Keepin’ on with Peggy Sue
by Holly Varni
May 16, 2013

Running and sport concept

I’ve done something I swore I would never do. I caved in on a personal conviction that this evil thing would never gain my support. I succumbed to peer pressure in joining a group at which I’ve always booed and hissed. I’ve swallowed my pride in publicly making a fool of myself three times a week.

I’ve joined a boot camp.

For those of you who don’t know what a “boot camp” is, let me explain that it’s not the type of camp your parents sent you to in the summer. There is no craft time, snack time, nap time or fireside singing. This is the kind of camp where you pay someone to order you around. The boot camp instructor gives a command to do a certain exercise, and you blindly follow. It’s like the army for those of us who are too old and wimpy to do the real thing. You grunt, sweat, moan and even occasionally say a cuss word as you are pushed to get in shape.

I’m lucky because my boot camp is not run by a man wearing military apparel, who shouts at you to pick up a tractor wheel or the backend of a car. My instructor is a fitness fanatic mama, whose thighs are the same width as her ankles. She’s a walking stick figure of total muscle. She teaches three boot camps and then runs for ten miles on her days off.

Yeah, she’s that person. The kind I’m not built to be. The kind my gene pool has never produced. The kind of person with whom I normally try not to associate, because I am left feeling inferior and fat from any interaction with such an exercise maniac. She has the energy that I could only achieve with pharmaceutical enhancement.

In a moment of weakness, I agreed because my body has become as soft a dinner roll since having children. I also didn’t think it would be that bad because there are women in the class older than me, a lot older.

One woman who has befriended me and whom I adore is “Peggy Sue.” Peggy Sue is exactly thirty years older than me. Let me repeat that for effect: Peggy Sue was a wife and mother of a four year child, when I was BORN.

When our physical torture demands that we choose partners, I am always the odd one out. No one wants to be my partner. That is no lie. I am the worst one in class. I have no upper body strength. In a nutshell, I suck at boot camp. I am the weakest link, the special needs section of the class.

Quite unexpectedly, this lovely grandmother has befriended me by running laps and partnering with me. I have to work to keep up with this woman. She’s that amazing. When I ask how she does it, she only replies, “You’ve just got to keep on, keepin’ on!” She went on to share how her grandkids always say, “You rock, Gigi!”

One day after a particularly brutal workout, I came home and collapsed on my bed without even showering. My husband came in and asked what was wrong. “I think I’m having a stroke,” I cried. Then I began to describe in dramatic detail (with slurred speech) the arduous exercise that I had to endure. I tearfully shared how I couldn’t lift my arms and the exhaustion I was experiencing was surely a sign of heart problems.

In his supporting way, he replied, “Just quit if you hate it that much.” That set off a geyser of waterworks and hysteria. “I can’t. If Peggy Sue can do it, I should be able to do it!” I sobbed. He looked at me like I was crazy. “Who on earth is Peggy Sue?!” he asked, not following my perfectly logical reasoning. With major sniffling I answered, “An elderly woman thirty years older than me, who can kick my butt!”

It’s been three months since I started. I haven’t lost a single pound, but I feel stronger and am able to run next to Peggy Sue without slowing her down. Every time I go, I’d like to quit. I hate every excruciating moment. I continue to suck and am often alone without a partner, but I’m sticking with it. It’s good for my health, and I’ve almost gotten to the point where I can do a push up without my knees on the ground.

However, the most important reason “ I keep on, keepin’ on,” is for my kids now and my grandkids in the future. I want to be running alongside my granddaughter someday and have her say, “You rock, Nana.” That’s my inspiration.

May you find a Peggy Sue who makes you stronger.