Sunday, November 4, 2012

Oh, the Pain!!

As you probably are aware by now, I go for a morning run almost every day and I try to squeeze in a Zumba class whenever I am able.  I've been running for about 3 years now (just 2 to 3 miles...really, it's more of a jog as true runners, in my opinion, do about 10 miles and have very skinny legs, of which I do not!).  I don't love it, but at the same time I hate to miss my morning run.  I do love being outside, so it's tolerable.  Then I discovered Zumba a couple years ago, and that I did love.  Two summers ago I was able to go about 4 times a week, plus running in the morning, and I was at a pretty decent weight and felt pretty good physically.  But the instructors have changed and the location has changed, and I'm now only able to go about once a week, sometimes only a couple times a month.  I have slowly watched the pounds creep up...since last March I've gained a good 7 lbs.  To some people that may not sound like much, but when you're only 4'11" there isn't a whole lot of body to hide extra pounds.  I've been feeling it!  So I did a whole cost/benefit analysis of local gyms and Zumba classes to find something that I could afford and something that would fit my busy schedule of two part-time jobs and church/ministry life and a revolving-door household with all the kids who come and go every week.  That led me to a 10-day trial at a nearby gym...which led me to the realization that I am not just 7 lbs overweight but I am fat and flabby, weak and wiggly, slow and saggy, old and ugly.

Days 1 and 2 were Zumba classes, so I was totally in my comfort zone, and doing the routines for the first time didn't faze me a bit.  The third day was called "Cardio Circuit."  It was actually a lot of fun...great variety and a decent work-out.  But having never exercised in a gym before, I was unfamiliar with the bands, balls, bells and bars.  In fact, I had never even used a mat before!  The instructor was middle-aged, maybe 10 years older than me.  She demonstrated each station in the circuit, and although I had never done many of the exercises I felt reasonably confident that I would catch on and have no problem.  My first circuit was the jump rope.  Easy.  At the next station there was a mat and a ball, and I already had forgotten what I was supposed to do with them.  The girl ahead of me was kind enough to explain.  So I lay down on the mat, put my feet on the big rubber balls, arched my body up until only my shoulders and head touched the mat, and then rolled the ball out by extending my legs and rolled the ball in by drawing up my legs.  Okay, that was a little tougher.  Two stations later I found myself with what they call a "medicine ball."  It looks a lot like a bowling ball and is probably about as heavy.  This one was 10 lbs.  The exercise was to hold it in one hand and lift the arm straight out to the side, without letting the wrist bend, then drop the arm, switch hands, and lift the other arm out to the side.  When the instructor demonstrated it, she did it with such ease that it totally shocked me to discover that not only could I not keep my wrist from bending, I couldn't lift the ball to even half of what was required!  I tried putting a little swing in my arm on the way down to hopefully add some momentum to lifting the other arm, but I couldn't get my fingers out of the handle in time to switch hands and ended up awkwardly almost dropping the ball.  So I completed the exercise with my baby half-lifts.  Then it was on to another ball and mat...and bar.  The girl ahead of me was using a very large bar and when the cycle ended, she turned to pass it on.  Then she hesitated and said tactfully, "Maybe you'd like a different bar???"  I selected bar #3, the little bar.  Then I sat on the ball and slid down towards the floor until only my head and shoulders were in contact with the ball and the rest of my body was at a 90-degree angle forming a sort of table---with the ball and my legs serving as the legs of the table and my torso the table top.  Then we were to take the bar and bench press it into the air.  I haven't bench-pressed anything since my high school gym class, and then to have to do it by balancing myself on a rolling ball made the exercise that much more humorous.  I started to roll to the right, overcorrected and rolled to the left, sagged a bit and rolled forward, strengthened myself with determination and rolled back into position.  The whole time that bar was swaying wildly overhead as I fought for balance.  I thought to myself, "If I close my eyes and can't see anyone in this class, maybe they won't be able to see me!"  I had to be corrected on half of all the stations in the circuit.  I came out of that class feeling just a little bit dumber and a little bit weaker than I had when I first walked in!  But it was the next day's class that was the real killer...

Cycling.  "Think of it as a journey," the class description read.  I walked into the room and saw that everyone was taking out one of the many stationary bikes lined up against the wall, so I selected the first one I walked up to and half dragged, half pushed the heavy thing out onto the floor.  "Uh, uh, uh!"  I heard the instructor call.  "There is no back row.  Bring your bike up here and join us."  I looked up.  She was talking to me.  Oops.  I pulled my bike into the open spot she pointed out to me, which of course was front and center!  I tried to act like I was comfortable and ready for the class, and climbed aboard to start warming up with everyone else.  Hmmm.  Can't touch the pedals.  I slipped off the bike and fiddled with the clip that releases the seat and lowered it down...all the way down as far as it would go.  I got back in the saddle and started to pedal.  It was a bit of a strain to reach the handlebars, but I could manage.  The instructor didn't think so.  She came over and told me it looked like my seat needed to be adjusted.  She pulled on another clip and slid the seat forward as far as it would go.  Then she told me to get back on so she could fasten my pedals.  I didn't even know the pedals fastened!  She guided my feet into the cage around each pedal and then buckled each foot in.  I felt like a little kid getting her boots on with her mommy's help!  I began blabbering self-consciously about having never ridden a stationary bike before (besides goofing off on the old one in Jeff's mom's basement!).  My very fit and young instructor smiled big and said, "Oh, you picked the best class!"  And then she took her place on her own bike in front of us and began to warm up.

"Let's go, nice and easy!" she called out.  I was already warm just from hauling out my bike and getting embarrassed, but I started a smooth and even rhythm.  Then I looked in the mirror in front of the room and saw everyone's knees moving up and down double time and the instructor doing triple time.  I picked up my pace to try to match the other's and started to feel a tad nervous.  I took a good look at the instructor.  She had very long legs and there wasn't an ounce of fat on that long, lean body.  She was sculpted all over, which was easy to see because she was wearing a tiny little work-out skort and half-tank.  Even her neck and jaw looked strong!  Yikes!

So, imagine your "journey," she told us.  We were riding up Highway 99 with big Rex Hill before us.  We had to turn our tension knobs to the left for resistance.  Okay, so far so good.  Then she said to stand up and really push.  Yeah, that was actually even better.  Then she called out "Position 3!" and everyone leaned forward over their handlebars.  Alright, a bit of a distance for my short body but I imagined myself to be in the Tour de France, hunched over my bicyle with my very fit butt sticking up in the air.  Except the mirror kind of ruined my fantasy.  I was the third chubbiest in the whole class.  Most were wearing cycle shorts over their tight butts and muscular thighs.  I wondered if I did this class every week if I would end up looking like them.  Instead of imagining my biking journey, I began imagining my get-fit journey.  I have never had skinny legs in my entire life...never!  Maybe it was because I had never tried cycling!  Maybe this was going to be the answer to my life-long yearning!  Feeling quite motivated I turned the knob and pumped harder and faster against the resistance.

Within 15 minutes I was wishing the class was over.

The class was an hour.

She had us up, she had us down.  She had us pedal as fast as we could, she had as pedal as hard as we could.  She even had us do an exercise with a fancy name where we were to stand up while pedalling, not hold the handlebars, keep our back straight and rigid, and try not to move our upper body at all, just our legs.  The girl two bikes down the row from me pressed her hands together in front of her chest and stuck her elbows out like a praying Buddha and remained motionless in that position while her legs pumped evenly.  Wow.  Even the teacher was impressed.

At the 15-minute mark, I began to notice that my bottom hurt.  You know those two little bones in your butt that you don't even know exist until you ride a bike?  Yeah, those bones.  They are called your ischium prominences.  Well, I haven't ridden a bike since junior high...7th grade to be exact.  That's a lot of years to have protected my ischium prominences, so they were not happy with the constant hitting on the very hard bicycle seat.  By the time the class was halfway over, I was in major pain.  I kept wishing, almost praying, "Please be the last song."  But oh, no...the class just kept going.  The instructor had us take off all tension and pedal as fast as we possibly could.  I did not know that anyone's legs could move as fast as hers without falling off.  Not kidding.  I actually wondered that!  Then we had to turn the resistance as far as it could go and pedal as hard as we could.  With sweat pouring down my face, I strained and pushed until I finally got a rhythm going...a very slow rhythm!  I looked at the instructor and her eyes were closed, her head was swaying, and her body was rippling like a Greek goddess.  It looked like she was having a spiritual experience!

Finally, she told us we could sit and pedal easy...but I couldn't.  I could not sit down on my ischium prominences.  The pain was actually that great.  I kept standing and pedalling, but my legs were so fatigued that they'd slowly give out until my bottom landed on the seat, then I'd pop back up into a standing position and keep pedalling.  I felt like this:

"Somebody let me off this thing!"  I cried out inside my head!  And finally, an hour later, we were done.  I unbuckled my pedals all by myself and started to drag my bike across the floor.  The instructor saw me struggling and took one last opportunity to humiliate me by saying, "If you lift up on the front of the bike, the wheels will come out and you can roll the bike back to its place."  She looked at my sweaty face and my stiff body and then lifted it up and wheeled it back for me.  Ouch.

As I limped out of the room, she said, "Come back and give it another try.  It really is a great class!"

"Sorry, Sweetie," I said, "I'm going back to Zumba!"

(Of course I really didn't say that.)

I think I might give the class a second try if I could do it like this!


  1. I'm trying to stop laughing! Holy cow you are funny!

  2. All I can say is, "Karyn, Karyn, Karyn!
    Quite the story in deed.

  3. Ahahah Karyn! Way to go in loosing your makeup after just applying it because of laughing so hard!

    I can totally empathise with you and your "ischium prominences". You actually did very well because in my experience, those babies hurt after 5 minutes. Naively I also tried that class and promised myself that it was absolutely not worth getting in shape if that was the cost! You describe the class to a "t". I feel like printing your blog and letting the poor souls waiting in line for the "spin class" at Servus centre have a head up on what they are getting into!
    Better get going ... zumba class is in 1/2 hour! :)

    1. Ha ha, Isabelle! You make ME laugh! Next time you come here or I go there, we will have to go to Zumba together!