‘Mm, this feels soooo good,’ her muscles relaxed beneath the spray of soothing hot water. Anna was pleased that she felt less pain this week than last – she was making progress! After eight weeks, she should be.
“Oh, sssss, ow, ow… gotta stretch more!” she chided herself, as thigh and calf muscles groaned under her soapy hands.
When Rachel had first suggested the class, Anna’s response was a visceral thanks-but-no-thanks. “You know I hate classes,” she reminded her friend of the step class she took a few years ago. “I was looking at the instructor, at the woman next to me, at myself in the mirror, and…” she lost her footing, sprained her ankle and limped painfully for weeks.
No, Anna preferred to do her own thing in the gym. Twice a week she did weights, and twice a week, she did a solo aerobic workout alongside the regular class. Her private spot at the edge of the floor kept her well away from the others. While the instructor called out the moves, Anna invented her own routine, borrowing the music.
Two years ago, she moved to a new apartment. With no gym nearby, Anna had lost the workout habit. She walked everyday and did free weights at home once a week, but those five pounds were on-again faster and off-again slower. This year, with a ‘big birthday’ looming, Anna was determined to get back into shape.
Rachel treated Anna to brunch on the Saturday after Christmas and told her about a new class being offered at the school near her house. Gentle Movement for Older Bodies, it was called, once a week on Thursday nights, starting January 9th.
“Come on, at least check it out,” Rachel had urged, and Anna, already contemplating her New Year’s resolution about getting fit and healthy, reluctantly agreed.
There were twelve women in the class; the youngest looked barely 30 and the oldest could have been her mother. At first, Anna was embarrassed by the way she moved – stiffer than the old lady, for pete’s sake! Hers was not the lumpiest body there, and even those were unabashedly shrouded in latex, which made her feel better. Rachel had always been slim and fit, toned by years of yoga. She could eat bacon and eggs and toast every day and not gain an ounce. Anna just looked at a muffin and gained a pound.
Week 9, the instructor, Chloe, started the class by saying they were going to do something different. After their warmup and a series of gentle stretches, she would play Pachelbel’s Canon in D Minor http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdRNTXaweoo. They were to simply move to the music, incorporating movements they had been practicing in class.
Shwrrrt!! Chloe blew her coach’s whistle. “When you hear that, you will stop immediately. Freeze! Hold your position and don’t move a muscle.” Chloe would then come by and critique each class member.
“OK, let’s go, slow jog around the perimeter. Remember, heel-toe heel-toe heel-toe. And don’t forget to breathe deeply and regularly. Count it out, ladies.”
The music played, its gentle rhythms gliding over her like silk. Anna’s limbs and body moved languidly, transporting her up into the open summer meadows of Blue Mountain.
Uncle Grandpa, her grandmother’s brother, owned a small ski shop and inn. It was packed every day in the winter with avid skiers who came from as far away as upstate New York, Maine, even Vermont. In the summer, it was a peaceful oasis where Anna and her cousins played on weekend visits. Anna loved to the warm sun on her face and shoulders. The smell the soft sweet fragrance of wildflowers, the sharp tang of cedar and pine. Tall grasses tickled her bare legs, the breeze lifted her hair in playful ribbons. Bliss. That slow gentle pace of life, each warm sunny day melting into the next.
Thunk. Unh. Squeak thump. ”Ow, ow, ow!!!”
Slowly rubbing her hip, after checking her skinned elbow, tears formed in the corner of her eye.
‘Why do I let Rachel talk me into these things?’ Anna wondered if she would ever learn.