Back to the Gym

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?


One response to “Back to the Gym

  1. Pingback: Q&A: What is a fast speed for running?

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