I couldn't sleep last night. I kept tossing and turning. Well, actually, I kept moaning and trying to toss and turn but realizing it was too much effort.
I felt the way it feels to be pregnant and want to turn from one side to another but think better of it because heaving one's belly is too much of an effort.
The difference last night was that I was not pregnant. I was just so sore from a workout that I was immobilized in much the same way.
Readers: I do not believe in this kind of pain.
I know many people who workout love to feel the burn, be so sore they can't use the toilet and require ice packs to address swollen limbs.
I am not one of those people.
I like exercise to restore me. I like to feel better after a workout, not worse.
On Monday afternoon, I signed up for a Circuit Barre class at a local gym. This gym is very popular in these parts; people rave. I'd been there once for a Dance Fit class, but it was crowded and the dancing was ever-so-slightly erotic for me. I'm not sure how to better describe it.
Anyway, Jazzercise was cancelled this week, and I sometimes get a little bored with Jazzercise, so I decided to try this gym again. My neighbors rave, and my neighbors look great and are bouncing around their yards doing all sorts of yard work, bopping in and out of SUVs with what appears to be endless energy and stamina. I figured I could use some of that.
So, it's 4:30 on Monday, and I go into the gym and there are a handful of women milling about looking....scared.
Yeah. Scared. Hesitant. As if they're steeling themselves for something.
I ask a woman if this is the barre class and she kind of scoffs and looks at another woman and says, "I guess you could call it that."
At this point I'm unsure if I'm in the right place and wish she'd just be direct. I see a woman setting up stations around the large workout area that involve small hand weights and Army-issued duffle bags full of something.
The room is dark. The walls are painted black, gray and white camouflage. There are large industrial fans in the corners. There is a stage and floor-to-ceiling mirrors, and there is a whiteboard with a lengthy workout inscribed in red Sharpie.
I calm myself by reminding my brain that I've come to Barre class and not CrossFit, but my heart beats rapidly as I hear a woman say to her friend, "Jesus. She's gonna make us do those again?"
Then, it's time. Suddenly we're all gathered in the middle of this room, and the instructor appears, breathless from setting up stations. She is a cross between a beauty queen and Eastern European women's wrestling champion. She could pin me to the floor with her pinkie while probably taking a completely legitimate headshot, teeth gleaming, not a hint of sweat on her brow.
The warm-up was about as hard as I normally workout. Three rounds of the following:
10 jumping jacks
5 full pushups
10 full situps
20 air squats
20 curtsy lunges
Then...the workout began.
For the next 40 minutes, we did a rotation of 7 stations including leg extensions using thick rubber bands, frog squats with our arms resting on Army duffle bags in a plank position, TRX band extensions, planks where we had to jump around and shift feet, crunches using hand weights, tricep extensions while hovering on a small workout ball and plies in second position with arms in second and using hand weights.
I'm sure there are legitimate names for all of those exercises. Obviously I don't know what they are.
I was breathless. I was sore before the workout was over. I was shaking.
This was all done in one-minute intervals, with a minute rest when you'd completed the whole 7-exercise circuit. We did this four times through. The instructor raced around the room checking form, offering encouragement and high-fiving people, which would have been weird except she has a strange sort of infectious enthusiasm and charisma that makes you hope (against your internal coolness) that she'll high five you in front of everyone else. One woman got her ass slapped.
I went all gung-ho on the first round of exercises, feeling slightly badass as one of the fitter women in the room, and by the second round I could feel that had been a mistake, like taking off at a full sprint for a 5k.
By round 4, I was openly trying to waste time on the clock, easing into position, going to my knees, looking around to see if anyone else was struggling.
Everyone was struggling except for one woman. She was moving through the workouts like a knife through butter.
The rest of us were a mess.
Unable to keep going.
Knees to the ground, bent over, wiping sweat from the brow.
I left feeling fine enough, winded and a little miserable, but I wasn't going to collapse. One woman had to be taken to a bench mid-workout and given water from feeling dizzy and disoriented. I was kind of jealous of her, what with that bench sitting.
The soreness began the next day but wasn't awful. Then, by evening, it was awful. I couldn't walk properly. I am walking like the Tin Man. My shoulders and arms ache. My ribcage hurts.
I can literally barely move. All of me is stiff and tight.
I would obviously never return but for three things:
1. I bought an 8-class pass. I KNOW. This is just the sort of gung-ho crap I do.
2. I'm intrigued. As much as I hated the class, I liked going beyond my comfort zone. I liked being challenged. I liked doing something new. My brain, as much as my body, was on fire.
3. I like the instructor. There is something very real about her. She's strong in a way I'm not, and I suppose there is part of me that thinks that if I go to her class and hang out with her, some of that strength will rub off on me.
So, here's my plan: I'm going to speak with the instructor before another workout. I'm sure she'll love that. :)
But I'm basically going to say that I do want to get stronger, and I want to be able to challenge myself, but the level of that class is too much. Getting stronger isn't overnight; it's gradual. I didn't see any women in that room (save the one badass) who were even remotely strong enough or fit enough to be doing that workout. I know soldiers who would find that workout challenging, and they're trained and primed for that sort of thing.
So, with all of my muster and bravado, I'm going to ask her to give me some modifications and help me tone it down to a reasonable level so that I can participate in a way that doesn't hurt.
I know. She's probably going to laugh at me, but I think she'll do it internally. I'm okay if people laugh internally.
We'll see how it goes. For now, I can't go back and do the same thing I did before. It's too much. I know many women (many) who have injuries from those sorts of workouts, from pushing themselves too hard and too far....and for what? What exactly do we need to be so strong for? Groceries? Picking up kids? Sitting at our desks?
I'm all for exercise that enables us to live healthier lives, but we need to exercise for the lives we actually live - not for the Best Ranger Competition.
Unless of course you're competing in the Best Ranger Competition. Then, you know, go for it.
Does anyone out there do intense workouts? CrossFit? Circuit training? Heavy weights? I'm curious if you genuinely feel stronger and fitter or stiffer and just plain exhausted. :)
I'm going to try to get out of bed now...one aching muscle at a time.