Close to a year ago, I injured my ankle in a totally klutzy move. I ended up going to physical therapy, which I initially dreaded, but then grew to see the wisdom of as my ankle started to feel better than it had in months. In addition to helping my ankle to heal, PT also began the healing of my physical self-esteem.
I was never much of an athlete as a kid. In my twenties, however, I discovered dance aerobics, and then dance – first jazz, then tap. While I’ll never be mistaken for Denise Austin, Bob Fosse or a Rockette, I found both aerobics and dance to be fun ways to exercise – or, in my case, trick myself into exercising.
Then, in my thirties, I got married, had a baby and stopped exercising. The only forms of exercise I actually enjoyed were too difficult to work into my schedule, and while I went for the occasional walk with my outdoorsy husband, I preferred walking the mall to walking around the block.
The resulting combination of the aging process and the demise of exercise was not pretty. While I’m not in terrible shape, I’m not exactly a perfect physical specimen either. Hurting my ankle – not just the clumsiness which induced it, but the aftereffects of the injury itself – shed a glaring light on just how much flexibility and balance (not to mention toning) had been lost to the passage of time and sheer laziness.
Enter the next benefit of PT. Once I reacquainted my body with the concept of exercise it was, to my surprise, eager for more. I was pretty much right in the middle of the age range of the clients served at the PT facility, and so I stopped thinking of the gym as a place exclusively for young, fit twenty-somethings and went in search of one for rusty forty-somethings.
I found it –in pretty much the first place I looked - and I eagerly signed on. Now that the hot weather has arrived, however, I’m having wardrobe issues. The jogging pants that served me so well in the winter are likely to induce not only sweat, but swooning after only a short time on the treadmill. The shorts I break out only after both the heat and humidity threaten to do me in are a good fit for errands, but not for the gym. So, when my husband wanted to go into our local sporting goods chain the other night, I thought, why not?
In approximately five minutes, the available options in fitness wear led me beyond depression, threatening to reverse my physical self-esteem to pre-PT levels. I was going to the gym. I was trying to be healthy. All I wanted was a reasonably flattering, not-too-revealing piece of clothing to put on the lower half of my body. While my twenty-something fit self probably would have had lots of options, my forty-something, writer mama, trying-to-get-fit self was ready to have a fit.
Granted, I am a relatively modest person, one who believes that women of a certain age (in particular) need to consider carefully whether or not the general public wants to see what they are showing. And I promise you, no one would want to see what I’d be showing in those clothes.
It was maddening. I don’t know whether I was angrier with the store for its narrow market focus or with myself for allowing marketing and inanimate objects to suck away my self-esteem.
I left empty-handed, seeking retail therapy in stores whose wares did not include clothing. Once I had put some distance between myself and the offending items, it didn’t take me long to realize that basing my self-worth on how I looked in a pair of too-tight, stretchy Lycra shorts was neurotic at best, and to determine that going to the gym and preserving the health of my body, no matter how imperfect it may be, was much more important. That’s the nice thing about rediscovered self-esteem – it can be as elastic as those frighteningly inappropriate exercise pants.
Still, I’m left wondering…where does a 40-something work-in-progress go to find exercise clothes that are cool both in terms of temperature and style? Still searching…and open for suggestions. Meanwhile, I’ll just keep washing the same tired pair of shorts which cover what needs covering. Even if they do leave something to be desired in the fashion statement department, they’re functional, and at the moment, they beat the available options.