With my high-school reunion less than a month away, I started trolling Facebook and confirming how much better I looked than the mean girls from the cafeteria. I planned my outfit around my new body and bought a tight T-shirt at the Georgetown boutique Sugar, where a twentysomething salesgirl and I stood in front of the mirror and compared the flatness of our stomachs.
And then a set of leg extensions with German Paul sent me crashing back into my 44-year-old body. Until this point, I’d suffered only a bit of muscle soreness. But this time I swung my legs off the machine and felt a sharp pinch in my lower back.
Not wanting to complain—the joke at the gym is that the men are bigger complainers than the women—I made my way home, where things only got worse. When I bent to unlace my sneakers, I couldn’t stand back up. I spent the rest of the day in bed with a heating pad.
I refused to take time off from the gym, despite my husband’s pleadings. “You’ll make it worse,” he said. “This is your body’s way of telling you to slow down.”
“I’m not quitting,” I told him. It was no longer just about looking hot at my reunion. I was sleeping better; I was seeing muscles where there used to be flab; I no longer had the posture of a bell-ringing hunchback. I was almost to the point of enjoying a spaghetti dinner in my underwear. And until this back injury, I had actually liked it all.
I hated admitting that my body could handle only so much before betraying my age. And worse, I started to think that maybe there was only so much I could do. Even Demi Moore, 47, was rumored to have had a few ribs removed to achieve her remarkable figure.
At my next session, Aaron introduced me to Chris Rodousakis, whose specialty is working with injuries. For a week I did nothing but gentle stretches with Chris and eyed whoever was with German Paul like a scorned lover.
When I finally broke down and saw a chiropractor—who popped a few slipped disks back into place—I felt as though I were betraying Aaron. I knew he wanted me to be patient, to work with him and his team to correct the underlying cause of my pain, which had to do with my whole body, not just a few disks.
But then I remembered reading something Jackie Onassis supposedly uttered on her deathbed: “If I knew I was going to get cancer, I wouldn’t have done so many sit-ups.”
On the one hand, I wished I could suffer German Paul’s workouts five days a week. On the other, maybe a little balance—or in this case, less balancing—was the better way to go. Besides, who was I kidding? I would never have the body of Demi Moore—and I was actually starting to feel pretty happy with the body I had.
>> Next: Before and After photos!