I have been slowly accepting the radical idea that exercise is something you should enjoy. After a few weeks on a treadmill, it starts to resemble a medieval torture device, and I quit. Accepting this was the first step in my summer 2013 search for challenging physical activities that I would actually enjoy.
My biggest limitation was my budget. Luckily, I had a community college nearby. Most offer a non-degree enrollment option for general interest classes like physical education. If your local school district offers continuing education classes, they are also well worth considering. A semester (three months) of working out 3-5 times each week is usually one credit ($80-$100). A personal trainer, by contrast, starts at $30-$50 per hour. An exercise class at a private gym averages $10-$20 per class.
In the heat of a southern summer, I was looking for something indoors, but physically challenging. I wanted especially to do something that I could continue at home after the class ended. My choice was a summer course in weight training. Free weights are fairly inexpensive, since a beginner only needs about four sets of dumbbells to get started. They’re often available (along with weight benches) at thrift stores and garage sales, if you don’t want to invest in new.
The free weights area of a gym has always been intimidating to me. Beyond the air of macho competitiveness, I could tell there were unstated social rules, like a secret society. No one seemed available to explain the etiquette of spotting, or how long you could politely use a piece of equipment. So I stuck to the circuit training weight machines, which started to feel like treadmills.
My nervousness at being the large, middle age woman trying to keep up with teenagers evaporated quickly in the weight training class. The students were friendly, and the teacher created a positive, non-competitive atmosphere. The class gave me a chance to learn correct form, how to design a workout plan, basic physiology to understand the effect of movement on my body, gym etiquette, and weight training lingo. By the end, I knew I could march into the weight room of any gym and know what I was doing. This gave me the confidence to seek out an inexpensive membership, and I’m still building on what I learned. Next summer, I might just take up rock climbing.