No, I’m not talking about a new soban or Thai-noodle fad diet here. Rather, the noodles in question are Styrofoam swimming noodles, the kind YMCAs and other health clubs seem to have in abundance. Ours, the Mapleton Y in Boulder, Colorado, has them in various diameters and buoyancy levels, square but mainly round, and in yellow, green, blue, and white. In fact, they just got a lovely new supply, since the old ones get a bit frayed around the edges and start looking rat-eaten. “Grab your noodles,” Roxanne, our former long-time chief district judge but now our Water Fitness instructor, will say, adding “and spread out.”
Okay, here’s the back story. In late-December 2010, my then-new wife, Cedar, and I were discussing how, given our respective ages at the time, 65 and 70, it would be nice to find a way to have a relatively long marriage with both of us in good physical and mental health. At this point we were primarily couch potatoes who spent long hours of the day sitting in front of our computers and doing some kind of work. The missing link was pretty obvious. We needed to get off our butts and into a regular exercise program. Happily, our new AARP health co-insurer, United Health Care, included in its Medicare Select program something called Silver Sneakers. Apparently, some federal green-eyeshade types had concluded that if a way could be found to get elders to exercise regularly, the cost of funding that would save Medicare millions, even billions. Consequently, in an act of daring state socialism (Dare I use the term?!), the Feds funded free health-club memberships for seniors at tens of thousands of Ys, 24-Hour Fitness centers, and similar organizations around the country. As a Medicare recipient you received a card that entitled you to join any one of these clubs or even visit them free when you travel. Apparently, not all co-insurers include Silver Sneakers, but ours did. So, Cedar and I made a New Year’s resolution, and beginning in 2011 we joined the thrice-weekly Water Fitness class at our Y. We have attended it faithfully ever since. From time to time, I would also use the machines and weights in the interest of buffing up. After hurting my back, though, and without having gained six-pack abs, I decided that the pool workouts would have to do.
We spend an hour each session as follows: ten minutes of warm-up by swimming back and forth across the pool (to allow for social distancing) in various styles (sidestroke, cross-country, leap frog, monster walk, etc.); 25 minutes doing high-intensity interval training (H.I.I.T.); 15 minutes doing strengthening, stretching, and balancing exercises, often with Styrofoam dumbbells; and 10 minutes at poolside doing a variety of stretches, usually ending with shoulder-rolls-back and shoulder-rolls-forward—vamp-like moves Theda Bara would have appreciated. I’m often the only man in the pool and, even when one or two more join us, I am the class wise guy. But you know what? My body is tighter, I feel healthier, and my PCP, Dr. Steve, is happy with me. All thanks to those noodles!