Jilly D.

My Oasis at Ithaca’s Island Health & Fitness

In Health on January 17, 2011 at 12:35 am

Swimming like it's summer

Having never before had a membership to a health spa, I am awed by the experiences at Island Health & Fitness. You walk in and are transported to a different biosphere than out the front doors where snow, ice and cold temperatures keep your body in a constant shiver state.

Joining feels a bit self-indulgent because of its lush spa atmosphere. In my 50s I now live a more sedentary lifestyle since leaving the farm in September. Taking care of myself in this way is something strange. Different could be good. I yearn for the luxury of good health this place in Ithaca offers me.

Two-story walls of windows let in warm sunshine and bathe the members in a workout glow. Another wall of mirrors creates the illusion of the body and the building as steel machines in motion. The whirring, clinking, huffing and grunts sound like I’m in the factory production line.

For a newbie, it’s all quite new and a bit disorienting. I finally found a large coat rack outside the locker rooms. And as I turned around and began to enter the locker room, a lady crossed in front of me and smiled. She looked at the sign outside and pointed to it.

“Heh, you going in there?” she laughed.

I had just started walking into the men’s locker room. Definitely the Men’s. Oops. I backed right out and looked at the sign. Oops.

One of my goals I listed on the membership form was “meet new people,” but I didn’t think it would happen this way.

In the women’s locker room there are showers, a steam room, and a sauna. The perfect transition in and out of this Los Angeles biosphere.

The swimming pool has walls of windows and on a sunny day the blinding light fools me enough to feel like summer. Lap after lap it becomes a meditation.

Swimming isn’t a new practice. I’ve always been a swimmer. Though most of my swimming is seasonal and in a pond rather than a pool. Other than the pool, the rest of Island Health & Fitness feels foreign like when I’ve strolled into an adult video arcade.

I learned how to ride a bicycle in a whole new way. I put my feet onto the pedals and sat down and gripped the handlebars. In front of my eyes is a computer screen with some kind of video game or slot machine dimension.

My personal trainer, Audra, showed me how to program the computer to simulate riding through the Redwood Forest. I couldn’t pay attention for her long fingernails with square cornered extensions. Really, how hard could it be?

Holding both hands on the handlebar, the machine monitors my heart rate while my legs pedal. I look at the screen and try to steer and stay on the trail. Watching my speed, power, and heart rate gauges I forget to look at the trail. Turning the handles to correct the wheels back onto the trail has me feeling vertigo. I catching myself swaying off the bicycle seat and have nearly fallen off on more than one occasion.

When there are other animated bikers on my side and in front of me on the screen, it is eerie. I’ve jumped down the rabbit hole and into an animated universe. If I speed up the result on the screen when I pass another bike is total annihilation of my competitor. Poof; gone.

The minutes pass by quickly as I try to stay alert to the video game in front of me and forget the burning sensation in my thighs. I am not looking at anyone else. This dang game requires all my attention to coordinate hands and eyes and brain with legs, balance and posture.

The stationary recumbent bicycle is more my style. There are only a couple of these contraptions at Island Health and Fitness and they face a wall of silent television monitors with closed captioning offering a quiet visual distraction. I’ve never observed this bizarre cultural ritual of running the treadmill and watching television. The people-watching is more entertaining than what is on those screens.

And I’m sure I’m quite entertaining to watch as I navigate this alien space ship building with new kinds of tools and equipment. When it comes to the weight lifting and strength building exercises I take refuge in the Oasis Room reserved for women.

Here I champion my cause by lifting weights and using the bizarre set of adult playground equipment. I can hardly believe the legs, chest, knee, arm and back presses I can do in my contortionist way. Granted I’m not lifting or pressing much weight, but I’m doing it every 48 hours. All my reps.

Repetitions. Rote learning. Doing. Practicing. Relearn. Repeat. Again.

When I’m done with my new work-out routine I get that wibblywobbly feeling; like when you get off roller skates or sit down after cross country skiing. I seem to be lighter on this earth. My feet bounce off the floor.

Goal one accomplished. I’m walking. Goal two is to rebuild core strength. Goal three is to dance. Zumba classes?

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  1. Hi Jill,
    Glad you liked my blog post! I enjoyed yours as well, especialy your description of the health club as an “adult video arcade”! I’ll look forward to reading about your future adventures there!

    • Sue, Just came from a bicycle ride through the Redwood Forest and a swim, followed by a sauna. Sure beats the winter wicked cold today. Ten below in Brooktondale.

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