all of the selves we Have ever been
Ever on the lookout
for the express train to health and wellness as I age, I read an article reporting that jumping twenty times twice a day can improve bone health in seniors. Wow! That sounds easy. I walk every day, stretch a few times a week, do some light weights. How hard can it be to jump?
I wait for the neighbor in the apartment below to pull out of the parking lot, and I head for the back bedroom.
I ponder for a few minutes. What did the author mean exactly by “jumping?” Is that just plain old up and down? Jumping rope? Jumping on something? Jumping off? Realizing I’m making this complicated enough to talk myself into giving up before I even begin (which explains why I am always on the lookout for the express train), I settle on the standard, time-tested jumping jack. How many of those have I done in my life? Sounds of Robert Preston, the Music Man, singing the 1962 Youth Fitness Song and visions of high school gym class come to mind: “…clap and jump and stride, known as the jumping-jack far and wide…” Yes, sir! Go, you chicken fat, go! I’m all in…
I take the first jump and immediately realize this is much harder than it sounds. My body feels dead and heavy like a wrecking ball. By the third jump I can feel my heart racing and hear it pounding in my ears. I wonder if the neighbors will be calling to complain. The window blinds vibrate, and stuff begins to shift on the shelves. I enter into negotiations with myself, maybe I’ll start with ten today.
By five I’ve called out my inner drill sergeant, and I’m shouting at myself, don’t be a loser! The intimidated new recruit in me is wondering if it’s possible for my knees to end up where my hips used to be. I realize that if my leg bones don’t crumble and I continue with this, I’m definitely going to need an iron support bra.
I deride myself onward, and I make it to ten. I’ve worked up a sweat, and I realize this takes some balance. My mantra becomes: Don’t fall. Don’t fall… How will I explain my injuries to the emergency squad? My eyeglasses flop up and down striking my forehead and slapping my nose. My sweatpants are sliding down my hips. I’m working up an appetite. By fifteen I re-open negotiations—maybe I’ll do twenty jumps once a day—just for starters.
Eighteen…nineteen…twenty. Yahoo! Everyone sing: Go, you chicken fat, go!
I plop in the recliner. Back to pondering. When was the last time I jumped? I try to think of why it is I haven’t jumped, but then why DO people jump? Except for basketball stars and gymnasts, I just can’t picture it. No wonder adult bones are crumbling.
And yet, I feel strangely invigorated and a little proud. I laugh at myself and my new definition of success. I chuckle at my memories of gym class and remind myself to call my best friend from high school. It will end up a long and hilarious conversation as it usually does when we get to remembering such things.
Why do people jump?
Why, for joy, of course. People jump for joy!
I think I will try this again tomorrow. Go, you chicken fat, go!
This essay first appeared in the New Hampshire Senior Beacon, November 2019.