Lynne Benoit-Vachon, Wells: Being Healthier, Two Hours at a Time

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Next year marks the 20th anniversary of my friendship with Fred. My “Fred-ship”. He’s still wearing the oversized t-shirts and loose sweatpants he wore when I first saw him in Pilates class. Bearded and wearing a baseball cap, legs twirling in the air, sneaker laces dangling. Side by side, we walked through the movements and movements, still unknown.

Fred did side sit-ups in 2009 on the Pilates machine called the reformer. Photo courtesy of Lynne Benoit-Vachon

I would later learn that Fred was transforming himself from 24-ounce prime rib and diabetes complications to daily walks and weight lifting. Fred, on his mat, surrounded by skinny soccer moms, had already lost 80 pounds. He took all the fitness classes to stay motivated. It was his new normal.

We officially met a few weeks later. Fred puts it this way: he came to my step aerobics class, tripped and fell on the step, and I laughed. I remember the stumbles, but not the laughs, and I’ve learned over the years that Fred’s recipe for a good story includes generous touches of embellishment. Fish tales without fish. Stories that make me laugh – with him, not against him.

“I don’t need money, I need friends,” he replied when I offered to pay him to do electrical work at my house. We became friends in fitness, meeting almost every morning before sunrise. Walks, races, circuit training, weight room. These exercise appointments have kept our aging bodies healthy and strong. I would have skipped many 5am workouts in January if Fred hadn’t been there, waiting for me to show up.

We are an unlikely couple. Fred grew up in a triple story in Lowell, Massachusetts, during the Eisenhower administration; me, in rural Maine from the Reagan era. He went to a rude business school; I went to Mount Blue. His family vacationed on Peaks Island; mine, in the mountains and lakes of Rangeley. He’s a great baseball player; I couldn’t (in Fred’s words) “hit a bull’s ass with a banjo”.

In 20 years, I don’t think we’ve spent more than two hours in a row together. Yet it is these two hours a day that have always marked a positive course for the 22 others. We all need to tell our friends, and hear them say, “Come on, let’s go. You can do it. ”In exercise and in life.


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