I’ve never been much of a runner.
Ironically, I have lots of friends who run. You know the type: Early to bed, early to rise, they bound out the door, trot around town or trail, only to circle back home, 500 expended calories later, in endorphin-induced euphoria.
“That was a good run,” they’ll say. I can honestly say that I’ve never uttered those five words in that particular order in 55 years. Why? Because I enjoy slacking off when I exercise. And the whole idea of running is sort of counterintuitive to slacking.
I’ve never been much of a gym rat, either.
Oh, I’ve paid my fair share of the health club memberships. Induced by ads that promise “No initiation fee” or “First month FREE,” I signed up with the highest self-expectations:
“Sure $35 a month is a lot of money, but if I hit the gym at least five times a week, it’s only $1.59 a visit. That’s a dollar for every two pounds lost. Talk about ‘return on investment!’” (I’ve never claimed to be a math whiz. Or, remotely realistic.)
Two or three weeks into the 12-month contract, I lose that get-into-bikini-shape enthusiasm when one of three things happen. I:
1.) Sprain a muscle attempting to lift something heavier than I should.
2.) Develop a crippling aversion to mirrors.
3.) Slack off.
That’s why I became a Water Warrior.
Water Warriors is a deep-water aerobics class offered by Lawrence Parks and Recreation. The description in the catalog read:
“Classes are high impact without high impact on your joints. The workouts use the water for resistance to increase cardiovascular endurance and muscle tone. No swimming skills necessary.”
“How bad could it be?” I said smugly to the guy processing my enrollment. “The hardest part will be rolling out of bed at 6 a.m. That, and putting on my bathing suit.”
I chose not to linger on that last thought.
On the first day, I drove at dawn to the outdoor pool and shuffled over to the diving area. My fellow warriors were already in the water, bobbing up and down thanks to the buoyant belts they were wearing. They were a jovial bunch in all shapes, sizes and ages. I couldn’t wait to join them.
Our enthusiastic teacher demonstrated the exercises on deck where we could see her.
“Aha! But she can’t see us.” I said to myself. “How will she know how hard I’m working when my limbs are under water? I can slack off whenever I want!”
My body felt wonderful in the drink. Gone were the lower back pain and hip flexor tightness, leftover from a pre-vacation “accident” in the traditional gym. I pumped my paddles under the water without tweaking my rotator cuff and challenged my core by balancing on the water noodle under my feet. (Not simultaneously. I’m good, but not that good.)
It was a workout, to be sure, but totally doable with no threat of injury or, more importantly, mirrors. And when I got tired, well, I slacked off.
By the third class, I was totally in the swim, performing each exercise like Esther Williams. I looked forward to cruising happily through the summer, raising my heart rate and toning muscles without breaking a sweat.
Then, as if she could read my mind, the teacher yells, “Pick a partner,” while tossing 8-foot bungee cords into the pool.
She instructed us to tether ourselves together at the backs of our belts, swim to the center of the pool, facing opposite ends, and wait.
“Go!” she finally cried, and off we “ran” to the side of the pool in a back-to-back tug-of-war (think human tractor pull) attempting to drag our partner behind us like so much freight. (Figure of speech. No offense to my partner.)
After two minutes that seemed like two eons, the teacher yelled, “You’re too nice! Be merciless! Drag your partner! Nobody stops until three people reach the side of the pool.”
“Nobody stops until wha…!!!?” My pulse started to race, my breathing quickened. Then, my inner warrior kicked into high gear. I started dog paddling like Lassie, struggling to drag a drowning Timmy to shore.
“Must … get … to … the side …” I panted. My partner tried valiantly to swim against me, but my motivation was insurmountable. I strove not to be a winner, but to earn the right to be a slacker.
In the end, isn’t that the whole point of working out?