The Professional Guest: Sloppy Joe Goes to the Gym

I haven’t written my blog for awhile, mainly because it started out being based on my experiences as a traveler and a guest and I haven’t done too much “guest-ing” lately. In January, I did travel down to the Florida Keys with my high school bestie, Jane, and we had a wonderful201103-w-roads-florida-keys time. She covered the hotel costs so technically, I was guest-ing with her. We were Thelma and Louise, celebrating the fact that we had both turned 60, and sped down Alligator Alley toward the Overseas Highway on a big adventure to the land of Hemingway. It was pure fun. Just like Thelma and Louise, we had the convertible top down as we cruised over miles of island-hopping bridges enjoying the sunshine and heavy, salt-infused ocean breezes. Miles of sunshine. Miles of laughter. Good music. And miles of turquoise blue.

Before entering the Keys, we made a pit stop to gas up and freshen up at the Seminole reservation truck stop at the end of Alligator Alley. On the south side of the parking lot was a chained enclosure with a medium-sized alligator basking in a shallow pond. I took pictures to post on Facebook and Jane remarked that my post should say “Sightseeing while peeing at the Seminole truck stop.” Seemed appropriate.

IMG_3351For the first leg of our trip, we traveled to Key Largo to overnight at a hotel. On the way, I nearly broke my neck as we whizzed by a day-glo green and pink building with large painted signs that blazed “Chocolates,” “Ice Cream” and “Fudge” like a beacon in the night.

“Remember where that place is!” I shouted to Jane. “We have to find that after we get to the hotel and check in!”

key lime pie on a stickAs soon as we could, we drove back to the chocolate shoppe and I indulged in frozen key lime pie on a stick—chocolate covered. I had been reading up on things to do in the Keys and this was on the list. Many dreams and obsessive thoughts later, I was finally putting that little piece of mouth-watering paradise to my quivering lips. I thought I had died and gone to heaven—it was that good. During our three day trip, I ate four more. Key West was great but all I could think about was where I was going to find more chocolate-covered key lime pie on a stick. In recovery circles, this is called “stinkin’ thinkin’.” It’s dangerous and could lead to relapse.

Which leads me to the title of this blog. I turned 60 last year and I’ve noticed a significant depletion in flesh tone, strength, balance and, even more alarming, a seismic shift in where fat accumulates on my body. Realizing that if I don’t move it, I’ll lose it, I decided to up my game a little bit in the exercise department. I usually walk every morning or swim and do water aerobics. There are frequent walks along a sandy beach which is a major calf workout. All in all, I’m a lot more active down here in Florida than I ever was in Minnesota. But eating things like frozen key lime pie on a stick too often has dire consequences for a woman of my age and metabolism. I need to go to the gym.

Tracy BillingsTracy, a friend I met here in Florida just happens to be a personal trainer. A really good personal trainer. I designed a brochure and ad for her and in return, she’s giving me personal training sessions. I drag my roommate, Carla, with me and together we huff and puff, lift weights, do lunges, planks, cat curls and assorted muscle confusing routines. My motives for having Carla with me are less than pure. With two of us there, Tracy will inevitably have to take her attention off me from time to time and I can slack off in my repetitions.

CarlaCarla is a tall, raven-haired beauty, a former model with all the poise and confident strut of a woman who’s used to getting noticed. She’s only two and a half years younger than me but with her Greek heritage, she still has smooth, firm olive skin, an hourglass figure, legs that go on for miles, and no cellulite. I hate her.

We Scandinavians don’t grow sleeker as we age. We get lumpy. And I am blessed with that (cuss word here) “apple” shape—a fruity way of saying all my fat is stored around my middle and my waistline is the fold between the rolls. Carla still sports short shorts and tank tops. I shuffle behind her in faded black Old Navy yoga pants and a baggy black t-shirt. A real Sloppy Joe.


Tracy suggested I get some nice fitness gear to wear.
humpty dumptyWhat? Squeeze Humpty Dumpty into Spandex??? I’ve done many things in my life for which I should be thoroughly and completely humbled, but I still have too much pride to wrap this flabby tub up inside compression garments. The rolls just spill up and out over the top and under my arms. I would have that arms-wide-apart look that muscle builders get, only it would be rolls of fat preventing my arms from resting at my sides. The Jet Puffed Marshmallow Maid in Fabletics.

elbow plankI have exercised regularly for most of my adult life and have nothing to show for it. I struggle through the routines, sweating and grunting, can only manage 5 lb weights, weeble-wobble in balancing, and complain loudly when trying to do yoga planks. “My elbows hurt!” “This is too hard!” “My back hurts!” “I can’t do this!” My stomach never leaves the floor but my back and knees do.

Carla, who has never exercised a day in her life, uses 8 to 10 lb weights, sometimes 15, does 20 lunges for every ten I do, planks and bird dogs with grace and strength and hardly breaks a sweat. It’s really not fair. Not fair…

Today, at the gym, Tracy was working us especially hard and I was tired. Suddenly, a whining noise began echoing in the gym. I thought it was the fire alarm and was about to feel happy to cut the workout short, but the whining changed pitch and I could make out some garbled words between the foghorn-y notes. I realized it was coming from a man lifting weights in the far corner. He had ear buds in and was bellowing/humming/mostly groaning in between breaths to audio only he could hear.


Tracy and I tried to suppress our mirth. Carla piped up, “Hey, I know that song!”  Really? Was that music?


I wanted to double over into one of my famous laughing jags (uncontrollable fits of laughter that go on for 15 minutes or more with tears rolling down my cheeks and high-pitched screaming interspersed with shrill inhales) but we were here to work so zip it; back to weight lifting.

pepe_le_pew_by_matthewhunter-d4id2onAfter an hour of misery, we rolled up our mats and headed out the door; me first, red-faced, Carla and Tracy behind. Outside, Tracy says, “Ooo, what’s that smell?” Carla says, “It smells like a skunk!” Since I was upwind, I assumed it was me. Lumpy AND stinky. Great. I love workouts. Sloppy Joe goes to the gym and leaves as Pepe Le Pew. I weaved drunkenly toward my car, said goodbye to the others and drove home. I was really, really tired and looking forward to a cool shower.

We had a new water heater installed yesterday and the plumber had set the temperature to “hellfire hot.” My bathroom tub has the faucet installed backwards or something so I can only get hot to not-as-hot-but-still-hot water. I was not prepared for the scalding that steamed out of the shower head and I vacated the tub in a hurry. I called the landlord who called the plumber who came by to adjust the temperature while I ran in and out of my office trying to get work done and handle the maintenance issue. Of course the water heater had to then be completely drained of the boiling water, all 900 gallons of it, which poured out in a brown scaly pool in my tub. Then I had to wait until the water heater refilled and heated to proper temperature again before I could take my shower.

Hungry, tired, sore, sweaty, busy, and half wet. That was the majority of my day today. But I’ll get up tomorrow morning at the crack o’ dawn and go for my walk. I’ll do my mat work, lift weights a couple days this coming week, and meet Tracy for another grueling workout next week. And I won’t lose a single pound. Because I’m 60 and I like frozen key lime pie. But move it or lose it.


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