Getting healthier every day

The three-martini lunch and the after-work, marathon, olive-diving happy hours were popular pastimes in the '60s and '70s. I remember it being filled with laughter and true-blue camaraderie.

Every Friday, like a squad of soldiers readying for a mission, friends called to say what time everyone was meeting at Rosellini's 410 downtown. The time never varied more than 12 minutes.

Walking into the bar was always met with loud greetings and acknowledgement of familiar faces. It was time for the proverbial gainer and a half into a sea of martinis decorated with 9-pound olives.

When too many swizzle sticks appeared in the glass, it was time to bid adieu.

After repeating goodbyes, then circling the block a few times looking for the car, it was time to leave the big city lights behind.

Driving east with the tunes turned up, then with a hand on one eye so as to focus on the white line, we headed to the safety and warmth of our homes in Madison Park. The minute stopover at home allowed for re-costuming before proceeding to the neighborhood kegger.

We lived by the motto that anything worth doing was worth doing to excess. Hangovers lasted as long as it took the bartender to pour the first tomato juice, and beer at the local pub sometimes ignited another party.

Noticing a change

But the notion of working out was becoming a fast-growing, underground movement directly challenging the old, albeit unhealthy, standards.

We used to look forward to the Shore Run in July. Each year the run ended in the streets in front of local pubs, where endless beers were consumed so as to quench the thirst that occurred after reliving the race for hours on end.

This new healthy influence, however, reared its ugly head when cases of Perrier, mineral water, wheat grass, green tea and (for decadence) Starbucks coffee samples began to appear. The streets were vacant not an hour afterward.

What was happening to the drinking class? Why, people were even giving up smoking!

It all happened so fast.

Gyms sprang up.

Jane Fonda's aerobics became the craze.

Hangovers were replaced with the natural high of endorphins, and nutritional drinks promised long life.

The martini like-minded group at work disbanded. I was left with the choice of playing hearts at lunch with the married set or joining the gym across the street. I chose the latter.

Finding kindred spirits

Weeks went by and I felt like my efforts were paying off. I stood taller and had more energy.

I still joined my friends after work, but it seemed we broke up early, almost sober, with the next day's workout in mind.

I soon joined Fitness Inc. (Harry's), right across the street from the Paramount Theater. It had a large membership, and I looked forward to working out with kindred spirits.

The only problem was it was a mile from my office.

I asked my boss for a 1 1/2-hour lunch once, and he quipped, "Can't do enough martinis in an hour?"

I told him about the gym and offered that I could come in early to make up the time. He not only said OK, he joined, too!

We worked out together the next four years, but then that gym closed, to everyone's dismay.

Running was also part of our workout regimes. We loved to take off on the perfect jogging route, heading south on Lake Washington Boulevard.

A bit past the tennis club, we grabbed a right-winding uphill to 38th Avenue to a place we called "Reward Point." Then it was level as we treaded north, rounding the bend to Madison Street, where it was downhill all the way home.

There, German sausage, sweet-hot mustard and the world's second-greatest martini awaited us.

Workout options

Later, Mike Taylor opened Madison Park Fitness on 43rd Avenue. We could not complain about its location - only one block from our house. There were aerobics classes upstairs on carpeting, with great music accompaniment and weights in the basement.

In yesteryear, it was a veterinarian's office in the front and Buchan's Boat Design in the back. Later, it became a ski store, and then Michael took over.

It was a marketing firm for years following the club's closure.

Another gym, called Sound, Mind & Body, opened on Madison Street in Arboretum Court, promising a larger workout area, more equipment and myriad classes. We eventually joined, but it closed last year.

Thankfully, another health club reopened quickly under the name Denali Fitness.

But there are other options for working out in our area. The YMCA on 23rd fits the bill with an Olympic-size pool, as well as weights and classes.

The Seattle Tennis Club offers a great workout, along with upscale accoutrements.

Madison Park residents also are members of the Washington Athletic Club downtown, Gold's Gym on Broadway and 24-Hour Fitness.

Seeing changes

Sooner or later, a person realizes a martini is not a vitamin. Health issues force a change in how one lives life. Being involved in some sort of fitness improvement leads one to support this acknowledgment, and the closer to home the gym the better.

The first gym I joined had only barbells and dumbbells. Now all the Stairmasters, treadmills and bicycles have TV monitors built in! With a pair of headphones, 45 minutes goes by so fast, it's a pleasure.

There are also spinning classes, Pilates, yoga, step and aerobic sclasses, along with of state-of-the-art weight machines, each fine-tuned to work specific muscle groups.

We have found our fitness home.

Now that I am on the far right of 50, the gym is a good way to shake the cobwebs loose.

It is true: If you eat right, sleep and exercise, life gets better day after day.

Richard Carl Lehman is a Madison Park resident. Send e-mail to him at

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