I’m losing muscle tone and it’s not pretty, so after a long layoff, it’s back to the gym. As November, December, January and February dealt me a heavy blow, I’ve fallen away, but now I’m back, and I think I’ve finally figured out the perfect time to go.

It’s a very tiny couple of moments, what the military and the CIA call window of time. My window is about 15 minutes between 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. That’s after the older crowd, and before the younger muscle beach gang who all look like they’re there for an audition for an episode of “Survivor.”

Remember, timing — in warfare, sex, health and taxes — is everything.

I previously thought that earlier in the day, around 10-11 a.m. would be good. Boy, was I wrong. At that time I found the entire gym filled with old people, or to be politically correct, seniors. As I’ve said many times, old, I mean seniors, scare me. I know that I’m technically one of them, but I avoid the use of the word because it really just means old or really old.

Elderly is even worse. I’m told that anyone over 70 is considered by all the social services as elderly.

This is troublesome, because I see in many of my age group at the gym what I’m eventually going to become, and it’s not pretty to see. Actually, it’s scary. And in others my age, I see what I really should, could, look like, and don’t.

In the first group I wonder what they did or didn’t do to get into that shape. In the second, I wonder what did they do that I haven’t thought of? So I avoid both groups. I don’t need the aggravation.

That puts me in the 12:30-2 p.m. window. This is not entirely perfect, because kids seem to be getting out earlier these days, and they start flowing in and taking over all the weights, stretch rooms and various machines. I notice that the kids sweat more. Why is that? Do we stop sweating when we’re elderly?

And then there are some of the really elderly, I mean, seniors, who are still hanging around like they don’t want to go back out in the cold, or go home to nasty, impatient children, or just avoid the white bread sandwiches at the nursing home. I don’t blame them. Should that fate befall me, I will arrange for Chinese takeout.

Then there is one old goat, I’m sorry, senior, who likes the abdominal cruncher. Every time I come to the abdominal cruncher, he’s sitting there not crunching, just taking his pulse. He just sits there and takes his pulse. How long, I wonder, will it take him to figure out that he’s still alive? If I were worried about my heart, I’d just stare at the beautiful women on the treads in front of me. If that doesn’t do it, then I’m dead.

Younger folks do pretty much the same thing, only they sit there, with ear buds stuck in, staring at their cellphones. Sometimes they frown, sometimes they giggle.

The treads are a big problem. They come in two rows, one in front, the other in the back by the windows. The front row is desirable for many of us, because it’s closer to the row of television screens. Many seniors prefer this row because they can read the captions better. I like the back row. I don’t like people behind watching me. I just know that some young thing is laughing and whispering, “Look at him, he runs like a girl. An old girl.”

Or that heavy woman my age who reads my column and has heard me brag about my weight loss and nutrition tips, who is saying, “Look at Mr. Perfect. He’s not so thin. He’s still got a belly and stuff around his waist, Mr. Big Shot and his anti-sugar talk.”

I know her. She’s always watching me here. That’s why I have to outlast her. I don’t dare stop walking before she does, knowing that she’ll tell her friends, “He only walks a few minutes, big fake.” I’ll drop here before I let her win.

OK. It’s almost 12:30. I don’t want to miss my window.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.


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