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Born-again gym rat 

I've always loathed and despised exercising. Like, on a hatred scale of 1-10, exercise would be a 42 for me. Like, I'd rather eat centipedes with the other Survivors. Well, I recently found out that, physically, I'm pretty much falling apart. Parts of me now protest any movement at all. My heart goes into a panic when I climb the stairs, my feet are better at predicting weather than at taking me anyplace, and the doctor says my knees are in "end-stage arthritis" (which is a stinky thing to tell a perfectly nice person, mister!). Basically, I've learned that most terminally ill patients would prefer actually dying to having any part of me transplanted into them.

Having reached this conclusion, I bought several tons of Cookie Dough to accompany the shock, despair, and wails of "Why me, Lord? Why me-e-e-e?" Then, I withdrew all my savings, and went to a health spa in the mountains. (God knows it makes no sense to have a savings account if I'm not going to be around to spend it!) It was glorious. I have no idea why I'm home again. I ate healthier than ever, slept like a drunk after a bender, and read until my eyes fell out and rolled down the sidewalk. Most importantly, I began working out. Gasp!

I started doing weights, stomach exercises, and increasing numbers of laps in their pool--when you start with one, there's nowhere to go but up! After lunch, I'd put on my complimentary terrycloth robe and have one of those treatments that are the true secrets of the universe. I was massaged, reflexology-ed, manicured, facial-ed, pedicured, tuning-forked, and exfoliated an entire dress size. The "therapists" got really tired of telling me that a one-hour treatment could not be extended to five hours, no matter how much I was willing to pay.

Returning home, I immediately joined the only gym in Carrboro. It's a very old gym. In fact, it's been three different gyms, a grocery store, an office building, a coin laundry, and I believe, a fast-food place during the Civil War. So, it's not quite spa caliber. Their motto: "You want a pool? Wait till it rains!" There are no terrycloth robes, nobody brings me water with lemonade ice every time I blink, the showers don't have disposable shavers and little bottles of shampoo and conditioner placed inside on small wooden stools, and when I want to use a particular machine, sometimes there is actually someone else on it!

It's also not a social-type gym, where everyone goes to see and be seen, to gossip and giggle and flirt, and where the ladies' hair looks exactly the same when they leave as when they arrived. This gym is a place to work, grunt, sweat, and get the hell out. People do smile, and even occasionally engage in a brief comment, but this is rarely intended to invite conversation. It's simply understood that we are there in a mutual quest to avoid falling apart. And guess what? This morning, I lifted a full gallon of milk out of the fridge without having to lie down! And, for the first time since 1983, my jeans zip all the way up! Exercise ... who knew?

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