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Don't Sweat It -- My Lifelong Love/Hate Relationship with Exercise

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"Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things." -- George Carlin

I've never been what you'd call sporty. In my teens about the only time I broke a sweat was jumping to conclusions. Always the last picked for any team, I would regularly play hooky from gym class with the other theater nerds. Hiding out like we were in some kind of fitness protection program, we skulked around the high school chorus room or back stage in desperate hope that we might avoid climbing a rope, chasing a ball or running any portion of a mile.

As a young adult, I spent a lot of time sweating the small stuff. But in the '80s I took a leap of faith and joined the legions of leg-warmer-wearing Jane Fonda disciples. I tried to feel the burn, but mostly I just felt frustrated at my inability to follow aerobics routines. So I swapped my sweat bands for sweat pants, grabbed the remote and dove into channel surfing.

In the '90s I was delighted to discover Pilates. At last I could exercise while lying down! This opened the door to yoga, which I continue to enjoy and practice regularly.

My husband, Harlan, is in fantastic shape and he has shown me that the gym can be a tolerable place. As my 16-year-old stepson Tristan noted in his best man speech at our wedding, "Jennifer is now overall a more fit person, and my dad now watches more TV."

Chemo and radiation compromised my immune system and I was warned to avoid catching a cold at all costs. During my treatment I became Howard Hughes in my germ phobia. In one yoga class I had to move my mat twice when people near me sneezed. I was unable to be fully present in the moment during sun salutations because I kept turning to scowl at people who coughed.

I stopped going to the gym during my treatment last spring, and I felt self-conscious about going back after I lost my hair. But eventually I got my courage up and returned to my regular morning yoga class. Watching the progression of cobras, downward dogs and warrior poses reflected in the mirrored walls, I saw that no one looked twice at me or gave a hoot about my bald head. Going back to the gym was no sweat.

In the Glass family, we are like German Shepherds. We have bad hips and heredity caught up with me on this one. My hips don't lie and they don't do high-impact. So I've started going to aqua class, or, as I call it, Granny Splash, as I'm the youngest person in the class by about 20 years. Through these classes, I've rediscovered the water and often go when the pool is quiet, just to swim. I find great peace in the flow of the water against my skin, and the rhythmic back and forth of laps across the pool.

After swimming I'll spend a few minutes in the hot-tub, then have a little schvitz. In the sauna the steam hisses and envelops me. My body feels well-worked as my mind and muscles relax. While I may not be the strongest, the fastest or the "most fit" person at the gym, at this point I just don't sweat it.

This column originally appeared on parade.com. For more by Jennifer Glass, click here. "Like" Jennifer's Facebook page here. See her Fear.Less. video here.

 
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