Day 2: This is it! First day strength training at Junior’s Gym.

Strength Training, Personal Fitness, Granada, Nicaragua, squats.png

Chris looks me right in the eyes and fairly warns me. “You realize that you are going to hate me the next day.”

Bertina laughs, because although you would never guess it now, she was like me, just at the beginning a few years ago, and can attest to the truth of his forecast. “But you will get past it,” she says, “and then it will get easier and you will want to do even more.”

I believe both of them. I have known Bertina and Chris for just few months but I grasped from the first time I met them that they didn’t waste their Granada days with niceties and empty occupations. When Chris gets up in the morning, he knows where he is going. Bertina also has inner purpose and discipline and I was instinctively drawn to both their strength and certainty of direction.

And then there is of course, their compelling radiant good health and beauty which is impossible to ignore. Chris and Bertina, are the physical embodiment of what you achieve when you have focus and commitment.  Fortunately for me, they can also be extremely funny and I devour Chris’s brassy jokes but…

“I don’t accept whining. You can say ohhh, Chris I cannot do that, I’ve got this something here…ohhh and noooo, I don’t think I can do that today. That’s okay, I’ve already been paid. I’ll just stay here and wait for you to it. We can wait the whole hour,” he finishes. Bertina smiles again. She has so been there.

From the moment that they agreed to train me which I sincerely feel was no small miracle (I have one client and one client only, and that is Bertina, Chris had solidly stated), I had butterflies in my stomach, a combination of excitement that I was getting something that I desperately had wanted, and nerves (I was sure to let somebody down, where would I find the strength?). And so I could barely sleep the night before our first session and woke-up too early to pace the floors of my unlit kitchen. Even if I totally fail, I just want this so badly.  I have to go and try and I do want to go. I know that deep inside I am totally clear that I don’t want to feel like a wimp anymore.

When I meet them later that morning outside the gym, Chris and Bertina greet me with friendly, sympathetic smiles full of secret knowledge and anticipation. Beautiful, phenomenally strong Bertina is in charge of walking me through a workout routine that I wonder if I even could have done in my teens. Rep by rep, she models perfect form, counting each movement and encouraging me to keep going. Chris is there conducting the course, guiding Bertina as a new personal trainer.

Our sets are almost totally focused on every lower body area that a woman has ever thought needed attention, practically all at the same time.  Lunge, squat, curtsy, sit. Other side. Set after set, I honestly don’t even remember how many times each. Chris comes up behind and wedges his foot behind my shoe as I struggle to finish a forward lunge. Deeper, he corrects.

Stick your butt out. This makes me laugh. Every ballerina knows that when you go into a plié/lunge you don’t stick your butt out! There is this tiny invisible string that goes from the top of your head down to your…

Stick your butt out. Right this is different. This is not grace this is strength. And if you want those curves and you don’t want to be a little stick figure, Kelly, you’re going to stick your butt out and you’re going to get it down to the ground.

Bertina and I take a break. She is sweet and empathetic telling me that it will get much easier as the weeks go on. She laughs about how she wants to destroy the photos of her first months which she really liked at the time. Honestly, I cannot get over my good fortune that she is my mentor. She didn’t even have a Bertina to look up to when she started! And yet, she did it. She looks amazing, but it’s more than that. She is totally in control of her body and has unbelievable strength and endurance. And that for me is the whole point.  I’m done with skinny, wimpy girl. I need to grow up, I want to grow up.

When Chris reminds us that we “are not on a union break” we get up to work some more. Chris takes pictures (souvenirs!) as we somehow push through the final stretch of lunges and they mercifully let me go so that Bertina’s workout can start (um-hum, start). Chris reminds me that although I won’t be able to sit tomorrow, if I stick with it, I will be able to do everything we have just done three time within the hour eventually!

I am as physically spent as my mind is high on finishing my first day, and when I take my first step down out of Junior’s gym my leg almost cannot bear the weight. I barely catch myself from buckling down the stairs. Great. I take a few more steps and then wonder if I will even be able to drive home.

I decide to sit for a while and see if any of my normal everyday strength comes back to me. Outside, on Calle Xalteva life has been buzzing along and I watch it dizzily from the stoop biding my time. When my sight comes into focus, I get the thumbs up from a jogger across the street and realize that between my red face and my slumped pose, he figures me for a fellow exercise enthusiast.

These days I appreciate the smallest of gestures. Maybe I have a seriously long ways to go, but I’m here hoping that he figures right.