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Sunday, August 19 News

In the Suburbs / Make way for the gray-haired gym rat in training

I forgot what time my new gym, the Edge Fitness Clubs in Stratford, opened on Sundays and when I arrived at 6:30, it was closed. “No worries,” I thought. “Since I have to be at work in Fairfield by 9 anyway, I’ll just go to the Fairfield branch, even though it opens at 7 also.”

I pulled into the parking lot of the former Linens and Things building about 6:45 and waited. A couple of guys I remembered from my first days at The Edge, when it was located near the railroad tracks, showed up a few minutes later. But at 6:55, a caravan of SUVs, carrying gym rats like me, pulled into the lot.

As the car doors opened, I discovered, low and behold, that a good percentage of these gym rats were closer in age to me. Frankly, given that Fairfield is such a happening place these days, I fully expected a larger percentage of younger folks. Not! The pendulum has definitely shifted and gray hair is definitely in vogue.

Three of the four of us on the upstairs tread mill were seniors. The exercise machines were peppered with a lot of salt and pepper folks and a lot of those same guys I remembered from some 10 years plus when I joined the Edge for the first time, were still lifting weights with the same zeal as before. They wouldn’t have remembered me anyway. I was the slow, chubby guy back then, who just quietly came in, did my routine and only aspired to be “Mr. Muscle.”

My gym in Stratford is the same way. There is a large population of seniors there and a lot of those folks can run and lift circles around me. But what the heck? I’m showing up at least. One guy stopped me on the tread mill earlier in the week and commented that at the speed I was going, I’d never get to California. I was at three and he politely pressed 4 and I almost flew off the machine. “That’s better,” he chuckled.

A little later, I caught up with him on his bike and he said he’s already traveled 43,000 miles, amounting to several California trips. Then he wished me good luck.

It’s only been three weeks since I joined the Edge … again, but since Weight Watchers has been working pretty well - 20 pounds in just over a year, I decided that I wanted to tone up and exercise so I could give myself the opportunity to keep the weight off this time. I definitely thought I would be in severe pain after every workout, but so far, all is OK.

I purchased a small number of training sessions, just to see how those would work and my trainer Jimmy has been very encouraging so far. At the upcoming age of 74 (about three weeks from now), if I continue a steady routine of at least two or three times a week, I might really get to enjoy my gym workouts and become a full-fledged gym rat.

I had tried a gym - Planet Fitness—about six years ago when we were still living in Fairfield and I built up a routine there too. Sadly, when we sold our house in Fairfield and moved to Bridgeport, I just couldn’t get back often enough so I canceled the membership. I did try their other location off Reservoir Avenue in Trumbull, but getting there was never easy.

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This gym is five minutes from our home and if I’m inspired when I’m back in school this fall, I can roll out of bed and get in a quick work out a few times a week. Right now, however, that’s a pipe dream.

For now, watching my fellow seniors work out is definitely my inspiration. If these folks can get up several mornings a week and drag in for a full workout and or classes, I can certainly manage a moderate workout.

Most of the machines are the same, just a bit more modern. And the pain levels haven’t changed much in 6 or so years.

My Weight Watchers cronies warned me that I might gain a little weight from these workouts, since muscles absorb fluid, I guess. And I my weight did go up a little this past week. But I’m still tracking my food intake and trying to watch myself.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to focus on my new training routine, huffing and puffing at times, but making progress. I truly believe that I am poised this time to become a full-fledged, albeit old gym rat. And I really want to get there…even if I end up in traction.

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at stevengaynes44@gmail.com.

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