Twist and Shout

fat belliesI remember when aerobic exercise was invented. My Mom had a spiral bound book put out by the Royal Canadian Airforce. With the encouragement of the pink cheeked woman in a pencil skirted uniform on the cover, you could either run in place or do jumping jacks until you expired, fit and trim. It was only supposed to take 11 minutes a day.

At that time, and in that world, men wore either elastic waist gym shorts and short sleeve undershirts for their workouts, or, as in Jack LaLanne’s case, stretchy jumpsuits with ballet slippers. You had to be pretty confident to go in that direction. Or pretty gay.

Women wore short sleeved leotards that showed a big stripe of panty no matter how far down the fat part of your thigh they were cut and looked hideous.

A couple of years ago I had a membership at Lifetime Gym in Fairfax, Virgina. It was a state of the art facility, with acres of chrome, throbbing techno music, an olympic size indoor pool full of good looking people in speedos doing the butterfly, and a juice bar where the trainers hung out and talked about the marathon they were going to run on the weekend.

It was all pretty sexy.

I tried to fit in, and the incentive was that someday I might, but time kept passing and my buns did not turn to steel.

The more I went, the more I realized that I was never going to be one of the trainers in the juice bar. As far as they were concerned, I wasn’t hip. I was a just a nice old lady who watched MTV for some reason.

But here in Ajijic? Ah, that’s a different story. Closing in on 50, I’m the younger generation in these parts, a whippersnapper!

It’s not just age that makes the gym here different, and really, kind of magical. The wardrobe is significant, especially if you come from a part of the world where gym fashion is Project Runway trendy.

The owner of the local work out facility has a very flexible approach to appropriate gear. No spandex? No problem!

It’s the kind of place, very popular in the States, that has various machines alternated with square pads that are meant to be vigorously bounced on in time to the music. Every thirty seconds, a voice reminds you to “Please change stations, now.” That pace is zippy as hell if you're dragging an IV pole, by the way.

Um, just kidding.

Anyway, there are no codes that govern dress around here, and people are often seen bouncing on their pads in street clothes. silver haired exerciserLily Pulitzer inspired pedal pushers and nurse shoes are a big favorite, and the Canadians favor river sandals and zippery pants made of fabric that allows them to be packed into a coin purse. And a few folks do rock the lycra around here, usually octegenarian anorexics who sport silver Dorothy Hamill haircuts and camel toes. Although in the States this type of gym is usually girls only, as it is assumed that no boys would be caught dead doing the pony on those rubber boxes, it’s more evolved around here.

There are plenty of men who show up to work out, including one old guy who’s always trying to turn down the music because it makes his hearing aids buzz.

But listen, that doesn’t fly at all. We all need the beat, and we all have our favorites. I like the salsa music. After all, I am a famous sashed and tiared latin dancer, don’t forget.

Most of my friends swear by the disco tape for making their work-outs go faster. It’s kind of a carbon dating system. You can tell how old people are by their favorite music to bounce to.

Which is why, if you want to see the energy really go through the roof, you choose any song with the word “twist” in the title. Sometimes, when Chubby Checker is singing “C’mon baaaabeee, Let’s do the twist” the ancient lycra ladies swivel one toe on the ground like Laura Petri on the Dick Van Dyke Show.

Once in a while an exerciser will slowly sink, gyrating, to the ground while we all hold out breath until they rise back up, twisting all the while. That’s a big favorite, and let’s face it, you have to be in pretty good shape to pull it off.

It’s not just Paradise here, it’s the Fountain of Youth.

Elliott Joachim pulled the plug on life in Metro D.C. and headed South of the Border. In her blog, Lifestyle Refugee (honey, what the hell are we doing in Mexico?), she regales you with how a middle range baby boomer builds a new life in Ajijic.

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