Collapsing on the couch after a long weekend at Great Smoky Mountain National Park, I think about tomorrow. I’m supposed to meet my personal trainer at the gym at 6:00AM. I wonder why I thought that would be a good idea? My legs and shoulders are aching from hiking over the weekend and all I really want to do is sleep. The gods must have heard my protest because I receive a text from my trainer that he’s had several cancellations and he’s able to reschedule for 7:30AM instead. I think briefly about running out to buy a lottery ticket while my luck is hot, but decide not to push it.
I collapse into bed feeling wide awake and sleepy at the same time. I download a new book to my iPad, having finished “The Help.” I choose something light and fun and go with Kathy Reich’s newest novel. I turn to the first page and get about a paragraph read before I’m nodding off. I plug in my iPad, set it on the nightstand and roll over, falling fast asleep.
The next morning, I awake before my alarm goes off at 6:00AM, but not by much. It’s nice to be sleeping in again–I’ve been waking up around 4:00AM for weeks and it’s gotten really old. I go through my morning routine, making coffee, sitting on the balcony, writing my blog. But the temperature has dropped about 30 degrees with all the rain. I go back inside to grab a fleece and slippers before returning to the balcony. It’s still raining and I wonder if the whether will clear in time for our upcoming trip to Germany. My weather app tells me it’s going to rain for a week and I worry for a moment about our flight on Sunday, but then return to my blog.
Putting my computer away, I brush my teeth and head out the door, forgetting to bring a bottle of water. Today, I am wearing long workout pants for the first time in months. I zip up my rain jacket and pull up the hood before exiting the lobby. It’s a short walk to the gym–it’s right across the street–but my feet get wet anyway. I hang my jacket in the locker room and go back out to the treadmills. The treadmill I pick has an error and won’t start–the dependency on a computer to go for a walk strikes me as strange. I move over one machine and start walking. I only have a few minutes before my training session starts, so my goal is just to warm up and stretch a little. As I increase the speed, I notice that there are puddles sitting on the handrail around the control panel. The entire handrail is splattered and I wonder what sweaty beast last used the machine. I am already walking and not up for changing treadmills again, so I try not to touch anything. I add a 2% incline and speed up to 4.2 miles per hour, about the fastest I can walk without breaking into a trot. In my fivefingers shoes, my foot fall hits mid-sole and I keep my knees more bent so that I probably look like I think I’m running–I imagine what I look like to an observer, running in slow motion. My feet make a funny “slap, slap” noise with each stride and I try to figure out how to walk more quietly. I actually am walking more quietly than I do in regular shoes; when I wear running shoes, my feet go “thump, thump” instead. I’ve often wondered why I am such a noisy walker, but I’ve never figured out how to walk silently. I have no more success at quieting my stride today, but the other people in the gym are all wearing ear buds, so I hope that they can’t hear me.
After warming up for 5 minutes, I hop off the treadmill and grab a spray bottle and a cleaning towel. I spray down the treadmill and wipe off the sweat left behind by some stranger, trying not to think about it too much. Then, I stretch my calves against the wall. Wow! I didn’t know calves could be so tight, but I realize I didn’t stretch after doing many miles of steep hiking over the weekend. I make a note mentally that getting into yoga class has to be a priority when we get back from Germany.
My trainer walks up and tells me he’s ready when I am and I follow him back into the small training room. I don’t much like this room. It’s tight for two people to be in and it heats up quickly, making me feel like I’m working much harder than I am. He starts me off with 2 minutes of mountain climbers. Mountain climbers are a deceptive exercise. First, they are nothing like mountain climbing. Second, they seem easy when I start, but after about a minute, I’m ready to get off the mountain! With my arms extended and hands on the floor, I move my feet back and forth underneath me. It’s like skipping in place while supporting your upper body with your hands. As I slow my pace and shorten my stride, my trainer chuckles and comments that he really likes this exercise because it uses your whole body. I would make a smart acre remark about how maybe he really likes this exercise because he’s not the one doing it, but I’m too out of breath to say anything. Next come push-ups.
He tells me to do 30 full push-ups with a pause at the bottom. I look at him skeptically and say, “Maybe 10.” I’m not good at full push-ups–too many years of doing them off my knees, I guess. I do get 10 on my toes, which is quite an accomplishment for me. Then, I drop to my knees and do 20 more. My trainer says encouraging things like, “Good job! I’m proud of you!” when I’m done, but I suspect he picked up positive reinforcement from trainer school and that he’s really laughing at me.
Next I do jumping jacks with shoulder presses. While the average person may find this to be an easy exercise, I lack the coordination to keep track of my feet and hands simultaneously. I have a hard time keeping my shoulder press in time with my jumping jacks, and find myself nearly smashing my head between the weights when I get confused. Fortunately, self-preservation kicks in just in time to prevent a concussion. This time, my trainer does laugh at me. I switch to concentrating on my arms instead of my feet and find myself jumping backwards until I almost collide with the massage table that sits against the wall. My trainer covers his mouth with his hand, trying to hide his amusement. I switch back to concentrating on my feet and then forget about my arms again. All of this reminds me of when Pat got me a drum kit because I thought I wanted to learn how to play. I had three problems in learning to play the drums: 1) I can’t keep time, 2) I could only get one foot or one hand going at a time, and 3) I kept missing the drum heads with my sticks. Other than that, I was a natural.
Finishing up the shoulder press jumping jacks, my trainer has me do some exercise whose name I don’t know. If you asked me to name it, I would call it “torture.” This involves getting back into push-up position, but with each hand on a weight. Then, while holding my body in a plank, I’m supposed to do a one-arm row with the weight, alternating sides without twisting. By the time I finish, my shoulders are burning (not in a good way) and my fingers are going numb. Sharing this with my trainer, he decides to give me a break and has me lay down on the massage table. He takes out a foam roller and rolls it all over my sore muscles. Now this I can do! When he gets to my left calf, I practically jump off the table. My right leg bends and I grunt. He says, “Calves a little tight?” and I “ugh” back at him. He moves to my right calf and it’s even worse. He tells me, “If that’s too much pressure, let me know–sometimes I don’t know my own strength.” The man resembles Michael Clarke Duncan in physique–I can only imagine what it’s like to be that strong. Truthfully, he’s also a lot like many of Michael Clarke Duncan’s characters in that he’s sweet and soft-spoken in spite of his intimidating size. For that reason, I trust him to roll this foam thing over my sore muscles. When he’s done, I do feel better. The knots in my shoulders have shrunk from walnuts to peas and my fingers have stopped tingling. I wonder if I could just come in for a half hour of roller therapy instead of a workout?