Fit -- in sickness, too

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And then came the flu.

Or a flu-like virus. Whatever it was, it knocked me on my recently-firmed glutes.

Despite feeling like Popeye feels after inhaling his spinach from strength training sessions at the YMCA, I was no match for the illness that visited me at the end of October.

It sucked every ounce of health out of me in less than 72 hours, leaving me like pasta that’s stayed in the water five minutes too long. When I could finally drag my glutes back to work, the last place I wanted to show up was at the Y to sweat, twist, kick and slither.

But I knew my trainer, Leslie Snyder, would be waiting, on the dot at the top of the hour. So I went.

It was our second round for my workout buddy Ann and me to use the pull-up assist piece of wonder that, while helping you lift a portion of your own weight, also enables you to do a chin up.

Right. I love chin ups, said no one ever, unless they were lying.

Ann did 10. I did 10. Ann did 10. I did 10. And we did pull ups and tricep dips, our muscles quivering and our guts — correctly — sucking backward. You may insert a naughty curse word here, that’s how hard it was.

We’ve gradually transitioned to using more of the machines the Y has to offer since starting this gig Oct. 9. Mostly it’s a humbling experience, but we’re, sort of, insanely proud when Leslie adds five more pounds of resistance. And then we handle it, like we handle those kettle balls we’re swinging.

Less easy than it sounds when you, like me, must continually correct your form. For some reason, I want to slump my shoulders and bow out my back. “Keep your spine long,” Leslie has had to remind me 50 times or so. I also have trouble placing my feet far enough apart and keeping my elbows close. Trying to nail those details down while doing a maneuver is more than my brain can currently handle.

Let me assure you, however, all of that pales compared to hoisting my own weight. As Leslie says, our bodies can provide some of the best workouts.

She proved her point when she had me jump. Yes, just jump, the stuff we did in grade school as naturally as we passed notes in Mrs. Richardson’s fifth grade class.

First Leslie jumped, pulling her heels toward her bottom, like some high school cheerleader. Then I jumped, and it looked nothing like that. I might leap over leaves and piles of dirty towels, but to just jump?

Then I did a four-way jump. Forward, backward, side to side. Four sets of those left me dripping onto the Y’s floor and DYING. If you think that sounds so easy you (a) weigh 90 pounds or (b) haven’t tried it since grade school P.E.

For some of you, this stuff sounds pretty small time. It would to me, if I wasn’t living it. So now let me tell you how impacting this little stuff is on my life.

Balance: I’ve been working on my bedroom lately, stripping wallpaper, scrubbing off glue, putting up borders of painters tape. I noticed last weekend I am now making that little stepladder my friend, instead of dreading one more trip up the three levels. I’m up and down on that thing like I’m tethered with a safety rope _ no grabbing the handle or wobbling at the very top. My core muscles are locking me into a balanced position automatically and on their own; real life example of the “muscle memory” Leslie likes to tout.

Strength: When I was single, I had to rotate my thick, queen-sized mattress every month to keep it from getting a lopsided trench. I always asked my teens for help in wrestling the Serta into the new spot and the three of us would heave and rotate.

On Saturday, I realized that while the sleeping surface has evened out with marriage, I should probably continue rotation practice. No one was home but me. I squared my shoulders (“Back and down,” is Leslie’s mantra) and grabbed the handles. Here is the point that would have previously thrown my back into an all-day spasm. Readers, I lifted that mattress like it was made of paper.

Seriously, I whipped that chunky puppy around in a minute. Then I decided I might as well tackle the new skirting for the platform bed and threw the mattress into a standing position against the wall. When I was done, I plunked it down without breaking a sweat. Of course, I had to text Leslie and Ann the news. We’re such girls.

Knees: Not going to lie, I was hoping I would be pain free by now. Completely unrealistic, of course, and it might not ever happen. But here is what has happened. I consistently need less pain medication, and no longer wake at night in agony. I actually use my knees once again, and without fear. I had not realized how much I was babying them, afraid to step too high or sit on the floor — since that means getting up again.

My range of motion is noticeably wider and I don’t feel like my knees are rusty Slinkies waiting to seize up. While I’m not back to original issue, I am using those joints much more as they are intended.

Next time I’ll tell you how my lady bat wings surprised me this morning. I waved as I combed my hair and they didn’t wave back. Well, barely. I’m going home now to try that again.

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