As part of my "50 for 50" series on HuffPost
Clean it, fix it, get rid of it. Damn, that Oprah... Years ago on her show she had one of those self-help hours and my late husband, Andrew Howard, took on the mantra she was espousing: Clean it, fix it, or get rid of it. If you have something in your house you haven't used in 30 days, haven't seen in months, haven't worn in 90 days, then either clean it up, fix it up, or get rid of it.
I pay 24 Hour Fitness $19 a month, and have for decades. Yes, decades. Yet, I'm miserably out of shape. $240 per year to have access to a gym I don't use. Logic would say, get rid of it... but...
There was a story in the Los Angeles Times Feb. 5 2013, about baby boomers being fatter and sicker than their parent's generation. And I myself was told by my doctors in October of 2012 that I needed to lose 50 pounds in my 50th year (yes, I just hit the big 50). I even started a "50 for 50" series of blog posts on The Huffington Post, and got very enthusiastic about losing the weight. Many joined me with New Year's resolutions for 2013; this would be the year to take it off. Then, of course, January 2013 was over, resolutions went by they wayside for many, and I fell back in to the same destructive patterns that led me to be 267 pounds (then, I weigh 254 now).
So, after reading that story about boomers, re-reading the ones I posted about moving forward with weight loss, I realized I do pay $19 a month to have access to a gym I never use. I should either go, or cancel. Well, canceling the membership would mean hundreds to restart it, so that's not an option. It would also mean throwing in the towel, and I'm not ready to do that. So, off the gym I went.
I hate the gym. I wish I didn't, but I do. First, the drive. I hopped on my fabulous Piaggio MP3 250 , packed up shorts, T-shirt, towel, lock, iPod/iPhone for soundtrack (iHeart Radio's Pride Radio or Spotify works well) and drove the five miles to my nearest 24 Hour Fitness.
Just the drive got me angry. Why aren't there fitness centers in every neighborhood, no more than two miles apart? We know people need to exercise more. We know people's schedules are jammed up, that fuel is expensive and that we need to make it easy for people to do the right thing. In my area of Long Beach, Calif., there is not one workout facility within two miles of my home. Sure, there's the beach, and walking the dog there is great exercise. But in terms of a real facility, nothing. There was a Curves but a) it closed, and b) was for women only. And I'm not alone. I'm sure wherever you are right now, unless your office facility has a workout center (and why don't all?) you have to either drive or bike a good distance to get to the gym.
Then there's the dues. All of us being fat is costing America billions. Of the health care costs that will bankrupt Medicare over the next 20 years, 75 percent are preventable through exercise, weight loss and health maintenance. So why doesn't my health insurance, why doesn't everyone's health insurance, cover a premium gym membership? Some do, but most do not. In an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, it was made clear that Medicare Advantage plans that offer gym memberships had healthier people overall. Yet, Medicare or Medicaid does pay for seniors in some areas, in others, nope. Why not? It would cut their costs exponentially -- in fact, why don't health insurance companies for all of us go so far as providing in-home treadmills, weight benches, stationary bikes, treadmill desks? The millions they would spend is nothing compared to the billions they would save. It's as if they don't see the link to exercise and health. They'll pay for you to take obesity meds, most will pay for extreme obesity surgery, but few will pay for you to go to the gym, or at least discount your premiums to cover the cost of membership.
And gym pricing is a mess. Hundreds for initiation fees (24 Hour is between $99 and $149 with a 50 percent off web special currently, then $29-$79 per month for dues, depending on level. Gold's Gym has plans for $299 per year, or $50 enrollment and $26 per month). Then dues that for a family can equal hundreds a month. In today's economy, for many, it's the first bill to go.
And yes, I know many things can be done at home on the Wii Fit or other ways, but many need the structure of a gym to get going or stay with it. I know I do. I had a home treadmill, and after three years, it became a place to hang clothes...
Then there's the gym itself. It seems no one realizes you are supposed to get on a machine, do one set, then get up and let people rotate in. And wiping things down when you leave would be good, so your sweat isn't waiting for me. My 24 Hour downtown Long Beach has a lot of outdated equipment, no steam facility, lockers that are broken... Yes, the one 12 miles away is brand new and fabulous, but it's like Gym-Disney, packed constantly and more like a trip to an amusement park than a workout area. With most gyms it's either hit or miss, either they're great, or not-so-great, zero consistency.
If you want personal instruction, that will cost you more. Yes, there's apps for this nowadays, but many could use one-on-one consultation to meet their workout needs. Some gyms offer a few sessions free, but after that, you pay, and pay dearly. I wanted to enlist a trainer, but didn't have another car payment a month to pay. Again, why doesn't insurance cover a workout consultant? Why can't doctors help you design an eating and workout plan right for you? Why are nutritionist rare, or out of the question, for many? It makes no sense. I called my insurance, CIGNA, and asked to see a nutritionist. They said, "I'm sorry, we don't cover those, but we do cover weight-loss drugs if you see your doctor..." Wow, that speaks volumes. Teach me how to eat right? Nope. Pay for me to take meds, yup.
Taking all that in stride, off to the gym I went, this week, Feb. 5, 2013. It was my first time there this year, in fact, my first time in over six months. I did 20 minutes of cardio on a machine that wanted my heart rate but the grips wouldn't measure it so it switched to a manual program that meant what to me? One needs a degree in advanced bionics to work some of these machines, and there's zero instruction on them.
Then it was 20 minutes rotating out on the circuit training machines. Low weight, more reps for weight loss; higher weight, less reps for muscle gain. At least I remember that. But again, there were people that weren't rotating out, just sitting doing all three sets at once, taking a break while sitting on the machine. Get up, for the love of all things holy, don't just sit there in between reps like it's your sofa!
But work out I did, and thought, I'll stop at Fresh-n-Easy on the way home to get a salad, something good for me. I arrived as they were taking down the sign. Appears the British company that owns the stores aren't realizing enough profit, so their future is in question. Because heaven forbid we should have a store that offers affordable food that's actually good for you at a decent price. Better to put another Safeway or Ralph's or Top Value, Superior or insert chain name here that sells prepackaged food filled with additives and sugars for cheap than a store that actually has good food for you. Of the 600,000 food items available for sale in our country, 80 percent of them have added sugar, for which the FDA allows 56 different names. So try reading ingredients, you still don't know what you're getting. Our food industry is broken, which, of course, makes us sick and that leads to the health care industry. How convenient.
So, this isn't going to be easy. The deck isn't stacked in my favor for losing the weight and being healthy. It's not stacked in yours, either. But it can be done, and I must say, that I do feel better this afternoon after working out.
I don't want to be a statistic any longer. I don't want to be a "baby boomer" that is living longer but sicker than my parents. I don't want the illnesses that can be prevented by simply moving more and eating right. I currently take Cozaar for blood pressure, Cardizem for blood pressure, Lipitor for cholesterol... three meds that could go away if one-fifth of me goes away first. Hiking, tennis, jogging... There's tons of ways, I just wish I loved them. In my 20s, I danced every night of the week at the gay clubs, in my 30s my late husband and I went to the gym almost daily. Since his passing, for 12 years, my motivation has been at an all-time low and my weight at an all-time high.
I know what to do -- and society, or insurance companies, or the health care industry is not going to make it easy. So, I, and you, have to take control of this before it's too late.
I plan on going tomorrow to work out. I plan on walking Attilla, my 6-year-old Chow Chow, after dinner tonight. I plan on starting the best of my life now.
If you're reading this, consider this your kick in the butt. Get off of it, and in spite of the obstacles, do something. Anything. Let's not keep reading about the impending doom and do something about it. One painful treadmill step at a time. Michael Moore is encouraging people on his Twitter feed to simply walk 30 minutes, some where, any where (@MMFlint). I'm going to be posting and tweeting about it, too (@thekarelshow).
It's February. The resolutions may be fading, but your will, my will, must not. More than 60 percent of us are overweight, with many being obese. The food industry isn't going to help. The health care industry isn't going to help. Corporate gyms aren't really there to help. We have to help each other and ourselves. It starts with one step, one day.
Follow Karel on Twitter @thekarelshow and listen to Karel daily online, on radio and in the Karel App for iOS and Android available a his website. His book, Shouting at Windmills: BS from Bush to Obama is available at Amazon and CreateSpace.
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