T is for Torture and Treadmill

Step Lively or Die

T is for torture and treadmill

I stepped out of the bathroom, all shiny and clean, a hint of make-up, my hair perfectly coiffed. I was all set for my big appointment of the day.

“You showered? You washed your hair?” commented my husband with a quizzical look. “Odd.”

“Well, it’s the first time,” I explained, somewhat annoyed I felt the need to explain, “I want to make a good impression.”

“Odd,” he repeated. “I never shower first.”

“Well,” I said, maddeningly continuing to explain myself. “I’m sure we’re not going to do that much.”

The Big Day

This was it. The big day. I was nervous. As nervous as the first day of a new school year. At a new school. Or the first day of a new job. Or as nervous as going on a first date.

I had put this off for as long as I could, coming up with excuse after excuse for delaying. I’m busy this week. Company is in town. I’ll start next week. Oh, it’s the holidays. OK., the week after. No, next month. The month after.

But no more excuses. No more stalling around.

Off I went to the gym. Off I went to my first meeting with my new personal trainer. First meeting? Ha! It was more lamb to the slaughter than introductory, easy-peasy starter session.

T is for Torture and Treadmill

Without much more than a “How do you do?” my trainer plopped me on the treadmill. And within 15 minutes, that “hint” of make-a-good-first-impression make-up was streaking down my face. I looked less jock and more joker, like a clown, caught in a rainstorm. My just-washed glistening locks were frizzing up around my face like some humidified angel.

Cute I wasn’t. Out of shape, I was.

The only two bits of good news I can report from that first session was that:

1. I did not die of cardiac arrest after 30 minutes on the treadmill, and
2. I lasted 30 minutes on that damned torture device.

Bondage, Not Bonding

I thought my personal trainer and I would use that first meeting, you know, to get personal. Exchange each other’s life stories, bond over pictures of our kids and dogs, share deep-held secrets. That kind of girlfriend thing.

Oh, no, this woman was all business. She was more Marine drill sergeant than future BFF. More ropes and elastic bands (i.e. bondage) than bosom buddy bonding.

After a recap of my medical history – done while I was on the aforementioned treadmill – that monster, I mean trainer, started putting me through my paces.

First, she had me doing this para-military maneuver, high stepping over blocks that were spread out at awkwardly large distances across the floor. Sounds simple? Not on my life! It was brutal.

“Lift your knees up higher. Head up. Look forward, not down. Shoulders back,” she said/barked. “Lift your knees higher.”

This exercise, in which I resembled a Neanderthal drill majorette, was designed to strengthen my hip flexors. Who knew I had hip flexors? Who knew they needed strengthening?

After an agonizing eternity of sweat and toil (50 minutes), I escaped, but only after committing to three sessions a week and also, pledging to come in two additional times per week to use the treadmill (again, the treadmill).

T is for Taut and Tight

Oh, well. All this pain and sweat will be good for me. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but since I’ve started my career as a free-lance writer, I have let myself go to pot … as in potbelly and jelly, jiggly thighs.

Handsome Hubby is too sweet a fellow to say anything, but I know I haven’t looked my best for some time. Of even greater importance I haven’t been feeling my best. So, now I’m starting my new get-in-shape routine. And with the help of my personal trainer, I’m confident I’ll succeed.

What troubles me, though, is not just that my middle-aged body has fallen into such disrepair, but the fact that I need the outside supervision of a trainer to keep me on track.

Step Lively or Die

It’s not like I need a lesson in how to walk or a doctor to tell that I’d be healthier if I exercise regularly. And it’s not that I lack the time to exercise.

What I do lack is willpower. And I know I am not alone. Why do I and so many people need the disciple and accountability of an outsider, like a personal trainer, or a monitored weight loss program to get – and stay – motivated? Is this a middle-aged thing?

When I was young, I didn’t need a “life coach” to supervise my activity level or food intake. I could skip a few meals and lose a few pounds. I liked walking, playing tennis, bike riding. Plus I was vain and wanted to look cute. In truth, I needed to look cute. What happened? When did being comfortable in my own skin slide into this muddled lazy and complacent couch potato state?

D is for Determined

Lacking a magical diet pill, perhaps that’s why we dieters need somebody looking over our shoulder, cracking a whip. Maybe that’s why so many of us go to Weight Watchers. And again, look around a WW meeting room and you’ll see that the vast majority of the participants are middle-aged (and older) women. It’s not like we don’t get the basic concepts of dieting – consume fewer calories than you need, stop eating sweets like there’s no tomorrow, eat more salads, etc. Yet, force me – and the other ladies that eternally diet – to face that relentlessly cheerful WW rep at the scale each Monday at 9 a.m., and suddenly we’re all, temporarily at least, Queens of Will Power!

T is for Toffee Ice Cream

Well, it’s 10 a.m. – time to go to the gym.

Maybe afterward I’ll treat myself to an ice cream cone as a reward! I don’t want to tempt you, but if you’re available, I’ll be at B & R at around 12:30. You can’t miss me. I’ll be the pudgy woman with frizzy hair, sweating like a fool, breathless, moaning, limping. I may even be crawling. My trainer’s been threatening to increase the incline on the treadmill! Maybe I’ll make that ice cream cone a double. That’ll show her!


Treadmill Trivia: Treadmills really were invented as instruments of torture!  In the early 1800s, English engineer Sir Willian Cubitt observed idle prisoners and decided they needed to be put to useful, rigorous work. He then created a device that spun on a horizontal axis so the prisoners would step upward – like walking up on an endless staircase. This “treadmill,” more a paddlewheel, would pump out water, crush grain or power a mill.

Punishment treadmills were used until the second half of the 19th century. In some cases, multiple prisoners stood side-by-side on the device, working six or more hours a day, climbing the equivalent of 5,000 to 14,000 feet. The devices were banned in the late 19th century for being “excessively cruel.”

You can watch a short video history about treadmills as punishment devices here.

2 replies
  1. Miriam Maes
    Miriam Maes says:

    Love the story Karen! It is so recognizable! Are men at our age that different in terms of exercising? Mine definitely isn’t! Warm regards, Miriam

    • Karen
      Karen says:

      Women are not alone in the need for a little “gentle” guidance from a personal trainer or a wife or a retired Navy Seal!


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