But I digress… let’s check out my performance in the classes themselves.
Class #1: Aquatics
Sure, it started out innocently enough, running around the edge of the pool counter-clockwise. I really got in the groove and felt super strong because of how fast I was striding along.
Then we had to change direction.
Trying to run opposite the current we had created, I morphed from “Power boat” into “Blade of grass floating on a river.”
“Push through that water!” Stephanie yelled. “Push” simply does not happen. I mean, I’m walking but staying in the same place, sort of like Marcel Marceau.
Soon we switched exercises: forcing hand buoys down through the water to
abuse strengthen the triceps. Glancing out the pool window, I noticed a guy around my age doing curls with a barbell. He’s pumping iron. I’m pumping styrofoam. Oh, well… baby steps.
Class #2: H.I.R.T.
I knew the name was an acronym for High Intensity Resistance Training, which involves anaerobic (super high heart rate) intervals. I’m a cyclist. I can do intervals… right?
Pfffft. I didn’t know what hit me.
After Anna warmed us up we did lunges with heavy hand weights. “Left leg forward, knees at ninety degrees!” After about four hundred* curl/overhead lift combos followed by seeming hours of pulsing–all on one leg, thank you–it was time to switch sides. So now the right leg was supposed to be in front.
*Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating the count–a little.
Who knew I had arthritis in my right hip?
By the time I dragged my right foot into the same ZIP code as the left, got some feeling back in the thigh and could straighten up, everyone else was halfway through the four hundred curls.
Oh darn, I missed a bunch of curls.
Pulsing went a little better on that side. But we weren’t done–just ready for the first “Interval.”
“Tuck jumps!” Anna yelled. She demonstrated jumping straight up and pulling the knees up until it looks like you’re sitting in a chair for a microsecond before you drop back down to a graceful landing.
Now, I used to be kind of light on my feet, so I leaped into the air with confidence. Before I could even start to pull my knees up my feet were already back on the floor. I figure my “leaps” average about 0.8179 inches in height, ballpark estimate. I switched to jumping jacks. Elementary, I know, but… baby steps.
Next Interval: “Burpees!” I was sorry to learn this exercise bears no resemblance whatever to the seed company. No, it’s more of a plank / pushup / leap-your-feet-forward-into-a-crouch / jump-straight-up-with-hands-pushing-toward-the-ceiling sequence. It works great if you’re young, strong, agile, and have short legs. Me? Not so much. Everyone else did twelve or fifteen Burpees in one minute. I completed two-ish.
Third and last (yay!) Interval: “Mountain Climbers!” This, I can do: You just lean your hands on the floor and let your front end do a plank while your back end sprints in place. Within 45 seconds my heart rate topped 180, so it must be good for me… right? Determined to get in some good hard work, at the 30-second mark I sped up. I almost hyperventilated, but didn’t care because I’d finally found an exercise I could actually accomplish.
All this was more than a year ago. In those first class sessions I felt inadequate and miserable. Yet I haven’t missed a week except when I’ve been out of town. So, why did I keep coming back?
First, I learned the instructors aren’t trying to kill us. They offer modifications to prevent injury, and recommend slowing down if need be.
Second, I got lots of encouragement. Not that I needed much in aquatics. But in H.I.R.T., Anna often comes around and checks our form, praising our efforts. Even as we work hard to improve, she always tells us to be thankful for where we are right now.
Most of all, you know what? I actually have improved! I don’t notice as it’s happening, but one day I realize I can increase my weights or last through a long lifting exercise that I couldn’t finish before.
With a little coaching and determination, I’ve pushed back my boundaries, increased endurance and developed some muscle tone.
And it all started with baby steps.
What about you? Have you taken up a challenge and had to overcome it piece by small piece? What motivates you to push through the discouragement of slow progress? Tell me about it in the comments below.
Thanks for reading,