Getting Stronger

Oh how I hate and love this move!

Oh, Jillian Michaels, how I hate and love this move!

I’ve been really diligent about exercise the past two weeks. I had been in such a slump for most of this year that I didn’t really think I could get back on the bandwagon. But the more I work at it, the more motivated I am to keep it up. I’d forgotten how good it feels to push past my limits and earn that sense of accomplishment for the day. I’d forgotten how the aches that tend to follow are a welcome kind of pain because I know they mean I’m getting stronger again. And the best part isn’t even the numbers on the scale or seeing the promise of the shape in my midsection again, (although I am in no way complaining!) The best part is the mental impact. Strength in the body seems to translate to a feeling that I can handle anything. It permeates into every aspect of the day.

Why was it so easy to forget how good this is for me?

All summer long I set my alarm clock to wake me in time to do some physical activity before I had to get ready for work. As the weeks wore on, that alarm would go off and my body would sleepily protest. My eyes didn’t want to open. More often than not, the weariness inside would win and the alarm would get postponed for another hour. Still, I couldn’t ever seem to get caught up on my sleep. I felt mentally and physically drained so much of the time.

My turnaround came slowly. A couple of months ago, I attended a birthday celebration for my former morning gym buddy. Near the end of her pregnancy, her gym visits had dwindled. After her baby boy arrived, there were a few months when escaping the house at 5:00 am just wasn’t possible. The night of the birthday party, she informed me she was back in routine and was hoping I’d start joining her again. Working out with a friend always makes the work feel so much easier! I started getting out of bed with the alarm and going to the gym to meet my friend a couple of times a week.

A few weeks ago when I began to set weekly goals, exercise was a big one. Just having set the goal and telling others about it went a long way in pushing me to follow through. And seeing my parents’ health issues take their toll is a painful reminder that exercise isn’t just a nice thing to do for myself, it’s necessary to keep the effects of aging from coming on too soon. The more I work out, the more I want to work out, the more I want to eat better, the more I believe I can be healthier. I’m climbing out of the slump and it feels so good.

Back to Work

Well, I felt decidedly more human this morning so I showered, got dressed and went back to work.

And my coworker who became ill half a day ahead of me called in sick again. So I win!

Not really. It’s not a contest. Recovering from illness is not a competition.

But really, I kind of felt like I won a contest.

I was welcomed back and it was nice to know people were concerned about my well-being. One person expressed surprise that I had returned so quickly. I know I could have easily claimed illness one more day, but honestly, I was sick of lying around. I had many conversations with coworkers about how “everyone” is getting sick right now. And as if to prove us correct, a chorus of coughs and sneezes periodically rang out around the office. I was grateful I’d just had a quick stomach virus and not that nasty cold and flu stuff that’s making the news.

While I was home sick I missed a lot and also did things I don’t normally do. Kacey went to a reunion with the softball girls and I was completely unaware. When I wasn’t completely unaware of things, I watched a lot of television. I could easily become a regular viewer of Ellen.

This looks like good daily fun, right?

This looks like good daily fun, right?

When you’re sick and if you have cable, you discover all the television shows you used to enjoy and realize they’re still on during the day, usually marathon style. I watched a whole bunch of episodes of Judging Amy. I’d forgotten about that one. I used to really like it and thoroughly enjoyed it again yesterday. Until I fell asleep again.

And I saw a lot of news reports about the flu and how it’s become almost an epidemic in some places. I would like to avoid the flu if I can, so I paid attention. It was said that to prevent the spread of germs, you should try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth. I made a conscious effort not to touch my face at all today, which made me more aware of how often I touch my face as I work.  Which is approximately a hundred times an hour! I used my hand sanitizer each time I caught myself touching my face.

sneezeMy boss is kind of a germ-o-phobe. He approached me and said, “Hey, welcome back! How you feeling?”

As I was saying, “Much better, thanks,” he took a precautionary step away from me. I wasn’t offended, but I decided not to tell him about my sanitizing efforts.

And later, when he was in a meeting, I sneezed on his keyboard.

(Not really. You know me better than that!)

(But it’s fun to think about.)

 

 

 

My Little, Fuzzy, Yellow Godsend

Connor took a bowling class at college last semester and has become somewhat of a fanatic. I can’t say I’m displeased! We got him a bowling ball for Christmas.

Mark’s bowling ball suffered some damage from a ball return recently. He had it repaired but was told not to expect the repair job to last forever. I got Mark a new bowling ball for Christmas.

I’ve been complaining for a year about needing new bowling shoes. While at the pro-shop buying Connor’s Christmas present, I pointed out to Mark a pair of shoes that I liked and thought I might buy after Christmas. Mark got me new bowling shoes for Christmas. (We should be on the preferred customer list at the pro-shop now!)

We’ve got all this new stuff. And Connor has been suggesting for a few days that we should all go bowling. And since he and Kacey are home on break from school right now, the four of us went bowling last night.

The only one not all that interested in bowling is Kacey. She inherited my old shoes, but other than that has none of her own equipment. And whenever she bowls, she complains afterwards that her fingers hurt. And still, she bowled a 165 with a house ball and beat all of us in one game. Connor and Mark are just getting used to their new bowling balls. That was their excuse. My new shoes were great, but I am still struggling with pain from my recent back strain and so I blame my substandard performance on muscles that refuse to relax.

My chiropractor says I’m suffering from Sciatica, most likely the result of a pinched nerve. Last week the worst pain was in my lower back but over the last few days it has moved to the back of my leg. While at the chiropractor, I learned some stretches that are supposed to provide some relief, but so far, they haven’t done much. I was miserable as I bowled my first game. I could barely bend over to release my ball and was limping around in pain. I was almost ready to call it quits when I discovered something about the hard plastic seats that surround each set of lanes. While I was sitting and waiting for my next turn, if I sat forward just so, the edge of the seat dug into the back of my leg and put pressure on my strained muscle in such a way that felt SO amazingly good. Finally, finally something that provided a reprieve from the radiating ache that hadn’t let up for ten days. I wondered how I could get that chair home with me…

I was so happy to sit there, stretch my leg forward and bounce it up and down on the seat edge that I stopped paying attention to the game. Kacey finally asked me what I was doing and I explained that I had discovered a way to (at least temporarily) help me stop being such a whiner.

I suddenly remembered this little wooden ladybug that we had at home. It is supposed to be used for giving massages but no one ever uses it and its whereabouts were uncertain. I thought about how good it would feel to jam that wooden ladybug  into the knot of muscles in my leg and I asked Kacey if she knew where it was. She said, “Maybe in the upstairs linen closet, or maybe in the downstairs linen closet, or maybe in your bedroom closet.”

“So you don’t know where it is,” I stated. She shrugged.

“You should book a massage at the chiropractor’s office,” Mark said.

“I don’t want to spend a hundred dollars to have a stranger dig into the back of my leg,” I said. “Besides, I’ve already paid for two chiropractic visits that have been marginally helpful.”

I was beginning to accept that the chiropractor was right. I’m getting older (just a tiny bit) and things like this are just going to take longer to heal than they did a few years ago.

“You should sit on a tennis ball,” Kacey suggested.

I felt my face light up. “That’s genius,” I said! I knew it would be perfect, and I just so happened to have a container of tennis balls in the laundry room at home. (That’s where you keep your tennis balls, right? You know, for putting in the dryer with down jackets and such!)

Once at home, I immediately grabbed one of the fuzzy yellow balls and positioned it underneath my thigh as I sat in my recliner. Such a simple little object was the answer to my prayers. Two visits to the chiropractor, many sleepless nights and plenty of complaining and it turns out that all I really needed was to sit on a tennis ball.

I slept well last night for the first time in almost two weeks. The first thing I did when I woke up was find my little yellow masseuse and take it with me to the chair to loosen things up again. I was happy, happy, happy!

Apparently this is a well-known remedy. WHY didn't anyone tell me this sooner?

Apparently this is a well-known remedy. WHY didn’t anyone tell me this sooner?

As I prepared to leave for work today, I put my tote bag on the kitchen floor and tossed in some things to help get me through the work day – a big bottle of water, my lunch and… (light bulb!) my little, yellow masseuse. Bella was whining for some attention, so I scooped her up and carried her to Kacey’s room so she could snuggle up in bed with her. I came back to the kitchen and grabbed my bag and almost headed out the door when I realized that Lucy wasn’t on my heels like usual and pleading with those puppy dog eyes for me to take her along. In fact, it occurred to me that as I’d descended the stairs to the foyer, Lucy seemed oddly content,considering my impending departure, as she stretched out on the living room floor, playing with one of her toys.

I made a quick trip back up the steps to check on her and make sure she was okay and not eating something she shouldn’t be eating.

And she was just fine! While I was busy making sure Bella was happy and comfy, Lucy had taken advantage of my moment of inattention. She stuck her face into my tote bag and stole my tennis ball! I couldn’t help but laugh, even though she looked up at me sadly as I rescued the ball before she could remove the cover from it, which would have happened in short order had I not realized what she’d done.

At work, I laid claim to a good chair that seemed like it needed a home. And then I happily sat on my tennis ball all day long. Happy, happy, happy!

Patient Updates

I checked in on my Chica via text message to see how she was feeling after the mastectomy and she said, Like a cement truck ran me over … then backed up and did a spin out on my chest … But other than that … I AM GREAT! :-)

I said that I was glad to see she hadn’t lost her sense of humor but was sorry she was feeling icky. And then I said that when she was feeling up to it, she should check my blog because I asked for prayers for her and there were lots of them offered and also a lot of really nice things said about her.

And she said she would definitely check but that it may be a while before she can because just reading a few text messages makes her konk out.

And I said there was no hurry. I just wanted her to know they were there . And then I said I had to go make some copies so she should feel free to konk out again. Except when I looked at the text after sending it, I saw that I had actually told her to feel free to KINK out again. So I had to send a retraction.  KONK. Not kink.

I don’t think I will be kinking any time soon, she said. And then she joked about getting separate beds but still needing a king size bed for gettin’ busy.

They took her boobies but her sense of humor is still fully intact! That’ll take her a long way, I’m sure.

This whole thing has scared me into inspired me to schedule a very necessary appointment of my own. Boob smashing commences this Thursday morning. I’m not even gonna tell you how many years overdue this appointment is. I have no excuse. I’m not scared, worried or otherwise impaired from having this done. Just lazy and dumb. No more, though. I’m on it.

In other patient news, Lucy seems to be feeling more herself again. She seems to get that something isn’t right, and she tries to abide by the rules, but sometimes she just gets so excited that she can’t help nearly wiggling out of her skin. Thankfully her energy doesn’t last too long and she crashes for yet another nap.

Getting comfy across Jake’s legs

I just hope she doesn’t get too used to being carried up and down stairs. My back muscles may not put up with this for long!

Dad’s Surgery

My parents stopped over one evening last week. They paid the appropriate amount of attention to the dog first, then got to the point of the visit. Mom asked if I was busy at work.

“Yes,” I said. “I mean, sometimes. One week I’m overwhelmed and the next, not so much.”

Then it occurred to me to be suspicious. “Why?”

“Dad’s having surgery on Friday.”

I looked at my dad. I looked at his foot. He’s been wearing one of those boots for foot injuries lately. (Long story.)

“Not on his foot,” my mom said. “He’s having a parathyroid gland removed.” (Believe it or not, this is related to the foot. Another long story.)

“So,” my dad said, “we were wondering if you could take us to the hospital on Friday for my surgery.”

Details were then shared. It was actually considered a minor surgery. Shouldn’t take long. I could probably be back to work by lunch time. I would have to reschedule a conference call to make it work, but I said I thought I could manage it. My dad said if I couldn’t get out of work, they could ask my brother. Apparently he only works until 10:30 on Friday mornings.

I promised to do my best to work things out and would call them from work the next day. As they left, I wondered two things. Why did they ask me to drive? My mom can drive and she’s familiar with the hospital. And if my brother only works a few hours on Friday anyway, why hadn’t they asked him? But I didn’t ask. My parents had asked me. They must have had their reasons.

I was able to rearrange my work day. Promised my boss I’d be in as soon as I could get my parents back home again and I’d work half a day. I called my parents to let them know. They were happy.

Friday morning, I picked up my parents and we headed downtown, earlier than I usually leave for work. We checked my dad in at 6:45 a.m. Then the checker-inner person said that my dad should go to pre-op and my mom should accompany him. I should go to the surgical waiting room and expect to see my mom in a half hour or so.

Two hours later, my mom joined me and my dad was taken in for surgery. She said they had to do all kinds of things related to all of his various heart and diabetic and kidney conditions. They had to ask him all kinds of questions before he was finally ready for surgery. We didn’t expect it to be very long, but two more hours passed before the surgeon came out to tell my mom that all went well and my dad was in recovery. He said Dad would be in recovery about an hour. The pager they’d assigned us would flash when my dad was moved to a room and it was okay to go join him.

An hour passed and we were not paged. My mom went to check in with the checker-inner desk people. A man there said they were very busy and that my dad had not yet been moved to a room. He said my dad was in line behind one other person, but neither could be moved until some other people were moved out for surgery. I asked if he thought it might be a half hour? An hour? More? He really had no idea. He promised our pager would flash as soon as we could see my dad. I sensed a case of serious surgical over-booking. I emailed work and told them I might not be in at all.

Two and a half hours passed. We were hungry, but avoided going to the cafeteria because we kept thinking, “Any minute now…” We spent the time talking about this, that and everything.

My mom mentioned that she had planned to just take my dad to the hospital on her own, but that Dad had insisted they should ask one of their kids to accompany them. My dad said he wanted to ask me. My mild annoyance at having to rearrange my work schedule melted when I learned this. I half smiled at the realization that Dad had insisted on me. My mom had been perfectly willing to manage this on her own, but my dad had been telling others that Mom wasn’t comfortable driving downtown and that was why they had asked me to drive them. Mom wasn’t thrilled, but I thought it was kind of cute.

“Dad’s always been a sucker when it comes to you,” Mom said.

“Well, he has to be,” I said. “I gave him a body part.”

“Yes, but even before that,” Mom said.

“Has not!

“Yes he has. You were always his little darling.”

I had trouble swallowing this. I guess when I think back to childhood, I tend to remember the tough times, the teenage years when I couldn’t seem to do anything right and when doing wrong meant suffering through one of Dad’s interminable lectures in the kitchen. And believe me, I got my share of lectures. But once I began to think past those times, I told my mom that I did remember Dad giving “horsey” rides on his leg while he sat at the kitchen table. I remember climbing up on his lap and asking for a sip of his beer. He always said yes. I remember him stretched out on the living room couch in the evenings and letting me snuggle up next to him, resting in the crook of his arm while we watched Adam 12 or Emergency!

Maybe he did have a soft-spot for me. Funny how I never believed it. And about this time, it occurred to me to start worrying. My dad’s minor procedure had now taken us long past the point of when we expected to be going home. Mom checked on him again at 2:30 and they finally told us that Dad was in a room and we could go see him.

He didn’t look like he’d just had a minor procedure. He looked like he was in pain. He looked slightly out of it. And he was very nauseous and vomiting frequently. I was worried, but there was a nice nurse there who helped him get comfortable.

At 3:30, it was clear that my dad was not leaving soon. Having eaten only a half a granola bar and a fun-size candy bar all day, I was hungry. I asked my mom if she wanted something to eat. She admitted she was hungry too, so I went to the cafeteria to get us some sandwiches and chips. We left the room again for a bit while the nurse took care of my dad. We ate at a leisurely pace and talked some more. She said she was glad that Dad had insisted on me taking them to the hospital. It would have been a very long day had she been all alone all that time. We saw Dad’s surgeon leaving for the day and he waved goodbye to us as he headed for the elevators. Finally, after 5:00, my dad was released. And while I was happy we could finally go home, I was nervous. My dad insisted on bringing his barf-bag along for the car ride and I prayed all the way home through rush hour traffic that he wouldn’t have to use it because if anyone barfs in my presence, there’s a pretty good chance I’ll be joining in the festivities.

Luck was on our side. We got home barf-free and my dad was feeling better by the next day. And I never did make it in to work, but it didn’t really matter to me anymore.

And I Ran

While at the gym on Thursday, I overheard someone say that the Saturday classes were going to be cancelled. I was disappointed. I’ve fallen into a good workout routine and I especially love the Body Works class. It’s a nice mix of weight training with some cardio thrown in, not to mention the abs. I hate doing abs and can’t be counted on to work on them on my own. I go to Body Works several times a week and always on Saturdays.

So I awoke early on Saturday debating what to do. I wanted to do something to stay in routine. It’s too easy to get lazy. I looked out the windows and the sky was overcast with a good promise of rain. I decided I was willing to risk it.

There are a handful of people I know who are runners. And these same people regularly ask me if I’m still running. My answer is always the same. “I gave it up. There’s just not a runner inside of me.”

I’m not sure why, but this answer never sits well with my runner friends. It’s as if they think they know something about me that I don’t. But I know it. I tried to be a runner for more than a year and I was just really bad at it. I just couldn’t seem to develop the stamina to run a good run. Ever. Eventually I admitted defeat and accepted the fact that I am not a runner. I’m at peace with it for the most part, except for an occasional nagging little feeling that as bad as I am at running, I still might like to do it. And this is the feeling that overtook me as I stepped outside for a “walk” yesterday morning.

I did start out walking, but after about two blocks, without much conscious thought, I began to run.

And I ran. I told myself to just go as far as I could go. No expectations. It was peaceful outside except for the occasional car passing. There’s been enough rain recently to make the grass thick and lush. Trees are getting full with leaves. Lilac bushes are blooming and fragrant! I locked eyes with a rabbit as he watched me pass him by. I kept putting one foot in front of the other.  I slowed to a walk only a couple of times, but picked right back up again soon after. I ran the last mile for sure without stopping to walk.

Time flew by, not dragging like it used to when I was trying to learn to be a runner. I found my pace, albeit a slow one. I was running. I recognized that I was in a good sort of place in my head and I was careful to stay in it.

When I got back home, I saw that I’d only gone just over two and a half miles. But I think I ran more solidly than I ever did before. And two and a half miles isn’t bad for someone who hasn’t really run for more than a year. Maybe the fitness classes have helped. True, I’m stronger because of them, but bigger than that, I think it’s a psychological thing. Those classes have helped me believe I can do this stuff. I can get stronger. I can push myself. Maybe there is a runner inside of me after all.

Underwear? Under there?

This is what I love about girlfriends: You can ask them things that in polite conversation would probably cause raised eyebrows.For instance, in polite conversation, you can’t just ask someone if they’re in the habit of wearing underwear or not. But in girlfriend-conversation, you can ask, and they’ll answer honestly and not even think you’re strange for asking.

I went to the gym this morning for Step Aerobics and Body Works classes, as has become my Saturday morning routine. Upon entering the room, I spied my friend, Lori. We chatted a bit, talking about weekend plans. She’s having people over tonight. This being my loner weekend when the husband works all night and sleeps all day, my plans are a bit more low-key. I’m going to start watching the DVDs Lori loaned me – Mad Men Season 1 – so I can participate in the Mad Men conversations that happen during lunch break. Because clearly I do not watch enough t.v. to keep up with the lunchtime conversations.

Soon enough, the class began. We stepped and kicked and mamboed for an hour.  (Yes, we did the mambo! That was fun!) And we sweated our butts off.

After Step Aerobics, there was a fifteen minute break before Body Works began. Lori and I grabbed some hand weights and waited for the class to fill up. While we waited, Lori looked around at the others in the room and remarked that we were all wearing Easter colors. For some reason that reminded me of a gym-wardrobe question that had been plaguing me.

I asked Lori, “See everyone wearing the yoga style pants and capris like mine?”

“Yeah?”

“Are you supposed to wear underwear under those?”

For the record, this is NOT my butt.

Lori didn’t bat an eye. She looked at me and said, “I wear underwear when I have a looser style on. But when I wear those kind, I don’t. I think a lot of people go without when they wear yoga pants. But I think it’s a matter of personal preference. Why?”

“Well, I was noticing at home that if someone were to look at my butt, they could probably see the outline of my bikinis underneath. When I look at my butt in the mirror, I can see the outline.”

Not that I was studying my own butt. Okay, so maybe I was. I’ve been working hard. I might have wanted to see if it was getting toned. This is when the underwear line dilemma was discovered. I’ve also been known to do that body-builder pose in front of the mirror to see if all this work has had any sculpting effects on my arms and shoulders. It has, but it’s only really noticeable so far if I flex. Oh well.

Lori shrugged, signalling that I was worrying needlessly about underwear.

“You’re probably right, I said. “Not that anyone is probably looking at my butt while we’re busy working out, anyway,” I  was trying to make myself feel better. It didn’t work because clearly I was checking out other ladies’ butts to see if I could see the outline of their undies. And believe me, in many cases, I could not find one!

“Well, I don’t look at your butt,” Lori laughed, swatting me playfully on the arm! “But I’m gonna now!”

And then Body Works began and I was almost too busy lunging and lifting my weights to worry about whether or not the outline of my underwear was visible to others. So there’s one worry I can check off the list of many. And I can relax now that I know that going commando is an acceptable practice at the gym.

Butt-Kicking

I tried another new class at the gym tonight. Cycle. Whenever I’ve heard anyone talk about this class, they always say, “It kicks your butt.”

I’ve been wanting to try it. I wanted to see if I could survive a butt-kicking. Lori was planning to go and it was her first time. She asked if I wanted to join her. I was like, “Yeah! Bring it on! Let’s go get our butts kicked!”

Cycle class at my gym has a reputation. It fills up fast. You have to get there early if you want in. Lori learned that people show up a half hour before class begins. They drape a towel over a bike to reserve it, then go off to do something else until it’s time for Cycle class. We showed up at 5:00. We draped our towels over a couple of bikes. There were already people there, sitting on bikes, leisurely pedaling and reading and such.

Lori and I went out and tried a few of the weight machines to pass the time. There were a couple of machines where you sit on the seat and with bent knees, press your feet against a flat platform. You’re supposed to push off with your feet until your legs straighten out. I thought something was wrong with my machine. It wouldn’t go. I said I thought it was locked up or something. Turns out I’m just a dork. I wasn’t pushing hard enough.

We tried a few more weight machines but didn’t want to wear ourselves out before Cycle class, so we went in to check out our bikes. We adjusted the seats and handlebars and tried out the pedals. The instructor came in and talked leisurely to the group while she waited for the rest of the class to arrive and begin the workout. She asked if anyone was new to the class and Lori and I admitted our newbie-ness. The instructor came and helped us adjust our seats and handlebars some more and then explained how to properly ride the bike. (Who knew there was a wrong way?)

The class was filling up by then and the instructor got on her bike and talked a bit more while she adjusted her mic and explained what we’d be doing. She apologized and said that tonight’s workout was one of the hardest ones she had. Great. She said there would be a lot of “getting out of the saddle” and the newbies should not worry so much about the up-down business, but just get used to controlling the pedals and whatnot. She warned us newbies that our butts were going to hurt tomorrow. I didn’t doubt it. I’d heard the butt-kicking warnings.

Then she went on to say she was in a good mood tonight. She said she was in a bad mood last night because people were lined up to get in on the class but all the bikes were reserved. One bike had a pair of shoes draped over it, but the person to whom the shoes belonged showed up ten minutes late while willing people were turned away. That ticked her off. I wasn’t worried. I was on time. Then she said that last night, people left half-way through the class and she got really ticked! I made a mental note. Don’t leave early if you don’t want to irritate the instructor. Not sure why I cared. Maybe just because I’m a people pleaser.

Class began. Ten minutes in, I realized I had seriously wimpy leg muscles.Ten minutes in, I was already panicking. Ten minutes in, I was wondering if we were really going to do this for a full hour and how badly did I not want to tick off the instructor?

The guy next to me picked up his towel and water bottle about fifteen minutes in. The instructor noticed a few minutes later and asked the class, “Did someone leave? Did that guy seriously just leave?” 

I was a little worried. What were the consequences of leaving after you’d been informed that leaving was very much frowned upon? Five minutes later, the guy came back and got back on his bike. I was relieved for him. I’d been worried! The instructor noticed he was back and announced to the class, “He came back!” She was happy again, thank god. I’d been worried that an unhappy instructor wouldn’t bode well for the rest of us.

There was a lot of jumping. (Stand up for four rotations, sit down for four. Stand up. Sit down. You get the picture.) There was a lot of climbing. (Increase the tension and pedal as fast as you can. Increase it some more and keep pedaling. And so on.)

Honestly, I couldn’t keep up. I sat a lot when I was supposed to be up. The instructor had given me permission as a newbie, but still. I wanted to keep up. I looked to my left. Lori was sitting too. Sometimes she stopped pedaling altogether. I looked around the class. Even some of the experienced cyclers were sitting at times. The instructor was encouraging. She called out to us newbies and said “Just do what you can. It’s really hard the first time, but trust me, after you’ve done it three times, you’ll catch on. You won’t think you’re dying anymore.” She asked for agreement from the class, “Right?” They all looked sympathetically at us newbies and nodded.

Way back at ten minutes in, I had decided the class was sadistic and I was never going back. But as we neared the end, I told myself to just keep pedaling. If I did nothing else, I was going to just keep pedaling. There were just a couple of minutes left and the instructor said to just pedal. Pedal hard and pedal fast. My legs were on fire but I made them keep pedaling. Sweat was pouring out of every pore on my body, but I kept going.

Finally, it was over and we were cooling down and dismounting. I looked over at myself in the mirror. I looked like I’d been through the ringer. I looked at Lori. She looked much the same. People outside the cycle room were looking in with curiosity. Or maybe it was horror.

“We did it,” I said to Lori.

“Oh my god, I’m dying,” she said, trying desperately to stay standing.

“Hey, we may not have kept up, but look at us,” I said. “We’re drenched with sweat. Mission accomplished.”

“Good point,” she agreed.

There was no mention of going back for more. I don’t think we’re ready to contemplate that just yet. We’ll wait and see if we’re still able to walk tomorrow morning and then maybe we’ll discuss it. Our butts have definitely been kicked.

As for right now, I’ve got a seriously under-used whirlpool bathtub and some nether regions that need a good soaking.

Old Dogs CAN Learn New Tricks

I went to the Step Plus Abs class again at the gym today. There was a different instructor this time. Apparently she’s the “usual.” She was less intense than last week’s instructor, but she explained the moves better. I felt more coordinated this time and less self-conscious. Lori and Lynn were already there when I walked in. I was happy to see familiar faces being as this was only my second foray into the group fitness arena.

After class, Lori said she was staying for another class, Body Works Plus Abs. I thought, “What the heck? I’m already here.”

I asked Lori how intense the class was and if I was going to bomb out seeing as how I’d just spent an hour doing cardio.

“Just try it,” she encouraged me. “If it’s too much, you can always just quit early. People do that.”

So I stayed for Body Works Plus Abs. And I learned a few things. I learned that in Step Plus Abs, I will think, “Hey! My abs are in pretty good shape!” And I learned in Body Works Plus Abs, I will realize, “Oh my god. I have NO muscles in my stomach.”

GAH! That HURT! But in a good way.

I chose free weights that were on the lighter side for the Body Works class. I had no idea what was in store or how much I could handle, so I played it safe. I’m not even going to tell you how little my weights were. It’s embarrassing. Okay, I’ll tell you. I chose a set of two and a half-pound weights and a set of five-pound weights.  Next time I’ll go for five and seven and a half.

Body Works Plus Abs is a whole mix of free-weight stuff and toning. There were a few times I thought I was dying. I’m not sure what makes up the parts of my body underneath the skin but I think it’s wet noodles. Regardless, at some point I realized we were doing a cool down and when the instructor said to give ourselves a hand, I realized I’d made it through the whole class!

I’ve heard it said many times how exercise releases endorphins in the brain, resulting in a positive boost in mood and lower rates of depression. Honestly, I’m not sure that I’ve felt that many times in my life, but I’m feeling it now! I can’t believe it took me this long to try a group fitness class and figure out how motivating it is to be surrounded by others who are sweating it out alongside you. I’m actually excited about exercising again! And this after I seriously contemplated dropping my gym membership a couple of weeks ago.

Winter takes its toll on me. I’m aware of it most days, but never so much as these few times I’ve made it through a group fitness class. It’s like my brain has reached a completely different, higher plane. I’m excited, energized and HAPPY. Not that I spend my days feeling completely miserable, but there’s a definite and persistent sense of BLAH inside of me during the winter. I think I found the cure for that.

I’m so motivated to go back for more! I’m ready to turn these wet noodles of mine into strong(er) muscle. However, since my calves (previously thought to be the strongest part of my body) protested for three days after the last Step class, I’ll have to play it by ear. If I feel like a big pile of ground beef when I wake up tomorrow, I may have to curb my enthusiasm a bit and ease into things.

Now if I could just find this kind of excitement for cleaning the house! Sigh!

Stepped Outside of my Comfort Zone

Exercise-wise, all I ever do is walk, power-walk and try to run (not very well). Once in a while I do some stuff on the Wii Fit, but I don’t recall ever really breaking a sweat there. And I bought a Shake-Weight recently. I DID! You’re laughing, but that sucker works! The arms and shoulders definitely feel it after doing the Shake-Weight routine!

But I’ve been getting bored. And lazy. I’ve been feeling less and less enthusiastic about getting out of bed in the morning to go to the gym and do the treadmill thing. Oh, it’s a great way to kill two birds with one stone – do a little exercise and read my latest book. But it’s getting boring.

Growing up, fitness was not something that was even on my family’s radar. So everything fitness related is rather unfamiliar to me, except for the walking, running and home exercise stuff I’ve done. I’ve never been truly serious about my exercise so I didn’t know which way to turn when I got bored. My gym offers all kinds of group fitness classes, but I’ve never done one. So I’ve been intimidated to go and do one, especially on my own.

My friend and coworker, Lori goes to my gym and does all kinds of fitness classes there and one day she suggested I join her for one. The thought of trying something new seemed a little less intimidating when I thought about doing it with a friend. So today was the day. I’d agreed to go to a morning step aerobics class with her. I wasn’t too worried about it until she started saying things like, “Just promise me you won’t leave before the class is over.”

“Why would I do that,” I asked? “Do people leave in the middle of these classes?”

“Well, sometimes people who are new to it will bail out before it’s over because they’re not getting the steps right and they’re embarrassed or something.”

I wasn’t all that worried about it until Lori shared that bit of information. I’m a very self-conscious kind of person. Suddenly I was worried that I would be a miserable failure at step aerobics. I didn’t realize how worried I was until I dreamed last night about being in fitness class and noticing people pointing at me and whispering about my inability to keep up.

I woke up this morning with the gym dream still lingering and seriously debating whether I wanted to go to the class. The gym is crowded on Saturdays. I don’t like crowds. This is why I like my 5 a.m. visits to the gym. Not many people there at 5 a.m. But there are also no fitness classes at 5 a.m.

Then I berated myself for even letting myself debate whether it was an option to go. I had promised Lori I would meet her there and I was going to go. How bad could it be? But I had to pep-talk myself all the way to the gym. I had to keep reminding myself that I would feel much worse if I gave in to my insecurities than I would if I tried my best and suffered a bit of embarrassment. (And why is it that perceived embarrassment is always so much worse than the real thing?)

Once at the gym, I set myself up in the back of the classroom where I could keep an eye on the more experienced steppers. I followed the instructor and just did the best I could. And the instructor was great about reminding everyone to just do what they could. If we needed to just focus on the steps, we should feel free to skip the coordinating arm stretches. I followed Lori’s advice and when I found myself unable to figure out a pattern of steps, I just marched or did basic steps until I could get back on track. There was one pattern of steps that was very intricate and I could not seem to pick it up no matter how many times I tried. I’ve gotta admit that I contemplated walking out then, but I looked around and saw other newbies looking just as lost as me, and that gave me the boost to stick with it. The longer I stuck with it, the smaller the chance that my insecurities were going to beat me.

And? It was awesome! I did it! I stuck it out right through to the end. I was sweating like crazy by the time we were done and I’d had fun! I knew before it was over that I want to do it again.

Lori, her friend, Lynn and I gathered together when it was all over. Our faces were red and we were all sweating.

“That was fun,” I told Lori!

“That was hard,” she laughed and Lynn agreed. “That wasn’t the usual instructor and this class was way more intense than what we do with the normal instructor.”

“Yeah,” Lynn said. “That probably wasn’t the best class for a beginner to start out with.

“Well, I want to do it again,” I said. “So that must be a good sign!”

We parted ways then. Lori wanted to do some free-weights and I needed to head home. But I am definitely feeling better about trying more of these fitness classes. I’ll bet Lori doesn’t even know what a huge favor she did for me just by being there and encouraging me.