Over this past weekend, in a moment of mere curiosity meets Halloween costume desperation, I found myself back at home trying on, of all things, my high school uniform. A plaid, pleated kilt and navy blue blazer (complete with school crest on the breast), the ensemble looked just like I left it, but it felt just a teensy bit tighter in the tummy than I had remembered. Had years of being boxed-up in my basement caused the cotton-polyester fabric to shrink? Or, horror of horrors, had years of inactivity caused my midriff to expand more rapidly than the Starbucks franchise?

Already an eye-cream obsessed, anti-wrinkling activist in the throws of a quarter-life crisis, the last thing I was looking for was another reminder of the abominable effects of aging. And with Hawaiian muu muus by Miu Miu nowhere in the fashion forecast, I decided it was thigh time that I relocated my wayward waistline, and got myself back on the running track.

Swapping my sandals for my sneakers, I headed over to my neighborhood gym in pursuit of some much-needed R -and-R: resistance bands and running.

Visiting the club as a guest of my Mom”s, as I pulled up to the Executive Exercise Center for the first time, I found myself suddenly overcome with pre-treadmill trepidation. Unless you consider prancing around in platforms to be a modified workout with weights, the last time I regularly worked out was when gym class was still a graduation requirement. And if rows of Mercedes and BMWs in the parking lot were at all indicative of the exercisers inside, would my slow pick-up and I be able to keep up with such a sleek and sporty set?

Anticipating a young crowd of yuppies who adjusted their running incline levels with the rise and fall of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, as I made my way up to the main workout room, I was shocked to find that the fitness center had been invaded by old people! Was this the health club or the bridge club? I had expected to see 30-year-old members, not people with 30-year-old memberships. A 401K plan was practically a prerequisite to join, and the pool area looked like a scene straight out of the movie “Cocoon.”

Full of fossilized fitness fanatics who had joined the gym around the Jurassic Age, for a moment I was convinced that an Australopithecus had taken over the track, until I realized it was just Old Man Johnson finishing his fourth lap. (Apparently, when hair falls off the head, it sticks to the back.) Setting “ageism” aside, however, I came to the conclusion that these cardio-loving codgers were just what I needed to reacclimatize myself to aerobic activity and reinflate my exercising ego.

Pulling my waistband up past my collarbones in accordance with member decorum, I hopped up on an isolated elliptical trainer, started the machine and started to sweat. Busting a move to the beat of a certain Miss Spears, I was thankful I had remembered to pack my own motivational music, since the rest of the gym was forced to succumb to the swinging sounds of Big Band playing overhead. Which would you prefer, a body like Britney”s or a body like Glenn Miller”s?

As my major muscle groups began to awaken from their Rip Van Winkle state of slumber, confidence was once again pumping through my veins. Around the half-hour point of my program, I even considered betting the old man next to me his last butterscotch candy that I could out-RPM him. I resisted the urge, when I realized the obvious unfair advantage … he had a newly replaced set of hips!

After one final set of posterior-perking, anti-gravity squat thrusts, surrounded by the occasional glances of the health club Humbert Humberts, I tossed in my towel and headed back home, feeling like a leaner-legged Lolita, ready to wear my hiked-up high school hemline one more time.

If you would like to share your health club horror stories with Meredith, she can be reached at makeller@umich.edu.

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