Outside Junior’s Gym, Bertina and I are on the sidewalk of Calle Xalteva jumping rope. She always starts a strength training session with a quick cardio to warm up. I forgot how much fun jumping rope actually can be. I think that for the past few decades I have viewed the idea of jumping as both uncomfortable and a waste of energy considering all that I want to accomplish in the day. When I would see kids jumping I would relegate that kind of exercise to the energy and spirit of youth and children. They want to jump as opposed to asking themselves to jump because it’s good for them.
But honestly now that I am on my 5th session with Chris and Bertina, I like the jump roping. Today, Bertina wants to make it more fun and challenging by jumping with the same rope together as kids do. We make a go of it several times, getting entangled and losing our rhythm each time. It might take us awhile to get it synchronized but it’s going to be really fun when we do.
Then we are planking down onto the medicine balls, letting them shift ever so slightly under our ankles so that the abdominals work harder to recuperate balance. Sit-ups are officially out of style amongst many physical trainers; too much pressure on the back without the equivalent results that are gained in the abs and triceps from holding the plank position.
I feel pretty good at the moment although I had thrown up this morning before I left; I think that the Cipro antibiotics have had a residual toxicity in my system that is still causing me nausea 3 days out from finishing them.
Chris makes two things clear to me regarding vomiting. Throwing up is okay, but you have to do it that way, he points, indicating the direction of Calle Xalteva. If you cannot make it there I will get you over there. Now, if you are in the middle of your set of 10 reps and you have only done 4, you can go over there and vomit and then come back and give me the other 6. This stuff cracks me up. Everyone should have a coach that makes you feel like you are starring in your own inspirational sports movie.
We’re back into the resistance bands today. Bertina and I have been promoted: I am now using the heavy resistance and she is on extra heavy. I am learning that resistance is key to curves and muscle building- so because building curves is my goal for this entire training for as long as it lasts, I feel sort of fond of the bands. Which means that I am using them wrong.
We are through with two sets when Chris stops the side leg lifting exercise that we are doing. Now, you can come here all day long, he proposes, and throw your leg up there and let it come crashing down counting a little faster all the time and you are going to think that you did something- but it’s not going to change a thing. That’s cardio, he says.
He’s right! I instinctively know that this is where I have always made my mistake in exercise. I go for upbeat, flowing, rhythmic movement – that’s the dancer in me. But that’s part of the reason why dancers are skinny. And that’s not me anymore. I don’t want to have a skinny little girl body forever. I want my body to grow out in the right places. In the places that distinguish me from being a girl, or a man.
So Chris has us do side lifts with the bands, but this time we hold each side up high for 5 seconds more before descending. Maybe 5 seconds doesn’t seem a lot but in the right muscle hold it is in eternity. I am amazed at the way my hip muscles are now aching.
Chris understands the instincts: Your body wants to shut down. It wants to do as little as possible. It’s survival, energy conservation. We ask it to feel the burn to do more, reach a higher level. We ask it to get past a certain point until there is no point.
Most people go to the gym, they’re running through the motions, they’re looking around watching TV, got the remote control in their hand. You cannot achieve any results this way. You have to totally focus your mind, watch the muscle work. Look in the mirror, concentrate. Bertina adds: this is a 1 hour meditation connecting your mind to your body. For 1 hour you must block out everything and focus.
Watch the muscle work.
So I try that for the rest of the workout. Chris points out the muscle area we are working, all hips and butt exercises and I focus in to observe the movements. I’m pretty sure that I have never done this kind of connection before in a gym. Naturally in yoga, you get that kind of awareness coaching from a good yogi but this is the first time that I have applied that kind of concentration to a workout. I become more conscious of what I am doing and any potential cheating I might be subconsciously trying to achieve. I work harder to get more out of each movement. As Chris likes to joke, they won’t charge me extra! I might as well get all I can out of each effort while I am here.