KING COLUMN: A new, New Year’s workout commitment

Published 2:29 pm Monday, January 29, 2024

Approximately 38-years ago, I joined my first fitness center. I was no longer in my 20s, but I was also no longer in a 32 in the waist. The length of my pants was still the same. Actually, I had not been in a 32 for a while, but they still hung in the back of my closet … you know, just in case.  I had always been active and for the most in good shape. I had played tennis off-and-on since I was a teenager. When I looked at myself in the mirror, it appeared to me that hickory-smoked pork with sweet barbecue sauce and fried onion rings might be winning out over tennis. So, I decided I needed to do something more. I lived in Marietta, Georgia, at the time. There was a fitness center a few miles down the road and several members of our church worked out there, so I joined.  My new club had one racquetball court, and I had one friend at church that played there. He talked me into playing. During my college days, at Samford University, I had watched people play handball and racquetball, but I had never played either. I said I was not going to like it. I said I would rather play tennis. I played one time. The next week I played twice. I’ve played, on average, three-times each week since then, until about two-years ago.  About that time, I switched from racquetball to pickleball. You might think, as did I, that I would never have a heart problem.

I have belonged to a fitness center, with racquetball courts, ever since those days 38-years ago. Periodically, through the years, on the days I didn’t play, I worked out. Honestly, playing a game was much more fun to me than working out, and eating whatever I wanted to eat was more fun than either. I often said, “I play racquetball so I can eat whatever.” That way of thinking almost cost me my life. 

As each year came to a close, I knew I needed to change my habits. Every year, several other club members and I made fresh commitments to do better in the coming year. I made resolutions to eat healthier and exercise more consistently. Some years I even made it way on into February before I began to slide. 

Well, January has come and February is here. Guess who is back in there working out. I’m not playing racquetball or pickleball right now. I’m in a different kind of fitness center this time and for a different reason. I’m still a member of the Opelika Sportsplex, and The Opelika Pickleball Club, but now I am also working out three-times each week at East Alabama Medical Center … in the Cardiac Rehab Unit. There’s about ten people in my group, who have all had some kind of cardiac surgery or issue. 

We aren’t exercising just to lose a few pounds, or so we can eat that hamburger and fries, or to ward off a heart attack. We aren’t doing preventative workouts … we are doing recovery workouts.

I’ve come to realize sometimes we can take care of ourselves before it happens, or we might find ourselves working out in a different kind of gym. No one in my new group is playing pickleball or racquetball, but I know at least one of us that eventually will be, but that’s not the only thing I’ll do.  I’m not going to say I’ll never eat another barbecued rib or fried chicken, I will, but a thick slab of grilled salmon tastes pretty awesome … and it may cost a lot less in the long run!