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Who is that in the mirror?

Years ago, when my grandmother turned 90, I asked her if she felt any older than she did when she turned 80. To my surprise, her response was that she didn't feel any older in her head than she did when she was 20. To my just approaching middle-age body, I thought she was way out in left field. Little did I realize that before long, I would have the exact same sentiments on aging.
Have you ever have had that one distinctive moment in your life where you suddenly, without warning, realized that you're not as young as you used to be? For me, that moment was this past week. While my exercise program is not as strict as it was two years ago, I still get some cardio workouts in about three times a week. When the new spin bikes arrived at Mountain Fitness, I could hardly wait to jump up on one and ride to my heart's content.
My first try on the bike was one of finding the right seat adjustment, making sure my knees didn't come up and slap me in my face as I pedaled and getting the handlebar in just the right position. Pedaling away, I quickly realized I was going to have a problem, and that was the lack of padding on my backside. This wasn't a revelation to me as I come from a family with no backside. No one has one. Once I arrived at home, I soon discovered there is a whole world of padded shorts for bike riders. With the click of a mouse and a credit card, my new special bike shorts were on their way.
With that problem solved, I hopped upon the bike and with the help of the instructor began to get situated. The seat felt great and I could anticipate that this class was going to be a breeze. Well, I didn't take into account that my body was older than my brain. I finally understood what my grandmother meant. After about ten minutes, with my knees aching, I began to tell myself, “Okay, Paula, just five more minutes.” When that five minutes would hit, the same mantra would begin.
The class was 40 minutes long and it takes the rider from a slow pace as you warm up to more intense cycling, or sprinting. I didn't get to remain seated on my new padded shorts for long. Soon, we were standing up and cycling, squatting and then standing back up. After about ten minutes, my legs began to give out. My 20 year-old brain began to wonder why on earth I couldn't do as much as I had expected. Almost everyone else could do it, what on earth was wrong with me? Catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I realized my view of myself in my head and what was real was very different. No, I'm not going to tell you how old I am, so don't even ask!
With determination and stubbornness, I wasn't about to give up. Even though the majority of the class continued to stand and sit, stand and squat, stand and pedal, I continued to sit, and sit, and sit while I pedaled away. I would turn the tension up just like everyone else and welcomed when we were told to turn it down. My reasoning was that if I couldn't do the class exactly like everyone else, I would modify it for what I could do. Luckily, the instructor assured me I was still getting a workout and not to give up.
Surprisingly, the 40-minute class went by quickly, despite my talking to myself each five minutes. My knees had stopped aching and I had happily continued with my ride. When I got off the bike, one of the other people in the class told me to get off slowly as I might be wobbly. Well, wobbly was a good way to put it, along with rubber legged. I have strong legs and couldn't understand why my body was betraying me like this. Oh yea, that's right. I forgot how old I am.
As I put my feet on the ground, my knees started to buckle. I stood there for a few minutes, hoping it would quickly disappear so I could walk over to the cardio room and convince my husband it was time to leave. Hot and sweaty and legs like a bowl of Jello, I was ready to go home, even if he wasn't. I convinced one of the younger men in the spin class to let me hold onto him as we left the classroom. He was very obliging, although I heard him muttering to himself, “Oh, your husband is going to kill me.” I quickly convinced him my husband would do no such thing. One day he'll be old, bless his heart.
Holding onto some equipment while I stood, or attempted to stand, waiting for my husband to finish his workout, my legs would buckle every minute or so. I had to laugh at myself. In my mind, remember, I'm about 35 years younger than I am. Leaving the gym and heading for Food Lion, I walked in with the assistance of my husband, linking my arm through his and holding on for dear life. Once we got inside the store, I decided the buggy would make a good walker. We strolled along with me buckling every few minutes, but it was getting better. I know I received some strange looks, wet hair from sweating, a pale face and looking like I was going to collapse any second.
My husband is a sweetheart. He brought me Advil and some ice for my knees and helped me hobble around the house before I was brave enough to hold onto the walls. The next morning, my knees felt great! However, did you know there are lots of muscles in your thighs that you aren't even aware of? Trying to work out the kinks and twinges, I decided to do an easy work out on the elliptical. I could now trust my legs not to buckle. I just did too much that first spin class, and it wasn't going to derail me. Off to the gym I went.
Today is day two, and despite the fact that my muscles are still protesting, I'm signing up for another spin class next week. I'm going to get back on the bike again before the class and do some short rides to strengthen my legs. I refuse to give up. The class was a lot of fun, challenging but something I needed to get me out of my exercise routine rut. Maybe this time my legs wouldn't be so tired, and poor Dustin won't have to walk me out of the room. Each time it will get better, and I'm going to work those muscles in between classes.
Growing older is a part of life, but I'm not going down without a fight. After all, my grandmother was so right. You really are only as young as you feel.