Finding a non-sweat workout program that works

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Photo provided by Pat Van Dyke

For the past two weeks, I have been going to cardio physical therapy. It’s not that I really want to go, but I read that if you had an open heart surgery and go to PT and finish the program, you’ll live longer. It all sounds good to me. I’m all for this “live longer” idea.

I soon learned that Cardio Physical Therapy isn’t for the weak. Even if you try, you can’t avoid sweating and sweating is something I never enjoyed doing. I have done everything possible to avoid any planned physical activity.

In high school, only two years of physical education was required, but I took four years. It’s not that I enjoy sports. It’s that I hate homework and in PE there is very little homework, which is much less stress on my parents as they had to force me to do my homework, which stressed me out and, as a “smarter than my parents teenage,” I knew it would shorten my life.

After high school, I thought I could put my PE days behind me. I pulled out the threads on my white snap-opening shirt with which my mother had carefully embroidered my name just four years before, gave it to my freshman cousin and swore never to spend one more day in a PE class.

But then I registered for college and the first required class that I noticed was PE. I was doomed. I no longer had my white snap-opening shirt and blue pedal-pushers. What was I going to wear?

I carefully looked at the PE choices: bowling, folk dancing, tumbling, and tennis. One semester of each and I’ll be finished. And I didn’t see a “required PE uniform” and it didn’t mention sweat. I might be able to pull this one off. This I could do. How hard could any of this be?

My bowling uniform consisted of jeans and a T-shirt. But I forgot that I was going to college in Iowa and I would have to walk a mile every class to get to the local bowling alley. I was forced to add snow boots, mittens, and a heavy coat to my required bowling attire. But I never had to sweat. In bowling, we didn’t start actually using a bowling ball and pins until second quarter.

Folk dancing? No uniform – just a lot of Russian dancing. Our professor had just returned from Russia and first quarter he taught us folk dances from Russia. Basically, we spent nine weeks running from one side of the gym to another.

But then there was second quarter. The class consisted of 36 women and three men so I don’t know why he decided that nine weeks of square dancing would enhance our educational career. It meant that some of us had to take the role of a man during this class. We numbered off and I was an “even.” Then he announced that “evens” would take the square dancing positions of a man. I was often told I was “a bit odd,” but this day I was “even.” I prefer “odd.” To this day, whenever I attempt square dancing, I go left when I should go right and “do-si-doing” is a total impossibility.

I knew that tumbling would be a challenge because the only time I tumbled was when I rolled over in bed. This proved to be true. I entered the “tumbling arena” with not one tumbling move to my credit. It was humbling when the professor listed a summersault as my ultimate goal. I purchased the required red leotards spent 18 weeks rolling around on the floor and earned a C as a final grade.

However, the red leotards served me well. They came in very handy for the next few years as I sported a black cape and tried to convince all the neighborhood children that I was “Super Girl.” Pastor Pete did ask me to throw away my red leotards after I donned my costume and ran down the seminary hall shouting “Super Girl is here!” I knew he was in class and thought that I would create a little bit of excitement in his otherwise dull day. I did!

Tennis made me look good….when I was off the court. Being the “girl from California” and walking around an Iowa college campus wearing a shorts and carrying a tennis racket made quite a positive statement. Never mind that we spent the first nine weeks swinging the racket and at 10 weeks, we were finally given a tennis ball.

With all of this said and my personal history of non-but profitable-exercise routines in my mind, I entered the cardio PT of a local hospital. I knew that 25 days of cardio was going to be required, but after being a type one diabetic for 42 years, having radiation for cancer, and open heart surgery, this would be a piece of cake.

Was it? No! It was and still is work. The therapists are wonderful people and they are very concerned with your best, but I do have an issue that I need to address.

What’s with the stationary bicycle? Why is it so hard and why, when it finally becomes easy, they make it harder? I love to ride a bicycle, but I want to go somewhere. Here, after 15 minutes and five miles, I’m in exactly the same place that I started and didn’t see anything along the way. As a friend once told me, “Why would I ride a bicycle? You run like crazy to give your rear a ride.”

They ask you questions. Such as “What did you do this weekend to keep up your exercise routine?” I listened closely to each person’s answer. The first person said, “I folded the laundry, walked around the house putting it away, made dinner, and washed the dishes.” That answer sounded doable, but was met with a negative response by the facilitator. Well, I can’t use that one.

The next person said, I did lots of outside work. I worked in my garden, mowed the lawn, and pulled some weeks. OK, I’ll use this one after all I did “watch” Pastor Pete as he did all this. It has to count for something.

Finally it was my turn. “I walk on the roads in Canyon Lake.” A first, it was met with a questioning stare but a fellow Canyon Laker came to my rescue John stated: “The roads in Canyon Lake are a challenge because of the way they are “crowned. In order to walk on level ground, you have to walk in the middle.” This fact must have impressed the therapist because she smiled and nodded her head. Thank you, John. Yes, walking the “crowned roads of Canyon Lake” works.

So the next time you see me walking, smile knowing that I do have an exercise routine and it is cardio-therapy approved!

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Pat Van Dyke