Thursday, April 5, 2012

Unexpected Consequences

When I started taking Barre Amped classes back in December, I was hoping for a new challenge.  After the Runner's World Run Streak I needed a break from the treadmill, and after years of spending 99% of my workouts running or on the elliptical machine, I felt like I needed to try something new.  I was also hoping that my body would magically be transformed into Heidi Klum's.  Maybe that wasn't the most realistic goal, but at least I'm honest.

I've taken about two dozen classes now and I will say, they're certainly a challenge.  They have worked my body in new ways and pushed me to my physical and mental limits.  There are points in the class when my legs start shaking uncontrollably like they are trying to do an Elvis impression without my permission.  When that happens, I just have to laugh.  I try to smile when the instructor counts down the last eight seconds of some pose that looks like a wall sit except that there is no wall and you're on your tippy toes, only to start another 8 second count down without a break.  I grin when I catch the eye of another student who is also trying to get a glimpse of the clock and willing the second hand to speed up until our pain is over.

Sadly, I still do not have the body of a German supermodel.  In fact, I have the body of plain old me.  That is probably due in part to the fact that I can only make it to 1-2 Barre classes a week and continue to eat cupcakes, Whirled Peace, and Cadbury eggs like the apocalypse is coming and being made of 98% sugar will help my odds of survival.

That sad fact aside, I did notice a strange change.  In my adult life, I've never been able to do more than one or two push ups.  My arms would shake, my brain would say, "Stop this hurts," and I would give up.  That would be it for a year or two, and then I'd get motivated to try again.  I figured that since I had run three marathons I could still turn in my weenie card and no one could judge me.

Then the other day after a workout I decided to try again.  I did 20 push ups.  Not girlie on your knee push ups (which are still hard, by the way), not push ups with terrible form and my butt sticking 5 feet in the air, but 20 perfect man-style push ups in a straight plank position in front of a mirror to keep me honest.  I was amazed.  I'd done a lot of arm work and planks in Barre class, but this was unprecedented territory for me.  I felt strong.  I felt empowered.  I felt an incredible connection with my body and my abilities.

For me, that's what being fit is about.  Sure, it's nice to fit in my clothes and be able to eat whoopie pies and sweet potato fries without tremendous guilt, but mostly being fit makes me feel ready.  If I have to carry a heavy box at work, I can probably find a way to handle it.  If my hypothetical child (or Clyde) wants to run 50 laps around the backyard for fun, I can keep up.  If the elevator goes out and I need to climb ten flights of stairs, I'll be fine.  If my lovely friend and ex-colleague invites me to a 90-minute yoga class, I know I won't die.  (Well, maybe of embarrassment, but not of exhaustion.)  To me, that's what fitness is about.  It's being prepared and being able to face each day with armor.  It doesn't mean that I won't fall or fail, but it will be that much easier for me to brush myself off and hop up again afterward.

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