Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Round is a Shape

For the first time in well over two months, I claimed my usual spot in the front of my Step/Sculpt class at the gym. I set up my step and chose my weights and grabbed a mat. I had my water, my towel, and even a paper towel, too. I was ready.

I stood on my step with two risers beneath the long, skid-proof surface, my heels positioned so that they hung over the edge and let my weight fall back. I stretched out my calves, my hamstrings, in preparation for the beating they were about to endure. I chatted with the ladies in my class, filling them in on my recent adventures to Mexico, to the hospital. I giggled and laughed and quipped my way through the ten minutes it took our instructor to walk into the room. Once she did, she greeted us with a cheerful hello and strode right over to the music and hit play.

Already? I thought, jumping in rhythm with the rest of the class. Where was the warm up, the stretching, the easing into this? It had been so long since I'd been there, I'd forgotten that we start, then stop to stretch, then we really go at it. No big deal, I thought, I can keep up. I've taken breaks longer than two months and had no problem getting right back into the swing of things.

Cut to thirty minutes later, where I was the one off of my step, panting and trying to catch my breath, while the rest of the class happily V-Stepped, A-Stepped and Over-and-Overed their way through class. Once I thought I had recovered sufficiently, I tried to jump back into it. No dice. My arms cried out under the four pound weights I was instructed to push up over my head. My thighs burned from the stepping up, from the squeezing, from the squatting. My lungs struggled to keep up through the jumping and the moving and hopping and rapid pace. I stepped off, and removed a set of risers from beneath my step, leaving me at Level One.

Oh, Step With Two Risers: Why do you mock me?

I've been going to the gym for three years, maybe four. I've quit classes and gone back many, many times in my entire career there. I've taken breaks that have lasted much longer than two months. I've given up altogether for periods of time so significant that the gym has deleted me from their system. But each time I went back, I pushed all the way through that same first step class, with two risers. TWO. I've never given up, I've never been the girl pacing the floor, trying to let her heart slow down. Last night, I was.

It's not so bad, I told myself. This break was the first time I ceased to do anything for the entire amount of time I was out. I had surgery, I convinced myself. I've been weakened. It's okay to have to develop stamina. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the cigarettes, the vodka, the wine, the ample amounts of chocolate I've been eating. It certainly doesn't have anything to do with the cold I still have. I couldn't have anything to do with the fact that I spent the entire class sniffling and wiping my nose to prevent any mucus-related embarrassment. I couldn't have anything to do with the cough that all that heavy breathing produced. No, that's not it. Clearly, I'm just weak now.

But I finished the class. I didn't do as many crunches as I'm used to, I didn't do the hardest modifications for every exercise like I usually do, but I finished. And I was proud of myself. The first step back to being in shape is always the hardest.

I was still congratulating myself on my success as I took my post-step-class shower. And that's when I felt it. The throbbing in my frontal lobe. The dull whomp-whomp-whomp sound that filled my ears when I bent over to shave my legs. The pinching right in between my eyes.

Ten minutes later, I was in bed, with the lights off, moving my body around to whatever position allowed me to be free of my headache for at least a minute. I popped a couple of Motrin. I buried my face in the many pillows on my bed. I wouldn't let myself cry over the pain because I knew that would only make it worse.

"Goddamn oxygen deprivation," I muttered as I flopped myself onto my stomach. "Why'd you have to try to be so tough? You could've started out easy, and moved onto the more difficult moves if you needed more, but noooo, you had to start off with the hardest and then go down to easy. Had to try to be a badass, didn't you?"

I fell asleep chastising myself.

Today, my headache is, blissfully, gone. But my calves, thighs, abs and arms are staging a protest against ever trying to be tough again.


Anonymous said...

Good! For! You!

Keep it up, sister :)


anno said...

Wish I could offer some comfort here, but my experience is that the older you get, the harder it is to jump back into the saddle--that's why we middle-age types try to avoid falling off in the first place.

On the other hand, surgery, a cold, and your enviable, but maybe over-extended social life will also exact a toll. Keep going, keep trying--small moves, though--and soon you'll be back to full speed and full range of motion. Good luck!