Set Your Own Speed

by Mickie Carpenter


The apartment complex where I live has an activity room with a wide selection of exercise equipment. I am retired, so I usually go there to ride the stationary bike or try the treadmill during the day when the room is not crowded.

As a senior citizen and a great-grandmother, I know my limits, so I pedal along at a speed that works for me. Occasionally, I find myself sharing the room with very young, athletic people. I am amazed how fast they race on the treadmill, and without even holding on. If I didn’t grip those handlebars, I would hurtle off the track.

With my two knee replacements, I’m thankful to plod along at a comfortable pace, but I’m sometimes aware of side glances from young neighbors racing along next to me with their machines set at “uphill and steep grade.” I suspect some are amused by my slow-motion biking, but I don’t mind. They have never been old, while I was once young. I know what it’s like from their viewpoint and from mine. Eventually they will learn that arthritis and a few worn-out body parts often place limits on us.

Some of my younger fellow athletes can’t resist trying every piece of equipment. Why would anyone voluntarily sit on a rigid, narrow board, bring their knees up to their chin, and then push a solid metal plate away from their bodies with their feet? That can’t be fun, especially when they add extra weights to the machines. I didn’t know arms and legs could bend into those positions. Call me chicken, but if it hurts, I don’t plan to try it.

The exercise routines of today were unheard of during my childhood. Running on a treadmill? Peddling a bike to nowhere? We would have laughed ourselves silly! Necessity gave us plenty of exercise. Gas rationing during World War II allowed only enough fuel for transportation to one’s job, which meant that our parents didn’t drive us anywhere. Some of the luckier kids had bikes, but most of us heard our parents popular refrain, “You have legs . . . use them!” There was no hesitation about running uphill, downhill, or across town. As for weight lifting, we got our workouts helping Mom carry heavy bags of groceries home.

Times have changed, and we’ve adjusted to a different way of living today. We don’t always get exercise in our normal daily schedules, so that’s where the treadmills, stationary bikes, and weight-lifting equipment become a part of our routines. We know that exercise is healthy for all ages, and it’s up to each individual to know what is best for them. The young ones can race along at full speed, just like we once did. The rest of us can set our own speed.


Mickie Carpenter lives in California.
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