By now you might have noticed that I spend about half of the first hour of any given morning on my hands wrestling with the pure gravity of my own body weight (that is if Bertina hasn’t devised to add on an accessorizing barbell or two).
Sometimes those exercises can be pretty straightforward, but most of the time Bertina will plan something like what is pictured above: perched feet up on a retaining wall for pressure, a leg crunching into my chest, then lifted back up in the air and finally for the coup de grace, a military style push-up (a super Sunday Early Bird Combo Special, not to be confused with a greasy breakfast plate at Denny’s Diner). Continue reading “Serving up the Early Bird Combo Special: my Sunday morning with Bertina!”
Every day when I wake up and I feel all the aches and pains in my body, one of the first thoughts in my mind is I can’t go. It doesn’t matter which day it is, whether I am meant to head to yoga or strength training, my brain offers the same default reaction before I even get out of bed: skip it, take a break, rest, go back another day.
I now expect this train of thought as part of my normal morning routine and I have learned to counter these messages with a blank mind and well-marked steps to get me to training. I shove aside indecision and program myself to do the same thing every morning. Continue reading “Month 7: Ain’t nothing gonna break my stride. Not even me.”
In case you were wondering what I was doing today, Bertina told me it was definitely not girly. Meaning, my favorite trainer was going to up the level of challenge today during strength training until I called uncle. So be it.
She innocently started the day with ‘just a traditional forearm plank’. And then when the clock started ticking, she advised me that she was laying barbells on my back. Sweet! Continue reading “And she looked at me, and smiled and said,”Today, is not a girly workout.” (Oh! And I wore my skirt!)”
Sir Roger Bannister, the first man recorded to have run a mile in less than four minutes passed away yesterday in England. Up until the year that he broke through the four minute barrier in 1954, the athletic and scientific world hotly debated whether a four minute mile could ever be broken. Most people concurred that it couldn’t be done.
But when Sir Roger succeeded in shaving less than a second off of the four minute mile in 1954, additional athletes immediately followed his example in achieving the same feat. Their training had not changed so much from earlier in the year, however their personal dream immediately became more tangible.
I am starting to think that we stare at our own four minute miles every day. Continue reading “Four minute miles all over my body and you asked for it: my training week in pictures.”
Am I going to stay up? Or, give up?
Today, I held a two minute plank in a full-flexed, push-up position. I didn’t hold two minutes because I set out to push my own limits of what I could do. I was tricked into staying up by my yogi, Ronn who is the official timekeeper of everything we do in class.
Of course, there were signs that things were not right. My arms were excessively shaking and I had to deliberately contract my abs to support my frame. I theorized that I had miscounted on the number of diverting Happy Birthday songs that I normally compose to people that motivate me, but everyone had all been sung to and we were still up in the hold.
I looked back over my shoulder at Ronn to see what was up and saw him focused on his breathing, totally concentrating in the effort. I was right at the edge of my ability. I felt that I could choose to collapse on a whim. There was nothing left in me to stay with him.
Oh my gosh, I thought, am I going to stay up or give up?
Continue reading “Remember When We Were Lions”
7:15 am, Sunday, February 25, 2018.
The Garage, Granada, Nicaragua
With the early morning minutes ticking away, I quickly pull the car out of the garage, lay out my weights, exercise mat, water, and jump rope, and then begin to prep my phone to set up the day’s first video of the garage workout. My fitness trainer, Bertina will also film the next 60 minutes of exercises from various angles on her phone and between the two of us we can cover for most of the technological challenges that occur when filming while training.
I shyly learned the practice of recording our workouts from Bertina six months ago when I was new to strength training and unaccustomed to reviewing myself from unflattering angles. Bertina understood why I didn’t want to eye my untrained body full of flaws and weaknesses, but she reminded me of the bigger picture. She advised me to use the imagery to see my body in balance, to not only look for areas that need improvement, but also to where I was winning in my efforts to become stronger.
My body gradually, then drastically improving on film
Continue reading “It’s not (just) about vanity or finding your inner hottie. Filming yourself working out is just smart.”
Feb 22, 2018
When I find someone who can help me get to where I want to go and is willing to school me in how to get there, I know that the universe is offering me something that I have to grab onto with both hands and say, yes to right away. Continue reading “Get smoked, get coached, and shukran Beirut.”
February 20, 2018, 08:00.
I love to be surprised with new physical challenges. Novelty brings a rush of excitement to my life and all the better if it’s something I can jump into with my whole body. I am at Junior’s with Chris and Bertina and they are introducing to me a wicked, new planking exercise that has my heart racing even before I try it. Chris shows me a photo of an athlete planking on a standing barbell in a lowered push-up position.
Oh my gosh, this is hot. Yes, I want to do it! Continue reading “Oh, the joy! (This is not your mother’s plank)”
Sunday, February 18, 2018. 07:30
As I crawl forward on my forearms and toes inching ahead to the end of my mat, Bertina reminds me to keep my back straight, no rocking from side to side. The motion is meant to be small and deliberate. I picture a line of barbed wire running just above my back and I am a soldier (or an escapee!) squirming under a retaining fence in the dead of night. I hear Bertina coaching: focus on control, speed is secondary.
When we finish a minute and half of sneaking forward then backward, I am not sure if my uniform might have been shredded on my mission, but I do know that I was gratefully diverted from planking at the far edge of my mental and physical ability.
Forty-five second planks once felt like an eternity; then the minute became standard. Now Bertina is steadily moving us past the minute mark to keep me challenged. She opts for exercises where I am in a plank, but distracted by small core movements that require my concentration and additional muscle groups (like sliding a weight from one side of my body to another while in a push-up hold, awesome!). Continue reading “Something just for me: targeting small movements for big improvements.”
I’ll be honest with you. Everyday I wake up stiff. My body hurts and aches all over the place. Some of it is a good kind of hurt, the kind of discomfort that I have earned and that will later transition into muscle growth and tightness- the curves that I am chasing after. When I feel this kind of soreness, I know that I have really gone the distance and hit the target.
Other kinds of pain, are not so good. Pain from an injury is a constant source of worry. This is week number two of having a pinched nerve run down my left leg and I am still nursing it constantly, navigating my limitations but yearning to jump into all the positions and angles that I recently did so effortlessly.
In many way I feel that I am fortunate that I was so wretchedly sick the first weeks I started training in September of 2017. There were mornings when I couldn’t eat, mornings when I threw it all up. But I still trained. Continue reading ““If you break your toys, what will you play with?””
It’s 7:30 am and Bertina and I are back in the garage warming up. I am always amazed at how quickly this space converts into our personal gym as soon as we start to move. Part of the conversion is a result of strategic distractions. Bertina knows how to line up a rigorous itinerary of strength training exercises that keeps my mind focused on the here and now, where it needs to be to follow her directions.
You are going to go into a plank, like this. Your feet will stay here, and then walk on your hands 360 degrees in one direction around in a circle, and then return and go back the other way for one minute…
Besides being challenging, Bertina’s exercises are definitively fun and playful, taking me out of my comfort zone and normal range of movement. Half the time I am on my hands, upside down or feeling like a sidewalk break dancer (my favorite, of course!).
I have to concentrate to get it right:
Now you are going down into a push-up, then come up, turn into a side plank, and then swing your leg through and then other side: push-up, side-plank, swing through…
I am aware that I am working all the key areas around my body that are important to me; Bertina may be all about fun but she doesn’t mess around. It feels like play, but she knows that I am gunning to add curves in all the right places and she designs the hour around my key target areas.
Today, she warms me up with hip dips in a side plank for several minutes and these are the kind of tricky lateral exercises that will thankfully help me to refill out my clothes again around my hips and thighs.
Continue reading “Yeah, I’m working for my curves- but seriously! This is so totally fun.”