Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
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It's All Relative

For the past three weeks I have been kicking ass at the gym. KICKING ASS. And then yesterday happened.

We joined the YMCA a couple months ago and have really enjoyed it. We signed up for parent/kid swimming lessons which include us squeezing our big asses into swimsuits and frolicking in the water with Henry and Violet and ten other strangers. Not only that, but there is a large window overlooking the pool at which several grandparents of other children stand and watch the goings on. This means that at least three old dudes witness each time I need to pick my swimsuit out of my ass or allow my cheeks to swallow the entire suit, which I think we can all agree is definitely worse.

But the gym. It's been awesome. They have a little childcare center located right in front of the treadmills. I can drop off Violet and Henry and still see them from the treadmill. It's nice. So I've spent a fair amount of time on the treadmills this past month. That's the part where I've been kicking ass. Like, I'm the star of the YMCA, you guys. Or I was. Until yesterday.

I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me before yesterday but I'm pretty much the only person under seventy at the gym during the time frame I go. I go mid-morning, after I get all my Babble writing done. As you can imagine, most other able-bodied individuals are at their 9-5 jobs. The gym is chock full of senior step class attendees and the water aerobics lovers.

In Utah, no matter when you go to the gym, it's jam packed with stone cold hotties. Chicks and dudes with bodies on which you can bounce your spare change. There is currently a phenomenon of marathon running sweeping the Mormons. Every girl I grew up with (all predominately Mormon) has become a marathon runner. It's a thing. I could list 25 blogs right here that feature moms who run marathons. Which is great! Yay for them! But it means there are a lot of smoking hotties shaming you at the gym. There I'd be on the treadmill, huffing and puffing like a chain-smoking hooker during sex, and some mom who just gave birth is effortlessly sprinting six miles in thirty minutes right next to me. Motivation killer, you know?

Going to the gym in Utah was like competing in a beauty pageant with a bunch of supermodels. It sucked balls. Big, old, wrinkled, hairy ones. But here, in small town Pennsylvania, I was smoking the competition. I was the fastest one in the gym. And then yesterday happened. A new woman of about my age rolled up on the treadmill next to me and proceeded to pound out five miles in thirty minutes. I know because I eyeballed her the entire time. Nearly fell off my treadmill and strained my eyeballs while clocking her pace and distance. I also saw some of my senior friends watching her with admiration. I even caught Joe (who puts in a 40-minute mile every day while listening to classical music) admiring her form.

And I realized why I've been "kicking ass" at the gym lo these many weeks. I've been surrounded by senior citizens limping through 40 and 50-minute miles. Seniors steppin' to the oldies. There've been no tanned and toned hotties to shame me. No spandex wearing, blonde-ponytailed, silver jewelry-wearing workout mamas who squatted out a kid at mile fifteen and kept on running. It's me, Joe and about thirty other regular seniors who like to watch The Price Is Right and Regis and Kelly while ambling along. I mean, a hot topic has been Regis' impending departure from the show. A lot of my gym friends are pretty torn up about it. And they're still mourning the fact that Drew Carey replaced Bob Barker. "It's just not the same".

It's quite a realization because, while I feel a bit foolish for thinking I'm suddenly an excellent runner, I know that feeling so successful at running has kept me returning to the gym. And I feel good! Before, in Utah, comparing myself to others left me bummed out and unmotivated. Here, why, I felt like a veritable athlete. Running next to 70-year-old Ruth, who admittedly has some pretty painful bunions, still made me feel like an Olympian. So I'd push myself. I'd run harder with better form so the oldsters would compliment my endurance and then I'd strut to the drinking fountain like a champion.

But now... I realize... I'm just a good runner for a 60-year-old.

But fuck it. I'm going to the YMCA right after I finish writing this. I hope my senior friends are all there to make me feel good about my "athletic prowess", but I also hope Ms. Five Miles In Thirty Minutes shows up from time to time to keep me in line. Maybe by Christmas I'll be a good runner for a 50-year-old! It's all about goals, people!

Reader Comments (14)

Going to the gym sucks. I remember a time when I looked great and never worked out. I think when you turn 30, life says, "here, have an extra 20 pounds, just for fun".

November 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKristen

The marathon thing is not just a mormon/Utah phase... it's EVERYWHERE. Every third person on facebook is doing some kind of couch to 5K, team in training, etc. And they all want to tell you ALL ABOUT IT, ALL THE TIME. I run to stay in shape. I have quick dry clothing, special shoes and a heart monitor and everything, but you'll never catch me posting my lap times on facebook or paying an entrance fee to a racing organization to do what I can perfectly well do for free whenever and wherever I please. Settle down people. It's not that inspiring.

My point is... run on, girl. Do your thing. That woman is no better than you, she just has a little more time on her hands.

November 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGrace

This may be just what I need to get myself moving. I have to look for a senior beginners runners group. That's right, seniors and beginners. Maybe I should add arthritis to my search. I'm still going to be left in the dust.

November 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStarsky

Ha Ha yes the gym... i love my gym, so much they gave me a job there...but i tend to go 9.30am so it has a few oldies and mostly other mums who are trying to lose a few kg's. I avoid the 6pm rush, too many glamazons and men in tiny singlet tops whose knuckles drag on the ground... keep up the great work Monica :)

November 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBelinda

I wish I could "like" this post! Hilarious!

November 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercjsmom

This is why I love your blog! Laugh out loud funny! Man, I wish I could write like you! And, run as good as a 60 year old!

November 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBarb

Love this post! And keep running, whatever your speed. You're competing with no one but yourself.

November 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCarole

awesome post. hilarious. particularly the ass cheeks in the bathing suit part. ugh. i dread parent and me swimming lessons for this very reason.

November 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaura Mauk

Dude, give yourself a break--5 miles in 30 minutes is fast even amongst us regular runners. Everyone runs differently, and everyone runs for different reasons. I personally am not a natural runner, but I absolutely love it, so I do it for that reason alone. It makes life better, and that's really all that matters.

PS: I don't run for races, either. I'm an outdoor zen runner--I track mileage, but not time. You might like that approach too. (Maybe using a track instead of a mill, if you want to stick with the Y...? Not sure what their facilities are like.) Focusing on mileage really puts the emphasis on connecting with your body and doing what's NEEDED and feels right, rather than shooting for an arbitrary number. I dig it.

PPS: Oh, and I really like too, if you feel like checking it out. It's great for tracking progress, but can also be good for exposing you to a broader community of runners/athletes, all with different styles and paces. Perspective!

Keep it up, I'm excited to hear you've started running. : D

November 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

I don't know what kind of fun-house mirror you've been looking at, but you ARE one of those smokin' hot chicks at the gym! I would seriously LOVE to look like you! I recently realized that the "flow" yoga class is code for "you might not feel like you're going to die by the end," so now that's my new geriatric gym equivalent. And you're right, I am way more inspired to go.

November 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKate

"There I'd be on the treadmill, huffing and puffing like a chain-smoking hooker during sex, and.." I love you so much. I can guarantee you, this will have me laughing for days!

And it's true.. it just isn't the same without Bob Barker.

November 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLindsey R.

November 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

Omg, i want to work out at your gym. Those sound like my kind of people.

ps. i'm 30.

November 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCharity

I live in Arizona, and gyms here are similar. I won't even walk in unless it's a women-only facility where no one is trying to impress. And running 3 miles is damn impressive!

November 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

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