Movement: Body

Jun 15, 2021 | Fitness

Couch Potato-ing

As things began to shut down due to the pandemic, it became clear to me that I would not be getting my money’s worth from the gym membership that I had not been getting my money’s worth out of for two years. The previous two years was entirely my fault; the pandemic was not. But if you’ve ever tried to cancel a gym membership, imagine trying to do it during the early stages of indefinite “lock-down,” when the doors are locked and no one seems to be minding the store.

It was painful, but I got it done. And put on about 10 pounds of stress-eating comfort food. Newly retired, I had the luxury of being able to sleep in, but the desire to do it was less. My stress levels dropped to nothing. The desire to dawdle over coffee and social media was strong, though. No exercise, no travel, plenty of quality time on the couch – that’ll do things to you. I did not hire a personal trainer remotely. Probably should have.

Last week, I felt my resolve returning. I joined the YMCA. I hadn’t joined while I was working, because their hours don’t run late enough and I knew I’d get even less of my money’s worth there than I would at the overpriced gym I wasn’t going to. But now, the daily commute is a distant memory, and I’m enjoying being able to do things during the day, when it’s less crowded. The YMCA is a good deal, at about half the cost of the gym membership. The one nearest me was practically rebuilt and outfitted with state of the art equipment after drowning itself in the floodwaters of Hurricane Harvey. It is clean, it is gorgeous…it has a POOL. Two pools! One indoors, one outside. Hey, that matters, with temperatures climbing into the 90s by 10 AM.

I know me, though. Left to my own devices, I’d be reading by the poolside all summer, dipping a toe in now and then to cool off, doing nothing about the dwindling strength and stamina from a year of couch-potato-ing. And so I made a reservation for a swim lane. 8 AM on a Saturday morning. Yikes. That meant leaving the house before coffee (almost).

Leisurely Laps

It was glorious. The water was just the right temperature – not so cold that the nerves encircling my waist caused me to levitate, impossibly, above the surface while squealing like a mouse; not so warm that I felt like I was sweating 5 laps in. I only managed 15 minutes of serious, non-stop lap swimming, but it’s a start. I left feeling energized, breathing deeply, and deeply relaxed.

I logged it manually, after calculating how many yards I swam. Garmin said I burned almost 300 calories. I’m not sure if I believe that, but I’ll pretend that I do – it’s a motivator! In fact, I committed to doing this at least three times a week. I used to practically sleep through 100 laps; now 7 (50 yards each) feels like work. But it’s good work.

Speaking of Garmin, I’ve switched from Fitbit to the Garmin vivoactive 4s:

That’s an affiliate link, by the way. Again, mostly for convenience’s sake: yours and mine. I had hung onto my Fitbit, and was enjoying challenges with friends, until one day, my stats started looking way too impressive – Fitbit gave me some massive award and friends started saying, “Wow!” and I looked to see what was up. Lo, and behold: Fitbit claimed I’d walked something like 40 miles in a single day! Woo hoo!

Jesus. Talk about your participation trophies. Folks, I hadn’t walked 2000 steps, that day. I don’t know what was wrong with Fitbit, but I couldn’t edit and delete that and no way could I let anyone think I was walking 40 miles in a single day. They know better. And I’m not down with cheating the system like that, so that system had to go. This wasn’t the first time – a few years ago, we toured an old battleship and Fitbit claimed I’d climbed something like 80 flights of stairs. I mean, I’d gone up and down the decks a few times, but that was ridiculous.

Anyway, the worst thing Garmin’s done to me so far is make it look like I’m not breathing. Its pulse ox readings are little low (alarmingly, if believed – but I’ve compared at the doctor’s office). At least it is consistently low, so if I just add 6 to whatever the number is, it comes out right. And Garmin gives me cute little maps of the places I’ve walked, along with how fast or how leisurely the stroll was.

Playful Leaps

I felt so good after that swim that I signed up for a water aerobics class. I got back around 9:15 AM, took a shower, and I’m now struggling to stay awake, I’m so relaxed. And look at this:

I didn’t believe that calorie burn, so I looked it up – according to Google, water aerobics does actually burn that many calories (I added a few laps to the cool-down, but nothing athletic). It doesn’t feel the same when you’re not red-faced, white around the mouth, and sweating so hard your clothes are as wet as if you jumped into the pool fully dressed. I could get definitely get used to this. By the end of the summer, I’m joining the synchronized line-dance team.

After all of this wonderful, full-body exercise, I was high on the endorphin rush. Too relaxed and limp to move. I am ashamed to admit that I spent much of the rest of the day surfing – the Internet, of course. But, Piscean creature that I am, my favorite post of the day was this one, on LinkedIn:

Oh, to be a sea lion, even for a moment. Jump into the pool and close your eyes…







Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle, illustrated by Jordan Vinyard; A Puppy, Not a Guppy, illustrated by Ryan Shaw; and the newest release: A New Leaf for Lyle, illustrated by Carrie Salazar. She draws inspiration from her family, from her own childhood adventures (some of which only happened in her overactive imagination), and from readers both young and young-at-heart. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, J.J., whose love and encouragement make writing books twice the fun.


  1. Sabrina

    Check your email to confirm your subscription.

    your story is incredible. In the last few days I started doing some exercises like calisthenics. And I started to practice running.

    • Holly Jahangiri

      Good for you! I need to get back to being comfortable working out in front of other humans. 🤣

      • Airton

        after this pandemic I forgot what social life is. I also need to relearn how to work out in front of others of my kind hahaha.

        • Holly Jahangiri

          Oh, yeah – that’s going to be a rude awakening for many. I’m glad I’m retired and don’t have to crawl out of my cave to deal with others as often! 🙂 Let the extroverts party in the office!

  2. Jill E Ebstein

    Love everything about this! THe honesty, the message, the resolve, and your last line: Oh, to be a sea lion, even for a moment

    Your accountability partner

    • Holly Jahangiri

      Don’t those sea lions look utterly joyful? 😊

  3. Mitchell Allen

    Sounds like you’re getting your money’s worth from the YMCA and the Garmin doohickey. I’ve got to get back to my daily walk routine. But, each day that an egg fries on the sidewalk is another day of couch-potatoing. LOL


    Mitchell Allen recently posted…Anagram Fill-in PuzzleMy Profile

  4. Jill E Ebstein

    My favorite line: By the end of the summer, I’m joining the synchronized line-dance team.

    You go girl!!!! I am right there with you, slowly working to regain fitness and make it more of a fun process than something I need to conquer tomorrow. We will help each other stay accountable 🙂

    • Holly Jahangiri

      Yes, it has to be fun or it won’t stick. Well – it has to be fun and/or show results, eh? Or other things, like chocolate cake, will surely stick – to our ribs! 😀

    • Holly Jahangiri

      The water exercise group even has a private facebook group and does fun things (which I’ve so far had to miss, unfortunately) like “Hat Day” (picture day, everyone wearing their best hats) or a Beatles sing-along.

  5. Mitch Mitchell

    I’m glad you’ve found something you like in working towards better health, and I hope you can stick with it. It’s too bad your Fitbit lost its mind; I’ve always enjoyed Fitbit and the two different models I’ve owned. I hope you can stick with the YMCA trek for as long as possible; I’m sure I’ll hear about it if, in around 6 months or so, you report that you’ve stopped going for whatever reason. lol
    Mitch Mitchell recently posted…Content Is An Electronic Emperor?My Profile

  6. Holly Jahangiri

    Mitch Mitchell! Shame on you!! (You know, I read this too fast and thought it was from Mitchell Allen and almost asked if you’d put him up to posting that last bit! You… oooh, my accountability partner, know my habits AND my psychology TOO well and have figured out that now I’m going to HAVE to prove you wrong!) OFF TO THE GYM!!

    There’s one thing about the water aerobics — unlike with all the high-tech circuit machines, you never feel sweaty OR stupid. But I do need to get in there and get comfier with the indoor equipment, too – hurricane season approaches.
    Holly Jahangiri recently posted…An Engraved Invitation to and Follow MeMy Profile

    • Mitch Mitchell

      LOL! The last time I belonged to a gym I was gungho for just over 2 months or so. Then things started changing for me and I was availing myself of the place less and less, and that was at $55 a month. I didn’t cancel membership until 3 years later; ugh! Of course, early on I was getting encouragement, then it felt like a slog leaving the house and going to a place I didn’t want to go. That’s why I walk so much in the house; it’s exactly where I want to be.

      The thing about accountability is the people holding you there have to not only know what’s going on but keep offering encouragement. Overall, we’ll see where it goes. 🙂
      Mitch Mitchell recently posted…Content Is An Electronic Emperor?My Profile

      • Holly Jahangiri

        Oh, I have done the same – shamefully, it was $80/mo for a very NICE gym. The YMCA here is $60, but there are no long-term contracts, no sign-up fee, no B.S. – it’s lovely. I appreciate that you know just when and how much to “offer encouragement” without getting me to completely shut down, dig in my heels, and be obstinate.


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