For some reason, I decided to set a probably unachievable goal for myself just before my 56th birthday. 56 isn’t exactly a landmark birthday, though I suppose it does represent cresting the wave of the 50s and sledding down the slope toward 60.

After spending a blissful week of no exercise (I don’t count  pushing a vacuum and making a few beds as real exercise) for our son and his girlfriend upon the birth of their beautiful baby, I returned with renewed vigor to my gym, YAS Downtown, where I began to go on a daily basis beginning on Boxing Day.

My favorite class is the YAS class, which is a half hour of spin followed by a half hour of Yoga. It meets on the weekends at a civilized 8:30AM, but if I want to fit it into my life during the week, it meets at 5:30AM, a time when the newspaper delivery man is running through my building like a relay racer. The first morning I arose for the 5:30 Morning Warrior class, I came down the hall, clutching my tea in my ceramic to go mug, yoga mat under my arm, and found the door of the elevator open, a stack of papers lying in the floor in the entry way, holding the elevator open.Almost immediately, I heard the swift approach of someone running down the hall, and the young man, late 20s, bent like an athlete, swooped a paper off the stack,ran past me, down the the east hall, where he deposited it in front of my apartment door. He ran back to the elevator, picking up the stack and said,

Going down?

I nodded, greeted him, saying

You must be Jorge! I’m Els. Nice to meet you finally. Thanks for your note!

The few remaining people who read hand-delivered paper newspapers know their newspaper delivery person by name, especially right after the holidays. And as far as I know, there are only two of us on my floor. About two weeks before Christmas, when you unwrap your paper,  a small Christmas card provided by the publisher falls out of the folds of the paper, with a stamped or handwritten greeting reminding you that someone does that relay race for you every day. My husband and I have been taking the New York Times and the LA Times for 30 years, at our various locations around the city and for the last 8 years, Jorge has been our delivery man.  This year, for some reason, I had upped my check to him, and received a thank you note from him after the holidays. That was a first – I guess I’d been lowballing the Christmas gift for years.  Made me feel kind of terrible. But hey, I have this early class to thank for finally getting to meet him.

I didn’t come up with this nutty goal of 56 out of 57 days at the gym immediately. It took about 6 consecutive days with a considerable dip in resolve at the end of that week to kick me into action.  This happened to coincide with New Year’s Day, a dark day at the gym – (no, I don’t mean a day portending doom); I just mean it was closed that day.

January 2nd- such a cliche – I decided that I would take the plunge and make a goal for myself of going 56 days in a row, in tribute to my graceful slide into middle age. I committed to it. At 13 days, I even confided in Allyzon, one of the class instructors and managers of the YAS, that I had made a personal goal. All of the instructors there are enormously supportive of the members of the gym. They go out of their way to greet you and even (mortifyingly sometimes) address you by name during the class.

How many yoga push ups today, Elsbeth?

This puts the onus on you to raise the bar for everyone in the class – smart really, unless you are feeling like a little Wisenheimer and say 2.  I used to say 5 but now push myself to say at least 7 when asked. One day the girl next to me cheerily chirped


which caused me to repeat her name with a pretty distinct sigh and tsk tsk. I know, it was unsportsmanlike conduct, but it got a laugh, and I made sure to turn my face to her when I said it and smile in spite of the dread  and hatred that was going on in my head.

So, here we are at day 18 of the challenge. I figure if I can make it to 56/57, it will be February 16th. I will be lean and mean, a fighting machine, one month into my 57th year and I can gorge on Valentine’s day chocolates, too.

Yesterday, I discovered that I could wedge this workout in before going to teach my Tuesday morning class at 8AM. And the benefits were gorgeous. As I reached the campus at around 7:30, the light was spectacular.

Heading East on Childs Way at USC on the way to class. 

Here’s what’s required for me to meet this morning warrior challenge. I’m incredibly lucky to live a block from the gym, so I don’t need to set my alarm earlier than 4:50. I have to tell you, it is a terrible alarm clock. I had to get a new one sometime in November when my twenty-year old one died. This new one beeps a loud, steady insistent blaring beep which makes me grateful for my husband’s hearing loss.  It has a large, luscious snooze button on the front, and this morning, I found myself actually in a side arm balance pose facing the darned thing,  considering whether to hit it or not. But I have this thing timed so closely that I dared not. In addition, the universe prodded me to get up when someone’s car alarm outside went off at the exact same time as the alarm. I reluctantly rolled out of bed, put the kettle on, slipped into my workout gear, laced up my shoes, grabbed a towel and made my tea. I then have about 8 minutes to sit in the dark and look out the front window at the downtown skyline. I sip in silence and think about my day, then grab my keys and head out the door at 5:15. It is really dark and cold when I walk over to the gym (always clutching my tea). This morning as I crossed the street, a homeless man picked up something out of a doorway, and as I passed, said the most cordial hello that surprised me. I greeted him with a lame hi, and continued down the sidewalk.

It wasn’t easy this morning. I stayed up too late last night – this regime requires a bed time of no later than 10:30;  I had lingered until 11:45 and was now paying for it. Everything aches after 17 consecutive days of working out and I had already reached my goal just sitting there in the seat of the bike sipping my tea, legs rolling languorously at a very low resistance. But I had made it. When I feel like that I always remember Twyla Tharp’s work out routine as described in “The Creative Habit” where she talked about the hardest part of the workout being getting from the apartment into the cab. Once she was in the cab, she had made it. I felt like that this morning. Which is not to say I felt like Twyla Tharp. IMG_5633

As I left the studio, sweating, with a bounce in my step, I noted the rosy early morning light on the surrounding buildings. I walked to the corner, and wryly noted that there was a small white SUV with the bold black letters “Rubicon” on the side and that rather than my crossing it, it started up and crossed me. I guess it’s the endorphins talking, but this morning madness is pretty cool.

So now that I’ve blabbed to you about my goal, I’ll either have to kill you or fulfill my promise.  I will spare you this time, and get it done.  Wish me luck!

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