I have been working out at the Body Zone gym in Overseas Market for a couple of months. Indeed when I started here I was riding my rented electric scooter and crossing my right leg, the broken one, over my left knee required me using a strap to support my weaker limb. I have made progress since then as you might imagine. Which is not surprising considering my regimen of two physical therapy visits per week alternating with three periods at the gym each week combined with daily walks with Rusty. I'd better be getting stronger!
Dean Walters known around town as a musician, conductor and public relations specialist also wears the mantle of a nutrition advisor and exercise guru for the elderly. I am sixty one so I qualify, aside from my injuries, for his classes which are offered under his "Aging Boldly" program at Body Zone. We may be aging, and some are much older than I, but Dean doesn't hold back and 90 minutes in his tender care leaves this senior panting. However I keep going back not least because the crowd in the class is welcoming and funny, but also because they take their lead from Dean, a man endowed with a dry literal sense of humor that tickles my funny bone. He is also very good at leading us in a variety of ever changing devilish exercises. His mantra: If it hurts don't do it. I like him very much:
Dean is good for me as he understands my difficulties as he has also suffered assorted leg surgeries which left him in great difficulty for several years. So when I showed up with a barely functioning leg and no ability to get off the floor he showed me lots of useful tricks and techniques to manage. I used to be very strong and it has taken time for me to start to feel reasonably composed once again. I walk with a slightly weird gait, and I'm not yet strong but I am on the way back and Broga at another gym will soon become part of my weekly routine once again, as soon as I am strong enough.
Last Tuesday Dean ended the 90 minute class five minutes early (Yay! pant pant) an announced he will be leaving Key West in a few weeks, after 27 years to pursue training prospects in mainland Florida. Good manners require one to be delighted for his ambition and his prospects helping a gym to grow in Ft Myers, but inside, from a selfish point of view I was crushed. Classes at Body Zone will continue into the summer under new instructors I'm told but a large art of this class is built around Dean's exuberant and eccentric personality. He is our age, he knows our physical issues and he makes our struggles buoyant and funny and in some strange way an intimate reflection of each of us.
I feel silly to be so cut up about Dean's good news not least because change is a constant in this town. I took the photo below in 2014 when Dean was conducting an outdoor performance of the Keys Chorale at the Community College, a memorable and enjoyable evening out. And now I am taking exercise classes from this versatile man who will be gone soon. Time marches on.
I enjoy exercising but only as a way to get stronger, not as a lifestyle nor for the pure pleasure of repetitive boring body movements. My Physical Therapy (below) is a twice a week class with a woman I consider a bright spark in my life, and I look forward to spending an hour with Teresa practicing my balancing, sweating as I stretch my tendons and learning to get off the floor as efficiently as possible. She doesn't seem like she is going anywhere but in this town you never know...
It is I suppose a good thing to be ready for everything to change on a moment's notice but it is also annoying and exhausting. Getting used to the unexpected takes a bit of...getting used to!
The good news is if you meet someone annoying or irritating you can most likely out wait them and sooner or later the change thing will work in your favor! I have started to ditch my walker and my wheelchair is a distant (bad) memory but I have to consciously remind myself how far I have come since those days last winter. Change is a very good thing sometimes.Not only am I able to walk a bit without a cane I am also wearing shoes nowadays. My swollen feet only allowed for slippers for the longest time and I hated not being able to wear proper footwear.
I ponder these awkward thoughts about change and constant variations in the early morning as I walk Rusty, not so much on trails which are still hard for me to balance on, but along empty back roads. My walker is in the trunk just in case Im having a bad leg day but I'm trying to complete a measured mile without sitting or stopping. So far I've done eight tenths of a mile and get back to the car each time breathless. That's how weak I still am.
I think part of my discomfort at Dean's departure which really is an affirmation of his program, is because I am not a great exercise fiend and to work with Dean in Body Zone or the even more eccentric Sean in Broga is to feel as though I am being mentored by leaders. I am not self motivated, but they give me the drive to show up. I feel like this is a flaw I need to work out and Dean's departure has highlighted this. I need to be able to keep on keeping on no matter who is at the front of the room, no matter how weak my legs feel that day.
Coming out of the gym in the early afternoon, sweaty and tired, the electric cart for the lesser abled at Publix looks real good to me. I put my cane in the basket and toddle off under power to do my shopping.Part of the problem of severe bone breakage is the repair time is log and it sucks the energy out of you. Never again will I be able to watch a Western where our hero takes a slug to the shoulder and he pauses to put a bandana around it and carries on fighting for justice. I call bullshit on that scenario. Or perhaps I am just made of weaker stuff. I need a physical therapist, pain killers and a loving wife to coddle me after breaking my body. I'd never have hacked it on the Wild Frontier. Electric shopping carts indeed!
I keep pounding the exercise routines, learning to balance on my weak right leg,wondering what comes next. More of the same I suppose whoever is running things in whichever gym I happen to be. My goal is to be walking normally and getting stronger by the end of hurricane season. So there.
There it is: anther change in my life which to me translates into a broader annoyance at what a transient community this can be! It is neither good nor bad necessarily, it just is. And expecting life in the Keys to be stable is a lot to expect in a community that lacks a lot of the stabilizing structures of more established communities Up North.