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Working out is supposed to make people happier and more confident. In addition to the obvious benefits of getting in shape, it is said to release endorphins and boost energy. With this in mind, I decided that joining a gym would be a good way to help fill the void left by my only daughter’s leaving for college.

I was nervous about walking in alone, amongst the hard bodies of the truly dedicated. Not only did I feel older than anyone who had ever dared join a gym, but I had no idea what working out might entail. I did not know a soul and the equipment was intimidating.

In addition, my husband’s tirade about the type of people who used gyms was fresh in my ears. He had ranted about how risky it would be to rub elbows with people looking to hook up, not to mention voyeurs who enjoyed seeing the opposite sex sweating in compromising positions. But when my best friend told me it was all very tame, I jumped.

It is safe to say that I was literally shaking the first time I pulled the door open. To my surprise, the trainer was kind, patient — and female! She laughed at my John-Deere-green “Born to farm” T-shirt, which my husband thought would be a perfect guy-repellent. As if

But as she showed me the strange instruments of torture for various parts of my body, I started to think I had made a mistake.

Having already paid my fee and taken up her time, I decided to give it a whirl. The treadmill looked harmless, so I started there. All I can say is never underestimate something you haven’t tried. One minute, I was straddling the conveyer belt while punching in the recommended speed for the weight I lied about. The next I was on my shoulder, being turned onto my back like a toy soldier, shooting off the back feet first.

My hair got caught and whirled into a bird’s nest on top. And though it hurt, I was laughing so hard I wished I’d thought to throw on some Depends. I could not even think what I should do next. Time seemed to stop. I thought the whole place would be frozen into staring.

When I finally opened my eyes and peered around, nothing had changed. All of the other occupants were busy on their own circuits. The music still blared. The only one who seemed to notice my crash was an older gentleman getting onto the stationary bicycle. He glanced over his shoulder as though nervous mothers shooting off treadmills were a daily occurrence.

It was then that I realized that this might work out after all. I admit, I have not given up my cookie habit. I even polished off a box of Milk Duds once on my way to the gym. And I have yet to wake up with Bo Derek’s body. But I do feel more fit, despite my indulgences. Hey, who knew? Maybe I’ll need that John Deere repellent one day soon.

Kristin Anderson has returned to her Groton roots after spending the last two decades in Vermont. She wrote for the Caledonian-Record in St. Johnsbury and later taught high school humanities and college history while raising three children — along with her husband, Mike — on their small Vermont farm “in the shadow of Owl’s Head Mountain, by the shores of Lake Memphremagog.” She is passionate about history, poetry, music, horses, and most of all her family, but lacks cooking skills. Anderson makes up for it with talents for snacking and chatting.

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