Maureen Pratt

My car’s water pump will soon need to be replaced, and between now and when I take it to the mechanic, I have been walking much more: to the store, to meet a friend for lunch, to the pharmacy. One of the reasons I live where I do is that I have the luxury of combining walking workouts with small errands, ducking under shady trees for part, if not most, of the way. I’m taking full advantage of it.

But I do live in Los Angeles, the unofficial motorist capital of the world, and my increased walking has brought up some interesting reactions from well-meaning friends.

“You walked here? It’s so far!” said a friend who met me for lunch at a not-really-far restaurant.

She insisted on driving me home, although I assured her I really liked to walk.

Others have commented on the rarity of my walking “to places.” Or, they have smiled, bemused, as if I’m doing something quaint such as spinning cotton or canning peaches.

I don’t mind these reactions. I’m enjoying the extra exercise. I also like getting more in touch with my neighborhood and find that the activity helps me collect and order my thoughts to write.

I don’t mind if some think my pedestrian pursuit is funny. Sometimes, exercise is just that, funny to the onlooker but so beneficial for the person doing it. And yet, it can be this fear of being laughed at that stops people from even getting started.

Pool exercise? “Oh, no! I look terrible in a bathing suit.”

“I haven’t played softball since high school. I’d probably hit someone, accidentally, of course, with the bat.”

“The last time I tried an aerobics class, I was so clumsy, I tripped the instructor.”

“I can’t play tennis. I can’t afford to buy the right clothes.”

Do any of these sound familiar?

If they do, you’re not alone. I’ve heard comments like these many times, mostly from women, but sometimes from men, too. Rather than commiserating, I have to take a different approach. Those other ladies in the exercise pool are probably quaking with fear, too, at how they look in their suits. Laugh together and discover that wonderful bond that helps you all get fitter faster.

Not everyone in an aerobics class is a former professional dancer. Find someone just as hesitant as you and tap into your inner creativity by making up some new moves and see others join in with you.

Not everyone who plays tennis spends a fortune on outfits. Bargain shop, be comfortable, and focus on getting the most from the game. And if softball brings out your inner klutz, how about taking up bowling, table tennis or even just plain walking? Exercise is not one size fits all.

In childhood, there can be a strong desire to “fit in,” to not be too different and attract attention, and ribbing, teasing or, in the extreme, bullying that other children sometimes like to do. Perhaps this is why, as adults, the routine becomes so comfortable that the thought of deviating from it raises that old fear of being out of place. It stops us before we get started.

I will take my car in soon and will, no doubt, drive a bit more than I do now. But I know I’ll continue my walks, too, no matter what others might think.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll start a trend: a Los Angeles neighborhood where most people walk.

Now there’s a funny thought.

***

Maureen’s website is www.maureenpratt.com.