Almost every New Year's resolution includes the vow to lose a few pounds, shape up, eat healthier, get more exercise and take better care of yourself. This is a message that is reinforced to older ladies by their doctors and counselors, who, in relentlessly cheerful and enthusiastic voices, extol the benefits that come with from physical fitness.
This writer (who went to school when gym was not an elective) was never a fan of PE (physical education class).
Some of us (like me) could ride a bike or roller skate (forwards and backwards), but climb a rope, balance on a rail, hit, catch or dodge a ball? Well, let's just say that there are obvious reasons why some people were picked last and being short, nearsighted and lacking in coordination probably head that list.
Jadine Feiteira, a Maui Family YMCA member since 2006, has been on staff for the last four years, and also leads a variety of classes.
Frankly, as I grew up, I was only too glad to put organized exercise of every kind behind me, but like lots of ladies of a certain age, I was pretty sure that "keep moving" mantra had my name on it and that I wasn't geared to go it alone.
So on Jan. 2, I joined the Maui Family YMCA, and here it is still January, and I'm still among the living. I'm back from the big workout room to tell you that there's a new face to female fitness, and it has nothing to do with a bouncy little blonde in spandex. The lady gym rats of the 21st century come in all ages and one size definitely does not fit all.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the Zumba class led by Jadine Feiteira, a Y staffer who tips the scales at more than 200 pounds, and makes reference to her "old" self that weighed in at over 300.
None of that seems to matter when she's showing off the mambo or cha-cha moves to a roomful of women throwing their arms in the air and shouting "Arriba ARRIBA!" In fact, forget any dated stereotypes you may have picked up about body size and shape. You can't tell who can dance until they start to move, and then, my goodness, some of these gals can really move!
Nearly 40 years on as a Hawai'i resident, I have never mastered the "ami"--that circular pelvic thrust that gives the hula such a sexy appeal. That is, until now. Several mornings a week, you'll find me awkwardly grinding my hips, not very gracefully, but who knows, I might improve, and it certainly is fun. The lady standing next to me in the third row has tied a wrap of spangles--a Zumba sash--to her hips to better show off the effects of the salsa/hula combo. I secretly want one.
According to Feiteira, the Y has over 3,000 members currently. More than half are women, and many are over 50.
"Everybody's different and unique," she said. "And you'd be surprised how many of these older women are strong. We have one member who is 84 and a regular."
Though I like the "keep moving" classes, I like the different varieties of yoga even better. The deep breathing, the long stretches, the focused concentration, that calming music, and the emphasis on slowing down and listening to the internal rhythms of the body seems to work wonders on my aging anatomy that spends most days hunched over a computer keyboard.
Feiteira confirmed that the Y and other fitness emporiums are busiest this time of year when the impulse for self-improvement is strongest, and lots of people keep it up until spring she added, when lots of people seem to fizzle out.
Though most of the movement classes seem to have mainly female participants, the Y also offers other classes and activities that appeal to a more varied demographic, including spinning (which I have yet to sample), a full-on weight room populated mostly by guys, a handball court and a pool that has both scheduled classes and lap swim. The pool opens at 5:30 a.m.
It's too early to tell if my newfound enthusiasm for fitness will last, but to my surprise, the benefits become apparent almost at once. I sleep better, smile more and there's an endless supply of female companions with similar goals.
More information about the Maui Family YMCA and their activities for women, men, young people and families can be found at www.mauiymca.org.