“Will this turn me into a cougar?” asked Fran as she huffed and puffed while completing 10 pushups. If you’re confused by this term, a “cougar” is a sexy older woman seeking a sexual relationship with a younger man. Three women at work who are close to retirement age asked me recently if I would create an exercise routine for them that they could do three times a week for 30 minutes under my guidance during lunch. Two of them are moderately overweight and the third would like to lose just a little bit of extra fluff. As a person beginning her studies in order to work in the fitness industry, I was only too happy to get some hands on practice.
“You’re well on your way to becoming a cougar,” I joked with Fran. “Just keep it up, lay off the beer and show a little more cleavage.” Right away I realized how much harder this was than I thought it would be. I had to design a routine that they could all do despite their varying skill levels and personal health issues. This might mean for example that one of them was doing normal pushups on the ground while another was doing pushups off the counter and the third person against the wall. Or if one of them had bad knees they could not do lunges or squats and I would need to modify the exercises as we went along. On top of that one of them was in general a crotchety old bag so there was constant complaining:
“I can’t do this! I’m way too old and fat for this.”
“Are we done with this move yet?”
“How many more are we doing?”
“You’re like a drill sergeant! You’re so young, you get off on torturing us seniors, don’t you?!”
“Do we not get a break? I don’t care, I’m taking a break.”
“My ass is huge and it’s never going to change.”
“I have to sit out. I’m just going back to my cube now.”
Me: “Nobody’s forcing you to be here. You asked for my help and you know losing weight isn’t a quick and easy fix. You can drag that ass back to your cube if you like, but remember – this is only 30 minutes of your day out of 24 hours. You can do it.”
I also have to get creative since all we have to work with is an empty conference room and office supplies. As we don’t have weights I had them hold packaged printer paper for the strength training. We use chairs and desks for most of the other exercises. I also have them perform step-ups and other moves in the stairwell.
Today for a balancing exercise I had them stand on one leg and play catch with each other. I didn’t have a ball for them to toss back and forth so I grabbed this decorative skull from my cubicle. This week happens to be the week that the big wigs are in town from the New York office. They were in and out of meetings all day. So we’re tossing this skull around in the conference room and it was at this point in time that the door to the room flew open and all these fancy businessmen in suits started to walk in. They thought their meeting was in our conference room when in fact they had the wrong room number. Some of them were amused, and a few appeared deeply disturbed to find us women tossing a skull around and giggling maniacally.
“Um, what exactly is going on here?” one of them asked, looking pointedly at the skull.
“Are you about to perform an exorcism?” another inquired.
“Not exactly,” I replied. I then directed my attention to the women, making a request: “Ladies, please choose one of these gentlemen for today’s human sacrifice. Satan will be most pleased.” I looked back at the businessmen. “Or would anyone dare to volunteer?” I heard nervous chuckles.
In the end we did explain our true purpose and they were happy to see that fellow employees were taking steps to become healthier, however morbid the steps might seem.
As I continue to work with these ladies I look forward to seeing positive changes. They have already noticed some exercises getting easier as well as increased flexibility and balance which they are elated about. And it’s comments such as these as well as their sincere thanks after each session (even from Mrs. Crotchetypants) that really gets me excited transitioning to this kind of job.