Metro-East Living

Queen of Klutzes tackles exercise

Michelle Meehan Schrader works out at the Y.
Michelle Meehan Schrader works out at the Y. Provided

If Gumby and Olive Oyl had a baby, she would be me.

Back in my youth, a friend not-so-jokingly told me I looked like a cartoon character running track. I won’t tell you how I responded to that compliment but I will tell you this: The girl who got picked last for kickball is not afraid of the gym. I may not run as fast or kick as high as many of the other women out there. But guess what? I don’t care.

When your knee is held together by paper clips and super glue, you stop competing and start having fun.

Didn’t know I have a bum knee? Well, let me tell you about it. It happened eight years ago, when I was getting in shape for my first-ever ski trip. I jumped the wrong way and heard a tire blow out. I didn’t need the slopes to put me on crutches. Just an orthopedic surgeon to put me back on my feet.

“You’ll never ski again,” my doctor told me, thinking this fact would make me sad.

“Again?” I asked. “I never skied a first time.”

If I had, I might have wound up in a body cast. Not that I enjoyed the knee surgery or months of physical therapy that followed. But hey, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

Which brings us back to the gym. My venue of choice is the YMCA and my “Y buddies” of choice are my heroes. Like my friend Samantha — two kids, sleep apnea and she recently lost 30 pounds. And my pal Stacy — also a mother of two and a breast cancer survivor. Then there’s Chuck. He’s 80 years young and has had both knees replaced. We all work out but we don’t expect perfection. We do however expect to have fun.

This may sound strange but — as the Merry Queen of Klutzes — I think I’ve finally found a home. Nobody judges me when I do squats instead of lunges. And when I run funny? They laugh with me and not at me.

The one exception would be my brief foray into Zumba. For those who don’t know, Zumba is like line dancing on steroids. The class was crowded, the participants were good dancers and I was like a ball in a pinball machine.

At one point, a woman told me I should wear orange so she could see me coming. The girl next to her giggled and I pretended to giggle too. This was definitely a case of laugh at you instead of with you. I finished the class and never went back.

Now I’m not saying with years of practice I couldn’t have mastered the moves. But considering my age and my lack of coordination, I did the math and threw the calculator away.

“You need help with that?” my friend Rita asks me as I assemble my weight bar for a body pump class.

Rita used to coach girls’ softball and she’s quick to offer everyone a hand. She’s almost as encouraging as my pal Tammy Barra, the Y trainer who got me back on my feet after my knee injury.

If it weren’t for her, I don’t know where I’d be today. Probably on the couch eating bonbons, something I now reserve for late night TV.

“Just be thankful you’re here,” Tammy tells our cycling class. “There are people who would love to be able to do this but can’t.”

If you are one of those who can’t, you have my deepest sympathy. But if you are one of those who can — but for whatever reason think you can’t — please follow in the footsteps of Samantha, Stacy, Chuck and me. The journey of 10,000 miles begins with a single step.

If you need somebody to lean on, come join us at the gym.