Confessions of a (Former) Couch Potato

Denisse Oller

By: Denisse Oller

Nothing makes me happier than to be at home, in my favorite chair, reading and writing as I listen to music. I can do this for hours. Uninterrupted. Other than playing with my dogs, I cannot think of anything that brings me such bliss.

Yes, I admit it: All my life I have been a couch potato.

In my youth, when I was naturally slender, I exercised to burn calories and stay in shape. Frankly, I dreaded it. I dragged myself to the gym, and couldn’t wait to get out. Many decades later – after menopause, a car accident, surgery and physical therapy to stabilize my back, life’s preoccupations, and other distractions – I simply lost my will to exercise in a purposeful way. I reluctantly resigned myself to accept my age and the extra pounds that kept adhering to my “love handles.”

And so it went for a time. Truthfully, I was not happy with the way I looked; my clothes were tight, I tired quickly, and arthritis was settling in my joints. I could not kneel for the life of me. When my doctor recommended knee replacement surgery, I knew I had to rethink my whole approach to the way I was living.

I said “no mas” to letting myself go. I had to get back in the saddle.

So, I started working out last summer. I’d like to say it was easy but – there’s always a but! – I had just moved to a new apartment, I was in the process of changing jobs, and I was in a new relationship. Still, I went through the motions. The holidays came and went. I exercised reluctantly. I was at the gym in body, but not in soul. Let’s say I was unmotivated.

Of course, I know that doing aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening physical activity for 30 minutes a day, five days a week can slow the loss of bone density that comes with age. I am also aware that regular physical activity helps with arthritis and other conditions affecting the joints. Exercise builds strong, healthy muscles, no matter your age. As an added benefit, it also helps control one’s weight, as it improves one’s mental health and mood. Exercise even reduces the risk of chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Of course, I know all these things. Still, exercising was a drag. I needed to get out of my bubble.

I started to meditate daily. I was looking for a purpose. Eventually, and with much reflection, I felt an important shift in my emotional process. The pieces began falling into place. I realized that, for decades, I wanted it both ways, to have optimal results with minimum work. I had been lazy, literally going through the motions. Now, I wanted my strength back. More than that, I wanted to challenge myself to be the strongest and healthiest I could be. I hired a personal trainer. I took up yoga. It has been five beautiful months.

Yesterday, when I got home, tired from a long day at work, I had the urge to pour a glass of wine and sit in that favorite chair of mine. Instead, I went to my closet and chose the outfits that I will wear to work next week: jackets and pants that had not fit me in years, but that now do. I picked out jewelry and shoes to complete my ensembles. I was excited at the possibilities.

Then I went to the gym and I hit the Stairmaster with a sense of purpose.

I am proud to report that I am a couch potato no longer. My journey of transformation, still very much in progress, continues to be extremely challenging. But this time I am focused on the long-term reward of being fit and strong. And that, my friends, as the great Bette Midler would sing…that is the wind beneath my wings.