According to Einstein, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. Once a month, when I catch sight of myself in the bathroom mirror under those harsh fluorescent lights — the kind that turn pasty white skin into the texture of marshmallows — I swear that This Time, I’m really going to get into shape. My reflection stares back hopefully, like Charlie Brown eyeing the football. There’s only one problem (remember the insanity part?): Every time I get fit, I get hurt.

Marilyn Gillard

Years ago, when I moved to California, land of the tanned, lean, and nearly naked, I felt compelled to try new and different ways of achieving my noble fitness goals. Enter Pilates, the method du jour. Touted as one of the safest forms of exercise, good for all ages and levels, Pilates boasts a contraption called the Reformer, a somewhat medieval-torture-looking table replete with leather straps and pulleys. My favorite part is that most of the exercises are done lying down — a position well suited to my temperament. I signed up with a renowned trainer and begun my thrice-weekly foray into fitness. All went swimmingly for a couple of months until I woke up one morning and felt a large, previously nonexistent lump by my groin. I immediately leapt to the obvious conclusion: I had grown a tumor overnight and was dying. Wrong. It was a hernia. (To this day, the instructor swears that none of her other clients ever got a hernia from Pilates, and she still avoids me in the aisles of Trader Joe’s).

After the surgery, and by the way for anybody who tells you a hernia operation is just a minor outpatient procedure with a little discomfort, please punch them in the head, I wisely opted for yoga: long, slow stretches and deep breathing. I wrenched my back and was in physio for months. I tried a change of pace and decided to kick up (literally) some of those endorphins I kept hearing about. I joined a South American kickboxing gym, whipped myself into a frenzy, booting those punching bags and releasing resentments at the same time. It was wonderful until all that sweat caused my skin to erupt, and the dermatologist suggested that I was not built to perspire. The litany continued. Personal trainer equaled frozen shoulder. Hiking, a sprained ankle. I won’t try swimming, as drowning would be imminent, no doubt.

Turns out I’m not alone in the getting hurt department. Over 2.5 million boomers head to the emergency room each year as a result of injuries caused by exercise. An orthopedic surgeon, Dr. DiNubile (I’m not making that up) has coined the term “boomeritis” and stays busy replacing various body parts in exchange for a fleet of Ferraris.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Regular exercise can increase self-confidence and lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Exercise also can improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety.”

Increase self-confidence? Reduce stress levels? Hardly. Suddenly I knew what I had to do: Change the lights in the bathroom … or at least get a dimmer.


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