An exercise ball? Be afraid
By: By Lisa Smartt
I feel like a Hollywood celebrity. No, I don’t wear designer clothes. I don’t have a chauffeur or an agent. I have something far more hip, chic and trendy. I have a personal trainer. Yep, a personal trainer. Just call me a middle-class, rural-dwellin’ Oprah. When I lay my weary head on the pillow each night, it comforts me to know that there’s a person out there whose every waking moment is focused on my personal health and fitness. I guess her focus sometimes wanders to one of her other clients. But I choose to believe that most of her “training energy” is spent trying to figure out a way to help me live to be 100. I first contacted this friendly training guru to help me get rid of a most unattractive “duck walk” related to my car accident. I needed to strengthen my right leg. So, I embarked on a journey toward physical fitness. Thankfully, I had no idea what was around the next bend.
During my first training session, all was going well. I rode the bike. I lifted weights. I smiled cheerily, perspired appropriately and did exactly as I was told. Then she said the unthinkable. With a bright smile on her perfectly-contoured face, she said, “OK, Lisa, grab one of these big exercise balls.” I thought we were going to engage in a little high-spirited game of dodge ball. Even though I didn’t understand how that was going to strengthen my leg, I was more than willing. But it wasn’t time for dodge ball. For those of you who are not trendy enough to have a personal trainer, let me explain about the ball in question. An exercise ball is like a huge rubber playground ball on steroids.
What does one do with the exercise ball? One sits on it. Yes. Sits on it. When the trainer said, “Let’s have a seat on the ball,” I began to experience childhood flashbacks. My neighbor had one of those bouncy balls with handles. You were supposed to sit on the ball, hold the handles and jump, jump, jump. Fun for every child. Well, not exactly. It was fun for 7-year-olds who looked like 7-year-olds. It wasn’t fun for 7-year-olds who were the size of 12-year-olds. “Lisa, don’t sit on my bouncy ball … YOU’LL squash it!” Now, as a 44-year-old with a “duck walk,” I wanted to say to the trainer, “Nuh-uh. No way. I’m not about to sit on that exercise ball. I’ll squash it … or squash myself in the process. Look, Lady, a woman who surpasses the weight limit for the average household ladder doesn’t need to be plopping her fanny down on a big rubber bouncy ball!”
But of course, I didn’t say any of those things out loud. I smiled. I sat. I did what I was told. I tried to stay balanced. This was not an easy task. Between my weak leg, my natural lack of coordination and my fear of bodily injury, the exercise ball posed some real challenges. But I want to let all readers know that I overcame. I conquered my bouncy ball fears. Yep. When I placed my wide fanny on that exercise ball, I was also placing my past behind me, while embarking on a bright future. I even bought an industrial strength exercise ball for “home use.” My trainer said that it would help my balance and fitness to do a few exercises with it while watching TV at night. I feel my right leg getting stronger just thinking about it. And that’s a good thing. When I go to the hospital with a concussion from hitting my head on the coffee table … it’s nice to know I’ll be able to walk out of the emergency room with hardly a limp.
Editor’s note: Lisa Smartt’s column appears each Wednesday in the Friends and Neighbors section of The Messenger. Mrs. Smartt is the wife of Philip Smartt, the University of Tennessee at Martin parks and recreation and forestry professor, and is mother to two boys, Stephen and Jonathan. She is a freelance writer and speaker. Her book “The Smartt View: Life, Love, and Cluttered Closets” is available at The Messenger, The University of Tennessee at Martin bookstore or by mail for $10, plus $2 shipping. Send checks to Lisa Smartt, 300 Parrott Road, Dresden TN 38225. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 1.23.08