Hitting some outer limits...Valerie Bock shares blog entry #4, August 16


Happy Birthday Abby Helm!

So, apparently in this little cult I have joined, there are rituals. Birthdays are celebrated by inviting all the assembled to do as many burpees as the birthday celebrant has years. Abby, thank goodness, is a youthful 27. And Molly, our trainer, thank goodness, understands that some of us are not quite at peak condition as we begin our second week of a 12-week extravaganza.

We were instructed that today’s burpees would be extra celebratory, involving a leap into the air before dropping down, shooting our feet behind us, and leaping up again. And that we were only required to do two in a row for our sequence. Yay! Every one of us could actually do that!

The rest of the sequence, though, was pretty grueling. 20 squats (with optional weights) 10 pushups, in which we were required to come all the way down and raise our hands up (oh man, my usual cheat of not really coming all the way down has totally been observed and dealt with!) 20 walking lunges (with optional weights) and 20 curls in which we laid on our backs, (with optional weights) with knees bent, and attempted to lift our arms straight up and our shoulder blades off the mat. Oh, and in between each of these sets of movements, two of those celebratory burpees! We had 27 minutes, and were challenged to get 3 rounds in, and to start round 4 if we had time. I did make it into round 4, but the first thing to go as I get seriously fatigued is the cognitive function required to count reps. I kept realizing that I had no idea what my count was. Which was fine, because Molly came around correcting my form, and I needed to do some more to get the right way embedded in my muscle memory somehow.

We were all feeling pretty great about having survived, when Molly introduced the next sequence.

We paired up. One partner would do “walking planks” – planks on our elbows, from which we moved sideways along a mat while holding the plank, using our arms and legs in a way I am CERTAIN I have never asked mine to move before. Our only hope for being released from our torture lay in the speediness of our partner, who had to do “suicides” run half way down the gym, touch, and come back, ¾ the way down the gym and back, and then all the way down the gym and back. It did not take long for everyone in plank mode to find themselves looking longingly down the length of the gym for their partner. I have never been so glad to see Matt Hall’s sneakers in my life! Also, that whole getting up and down thing started taking longer and longer. Originally, Molly had planned this to be a 7-minute exercise, but she actually had mercy on us when one of our number confessed to nausea. She cut the time back to 5 minutes, thank goodness. I don’t think there was anyone there who felt under-challenged, given the various ways we were able to adjust the difficulty for our selves by running faster or slower, or holding the plank instead of moving it (or, ok, dropping the plank entirely. That might possibly have happened in my case toward the end!)

[Begin Preach Mode]

I know that vomiting is sort of a hallmark of high school conditioning. My son, Steve, the soccer player, could never contain his glee that when they practiced at the beginning of the season with the football guys, it was always the football guys who tossed their cookies first, because they didn’t do the running the soccer guys did over the summer. (My husband, Jim, the marathoner, might have had something to do with leading the mighty Meridian soccer team up and down the Mound at Griswold park on a few hot summer evenings!)

But humans seeking fitness do not have to, and really ought not stress themselves to the point of vomiting or light-headedness. Nausea and dizziness are the body’s very clear signals that you are pushing too hard for now, time to dial back so you can live to fight another day. And letting the trainer know you are at that point is a really important bit of feedback they need to have in order to tune the workout effectively. Especially in the group setting, they just can’t be watching everyone for signs of distress. We have to be aware of them for ourselves, and modify our activity accordingly.

My hubby had a very respectable time in the Boston Marathon in his pocket, and so was very surprised that he had to walk off the course for the Chicago Marathon a year or two later. It may have been one of the hardest choices he’d ever made (ALL THAT TRAINING!) but people DIE from pushing themselves too far, and I’m very proud, not to mention grateful, that he decided that day that his pride was not worth his health or his life.

This challenge process is designed to teach us something about our bodies – what they can do now, what they will be able to do with a little (ok, maybe a lot of) work. But it’s also to give us some experience with how to manage our drive to succeed against the constraints of our current fitness levels. Yes, we should be pushing out beyond our comfort zone. But Molly and the rest of the crew really mean it when they say, “listen to your body.” As I like to tell my karate students, it’s just really messy to have to clean up collapsed bodies on the floor!

[End Preach Mode]

We all were certainly warm enough to break some new ground in our stretching at the end. Thanks, Molly, for an excellent class. And nice work, crew, managing things so that everyone walked out under their own power!

Senior Yoga Mat

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