The Second Half: Living in the fitness zone

By Kathleen D. Tresemer

In my Second Half, I spend lots of time pondering the physical changes the years have imposed on my body… and I don’t like it!

Success at yoga helped me realize I could do even more to enhance my physical fitness, so Hubby and I joined a gym.

“It’s cheaper if we join together,” I explained over breakfast several months ago, “and you wanted to begin working out after your knee surgery, right?”

“Don’t make this about me,” Hubby is not easily manipulated. “Just remember, it only works if you actually go.” He has the unique ability to be adversarial and amusing at the same time, a quality I both admire and despise.

Eventually, we ended up at the Fitness Zone in South Beloit on the edge of Rockton, just off Highway 2. Owned by local fitness experts Brenda and Kevin Burns, they call their place a “Sports and Fitness Club offering affordable, convenient 24-hour fitness.”

One plus for me: it smells good. I don’t need flowers or cookies, just a moderately clean fragrance—Fitness Zone has that. “We have a state-of-the-art heating and cooling system that keeps things well-ventilated and fresh,” Brenda told me.

Another plus: it’s clean. They have a regular cleaning service that keeps the place tidy and the weights and equipment free from grime. I confess that my house is not as clean as the gym, with dogs, firewood, and whatnot being tracked in all the time. To be honest, I tend to wait until the dust is thick enough to peel off the mantle with a putty knife, resembling the lint on the dryer screen.

The best part: it isn’t full of skinny 20-somethings chatting and flirting. It’s a respectful atmosphere with a good mix of ages, including folks into their 70s and 80s. Everyone’s there to improve their health and fitness—period.

Now, there isn’t any pool or spa at Fitness Zone—this gym is for working out. There is plenty of equipment, cardio and weight machines, as well as free weights and stuff like jump ropes, exercise balls and steps. There’s a big exercise room for Zumba, Pilates, and aerobics, costing about $3 a class. They even have stuff for kids, like tumbling. And memberships range from $35 down to $18.70 a month, a steal compared to other places.

I don’t typically take classes; my routine was basically a walk/jog on the treadmill and several exercises with the free weights. Then in February, Brenda told me: “I’m starting this new class called ‘Train with the Trainer’—I think you’ll like it.”

She explained the class was limited to only a few students, and would be about 50 percent cardio and 50 percent strength training. “I’m not really advanced in either of those, Brenda, and I’m not so young— would this fit me?”

“Oh, sure!” she exclaimed. “Everyone works at their own level, and I’ll be there to push you to greater limits. We all need a challenge, right?”

Brenda must have read my mind. For months, I had only been doing the exercises I learned at physical therapy after a nasty pinched nerve in my neck. Recently, I was talking to Hubby about upping my routine a bit, but wasn’t sure how to proceed. “$3 for a workout with a professional trainer is a great deal,” he told me. “You should try it.”

Fitness Zone offers personal training by the hour and even a custom workout plan for only $25, but this seemed like an offer I couldn’t refuse. The first day I showed up with my water bottle and joined the three other folks in the group: an obviously fit woman, a slightly younger gal who was new to this training thing, and a guy in his Second Half. I felt comfortable that I wouldn’t be out of my league.

I was wrong. Halfway through the “warm up,” my heart rate was 160, and I was chugging like a steam engine. “You’re really working—good for you!” Brenda exclaimed like it was a good thing. I looked at my colleagues: Fitness Gal and Senior Guy looked OK, but Regular Gal caught my eye and mouthed, “Oh. My. God.” I could only nod…at least I wasn’t alone. I was hoping I could pass out, but it never happened.

After the class, Brenda told us, “You’ll probably be sore tomorrow.”

Tomorrow?!? I could barely drive myself home after that session, and hit the door gulping handfuls of ibuprofen and drawing an Epsom salt bath. My strategy was forming while I was still in the tub: I would work out a couple more times before next class and see if I couldn’t catch up a bit.

Next week, I arrived early to psych myself up, and Brenda exclaimed, “You’re back! I wondered if you’d come—I really kicked your butt last time!” Her back-handed approval sustained me through a re-run of the first time, sweating and chugging and never actually keeping up with the trainer. However, after a month of working at it—yes, I went back!—I found I felt really good. I survived!

No, I can’t always keep up and my urge to be “the best” has left me completely. Now, I’m just competing with myself: each week I try to be better than I was the week before. And Trainer Brenda is proud of me: “At every age, we can improve our fitness and feel better!”

In my Second Half, I’ll be “the tough old broad nobody messes with”—move over, Wonder Woman!

To find out more about Fitness Zone, call (815) 624-7663.

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at

From the May 11-17, 2011 issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!