If this summer has taught me anything, it’s that normal takes a helluva lot more time.

It’s been almost three months since Elmo-the-total-knee-replacement and I announced our joint partnership (heh-heh). While I can’t say I’m as good as new, I’m at least 200 percent better than before surgery.

“More like 2,000 percent,” snorts a co-worker, “I used to wonder if you’d make it all the way down the hall. It hurt to watch.”

Oh. I honestly thought nobody noticed that I limped, but given the number of mentions lately, I’m probably mistaken.

The whole point of knee replacement is to regain enough mobility to do stuff I quit doing years ago, such as casting large glass sculptures, hauling supplies, hiking around places like Pilchuck and taking classes, checking out museum exhibits, rebuilding my studio, etc.

Now that the mobility piece of all this surgery stuff is beginning, I’m discovering a peculiar side effect: As my mobility increases, my free time decreases. I’ve let so much stuff pile up over my immobile years that I now have this dauntingly large to-do list.

(and no, I am NOT complaining)

Take, for example, exercising: Normal people (you know who you are) consume several hours each week just working out.

I don’t. I devote those hours to doing useful stuff like writing blogposts and making art.

Except that now the physical therapists are pointing out that purposeful exertion IS pretty useful stuff, and I should therefore start spending those hours exercising.

So I’m embarking on the development of my “core,” whatever that is, and also resurrecting leg muscles that were badly atrophied by my old leg brace. Since I have access to a free gym at work, and to Angie, the personal trainer who runs the place, seems silly not to take advantage of it.

Angie helped me develop a simple 30-minute exercise program. She clucked disapprovingly at my well-ventilated (AKA “full of holes”) studio sweats (“Get something that isn’t five sizes too big so you can tell when you raise your arms!“). She also informed me that I need good exercise shoes for her gym, not street shoes.

My friend Shelby concurred. “Don’t just go to Target for cheap shoes and sweats. INVEST* in some good workout clothes. They’ll make all the difference in the world.”

And so I went to Dick’s, where everyone is extremely nice, wears five square inches of spandex, and hopes to someday make it to 30.

“May I help you find something?” one sparkled as I wandered past, looking puzzled.

“Yes,” I said helplessly, pointing to the tiny clothing displays, “I’m trying to find workout clothes for adult women, but all I see is the children’s department…”

“No, this is women’s activewear, ma’am,” she said, “What can I get for you?”

“Uhm…I must want really, really FAT women’s activewear,” I said, picking up a pair of yoga pants that looked tailor-made to fit a Barbie doll, “What do you have that’s kinda loose, comfortable, and doesn’t look like you need paint remover to get it off?”

She laughed–she thought I was kidding–and discussed my measurements. Then she held out a size Large in a crop pant. (We’d quickly established that the full-length pants reached from my ankles to the top of my head.)

She insisted it stretched. A lot. Then she sent me to the dressing room with about 30 of the little things, which actually do stretch about a mile and a half or so. While settling on the final three pairs I learned a few things about workout tights:

  • If they’re Nike or some other big name and on sale for a great price, they are so completely awful that not even a Sports Illustrated model can make them look good.
  • Wildly colored patterns such as flowers and tiger stripes and stuff look really stupid but are hypnotically useful when you’re pedaling a stationary bike and have nothing else to look at.
  • Wildly colored DARK patterns will almost conceal your nether bumps, wrinks and creasles, immensely helpful when you’re bent all the way over and facing away from the hyperathletic divisional vice president on the Stairmaster right behind you. (notice I said “almost”)
  • Avoid thin, light-colored workout tights unless you’re planning a photo opportunity at Walmart.
  • Designers insert a tiny zippered pocket near the waistband of exercise tights. If you put something valuable inside this pocket, such as a locker key or your corporate security card, you must take off the tights to get it out. This can prove embarrassing.
  • If you are asked to try on t-shirts that match your new tights, save time by simply saying no. Workout t-shirts make any normal female look like the neon edition of the Venus of Willendorf (google it) and also cost $40 or $50. Make do with old t-shirts from home.

I asked about gym shoes, because apparently nobody does cheap tenny-runners anymore. The Dick’s shoe specialist introduced me to an extra-stable Brooks something-or-other.

“It’s our top-of-the-line shoe for gym work, and it will be great if you want to use it for running, too,” the specialist assured me, “Best of all, it comes in purple, seafoam blue, and peacock teal, all with iridescent contrasting accents and midsoles.”

“How about something in plain black, or maybe white?”

“Uhm…no, we don’t get much call for just one color. We do have a black shoe with flashing LED lights and neon strips that glow in the dark…?”

I took the teal. It fit, which I guess was what I really cared about. So, magically, my peacock forays continue.

*INVEST being the operative word. Three pairs of workout tights and ONE pair of workout shoes equals $278. Really. Trying not to think of how much frit I could buy with $278.