Valley News headline

Column -October 23, 2020
by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

In March we sat around stunned, watching reports on the virus, and saying we couldn’t wait for this soon to be over.

Then as normalcy remained out of reach, we got into gear and began creating masks for ourselves and others. We launched bonding activities for our families. We mastered Zoom. We cleaned out closets, used up our baking supplies, and learned new ways to shop.

Now, seven months into sheltering, some of us are reassessing our activities. Are we making the most of this time? Should we be using it to take online classes? To exercise more and perfect our diet?

We’ve been warned about the Quarantine 15, named after the notorious Freshman 15 pounds added that first year in college. I was proud that my clothes still fit until I read about a man back East who spends evenings on an exercycle while watching TV and had lost 100 pounds since March.

Then I heard about Betsy Smith, 79, who lives at Stoneridge Creek right here in Pleasanton and has lost 25 pounds. I managed to reach her during a break in her exercise regimen.

Every morning Betsy walks her dog Billy, a mini poodle mix, around the one-mile loop in her neighborhood.

“But he has to stop and smell everything, so this takes 45 minutes,” she said with a laugh, plus she’s been doing this for years.

What has changed is her afternoons.

Betsy used to be busy with the University Section Club, which she joined after moving to Berkeley in 1994 for her husband Neville to work as a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She became involved in the club’s many activities and took a role in its philanthropy, providing grants for students in financial need. But after Neville died a few years ago, she decided their home in the Berkeley Hills might be too remote as she aged. After looking for senior living communities, Betsy discovered and fell in love with Stoneridge Creek with its home terraces and swimming pools.

She moved on Halloween 2017, became more physically active, and gave up her membership in Weight Watchers.

“In the Berkeley Hills, they don’t walk. Billy had a doggy door so he just went in and out,” Betsy said. “Everybody is walking here, groups wearing masks. It is such a friendly place.”

Now, with its exercise classes online and in the afternoon, she is able to join two each weekday plus one each on Saturday and Sunday.

“They have a variety of wonderful classes, a mixture of stretching, strength, and aerobics,” she said.

Betsy also swims laps three times a week and meets with a trainer each Tuesday and Thursday. She eats two meals a day, one around 10 a.m., and the other at about 4 p.m. Now, at Stoneridge Creek, meals normally served in the dining room are delivered or picked up to be eaten at home. Betsy also meets friends at the outdoor Koi Café.

But she still enjoys eating, she said. When shopping, she checks out packaging to choose items lower in calories.

Stoneridge Creek is starting to hold exercise classes in person but Betsy prefers to join online at home.

“I turned my spare bedroom into a fitness studio, with my 27-inch iMac, and it feels like it’s just the teacher and me —with my dog watching me,” she said.

She noted she still has more weight to lose, lamenting that her new muscles seem to add weight. But she is also pleased that the classes give her structure, making “my whole day go by really quickly.”

I find it an incentive to exercise if I use my calendar to record each day’s effort: walk, swim, yoga, Denise Austin workout. Filling in the little squares encourages me to work out each day, or at least six days a week. OK, sometimes five. I ama long way from being in Betsy’s league.

When I downsized my household five years ago, I chucked my scale because I exercised at the YMCA often enough to weigh myself there. Since quarantine, I can only judge my weight by how my clothes fit, which entails putting on “real” clothing with zippers and buttons. And that can be nice for a change, too.

Editor’s note: Dolores Fox Ciardelli is Tri-Valley Life editor for the Pleasanton Weekly. Her column, “Valley Views,” appears in the paper on the second and fourth Fridays of the month.—-time-to-get-fit