those to this very day. On this day, they chose to come to aqua aerobics class where they leave the pool feeling powerful. And then they use that power for good – the good of reaching out to other people, of encouraging mental and physical health and sustaining a community, of refusing to hide a few round, wrinkly spots because, ladies, we are all in this thing together. Maybe they have always been like this, or maybe it has taken them so many years to get to this place, but what I saw today was women taking care with and of each other. They weren’t casting eyes around to see who lifts the most or has the freshest outfit, but simply making sure there were enough seats at the table.

I feel good after my gym classes, but if I’m honest, I could be stronger. Their kind of power is the type that I’d really like to wield.

10 thoughts on “The Aqua Aerobics Ladies

  1. Yvette

    Oh, Cristin… I want to be stronger, too. And I want to be fitter and just a tad thinner. But I’m so damn lazy. And that’s what amazes me about the women you speak of. I constantly compare myself to those people who set goals and then strive to meet them, while I come up lacking. Oh well. I have to cut myself some slack and just do something about it, right???

    Those women sound like the kind of friends I want and want to be!! Maybe someday, huh?

    1. Cristin Post author

      I hear you. Going to the gym regularly doesn’t come naturally to me, either. I have to make a booking for Hushpuppy at the childcare every month, and that keeps me honest. But, I’ll bet having a group of friends there is good motivation, too.
      I think you’re a pretty good friend, by the way!

  2. Sherry Robinson Svekis

    Having just come back from my 5:45am spin class, I was intriqued by your aqua-aerobics ladies title. Gym communities (especially classes) are often in a grey area between acquaintances and friendships. We sometimes feel we know these people well, but if one goes missing we don’t have a last name or phone number to check up on them. Thankfully, I’m also part of a group that follows our spin coach to an outside bootcamp. Saturday mornings lend themselves to bonding and we do share friendships, triumphs, and losses together. Thanks for such a wise observation. It was a great way to start my week.

  3. Samantha

    The aqua aerobics ladies sound lovely! Reminds me of hanging out with my Gramma & her siblings. 🙂 Or working out at curves (in my hometown – when I was 20) older ladies love curves (and I loved it too) because you’re working out – but also being social & chatting as you work yourself around the circuit. Lol. Good times. I love reading your observations about life!

    1. Cristin Post author

      I realized, it’s kind of like expat life – you need to get out of the house, stay active and make friends. Thank goodness for good friends to talk to. 🙂

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