Anachan's Corner

One woman's journey through marriage, motherhood, and the classroom…

Running Up the Stairs

Written By: Anachan - Aug• 26•16

Last school year, our high school moved into temporary quarters, an historic two-story elementary school building. To my annoyance, I found that each time I climbed the stairs, I would have to stop and regain my breath at the top. (Yes, the school has an elevator, but I was too stubborn to walk down the hall and use it, when I knew I ought to be able to just climb the stairs!) I tended to avoid going up and down as much as possible during the day because of this. By Christmas, I recognized that my energy level was pathetically low, and I was shocked at what I saw when I stepped on the bathroom scale. (It doesn’t help that my eating habits become very irregular during the school year.) What really chagrined me was when I realized there was no way I could fit into my Elizabethan gown for the start of the freshmen’s study of Romeo and Juliet in January.

I decided an exercise program was long overdue. After Christmas, I began. At first, I walked on a treadmill, which was fine. I like walking, and I could prop my phone up to watch Netflix, which kept me sane. But then my husband pointed out that I would be better off doing something which built muscle mass, rather than merely focusing on cardio workouts, so I tentatively and awkwardly tried out his rowing machine.

At first, it was very hard. After finally figuring out the coordination required, while envisioning the scene in “Dead Poet’s Society” wherein the students were rowing as a team, I would row for a little, then stop pushing my legs and just work with my arms until my breath caught up with me. At the end of each workout, I logged it on MapMyRun.com, which does allow one to record workouts other than running, and I was encouraged to see a pattern of consistency emerge. On average, I worked out at least three times a week for at least 20 minutes, which is what my college PE class always said I should be doing, anyway. Over time, I raised the resistance level, pushing through the pain when the rowing became difficult. I felt pretty proud of myself.

No surprise to anyone who has started a workout program, but I found I had more energy and felt more alert, invaluable qualities in a high school teacher on the wrong side of 45. What was more, I could run up the stairs at school–two at a time, even–and not feel the least bit winded at the top, to the envy of the much younger teacher in the neighboring classroom. And, to top it off, that scary number on the bathroom scale dropped by 10 pounds! (It’s leveled out, rather than continuing to drop dramatically; but, as my husband reminded me, muscle is more dense than fat, taking up less space, even though the weight may be the same. As long as I’m replacing fat with muscle, I’ll look better and feel better, and it will all be good.)

Summer was a challenge. With the dramatic change in my schedule, from regular to sporadic, and with various travel plans, my routine suffered . . . It required more focus to remember to exercise, but I still managed to work up to a higher resistance level. At least my strength remained.

This school year, I’ve moved my workouts to the early morning, as I find myself returning from school at later hours this year. (The youngest is now cheering . . . and cheer practice keeps us at the school longer.) Sometimes, it’s hard to face the rowing machine after rolling out of bed at 5:00 A.M., but I am determined to stave off the creep of age as much as possible, at least as far as my energy level and strength are concerned. (Can’t do as much about the wrinkles by my eyes.)

There is one annoying thing about all this muscle development, however: With my newly-found biceps and lats, some of the shirts I love are no longer comfortable. (I don’t like sleeves which restrict my movement.) But, at least, I ought to be able to fit once more into that Elizabethan gown next semester.

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