by Martha Shepherd.
AJ recently read a book entitled, Fit or Fat, and decided that this was it! By exercising only twelve minutes a day aerobically, we could become fit, not fat. Spurred on by her love of health, she resolved to do it.
I resolved to do it, too, since we both agree that I’m unbearable when I don’t exercise—and definitely not fit.
Our first attempt at aerobics was through walking. Unfortunately, there had been a freezing rain that day, which was still falling, and so this, the simplest of all exercises, was no simple matter.
We held each other up, slipping and risking concussions as we forged around the block. By the time we headed home, our coats were soaked, and we were freezing cold. But our pulse rates remained almost undisturbed.
Our experience that evening demonstrated what we were to have proven on following evenings: it is not easy to walk aerobically in the winter—or in our way of life.
When it isn’t icy, there is deep snow. When there aren’t ridges of snow to walk around or climb slowly through, there’s someone due to arrive at our house at any minute, or we are expecting an important phone call. Between ice, snow, and life, we never did manage to cross the aerobic threshold with walking.
AJ solved that problem by trying another exercise—one called "chair stepping"—but we did it on the stairs. You step up one step with both feet—first one foot and then the other—then down, back up and down, and so on for twelve minutes.
At the end, we both felt some tension in our calves, but more importantly, our hearts were undeniably beating faster. We felt awake, alive—and sweaty.
We felt triumphant; however, the glow of our success was short-lived.
By the next morning, the tension in our calves had coalesced into two knots. We found it impossible to put our heels to the ground, groaned our way up and down stairs, and had to allow five extra minutes to limp to church.
AJ, who is of Luxembourg ancestry, nonetheless persevered with her stair-stepping a second day. On the third day, she looked like she was wearing high heel shoes as she crossed the floor barefoot. But after several hours of extensive therapy, she was able to conceal her pain and carry on!
We are not discouraged! The point of this story is not, as all you exercise-haters may have hoped, that exercising is more trouble than it is worth. No-o-o. As soon as we can both walk again, we’re going to try something else.
—Excerpted from a newsletter, December 12, 1983
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