Monday, September 19, 2005

Fit as a Fiddle, No Time to Play

Since I was unemployed last week, I decided to try some Fit TV workouts.

For those of you without cable, Fit TV is a fitness channel. In the mornings they have ½ hour workout shows, and later on they have cooking shows. In the afternoons they have some reality-style shows that feature “fitness makeovers.” They also have a lot of commercials for workout machines, low-fat foods, vitamins, Clialis, Anti-Depressants, and Weight watchers.

If you’ve ever watched a cheesy aerobics video, the workouts in the morning are a lot like that, but not quite as annoying. (Let’s face it, nobody wants to be compared to Richard Simmons.) The instructors are impossibly well-built, but they look like athletes, not like bodybuilders. The people doing the workouts are all modelesque, but the fact that I can tell they are forcing those smiles makes it hard to hate them. So I play along.

Back when I was doing the Weight Watchers program, I did a workout video two to three times a week for about four months. I never got sick of it because I was so excited about the progress I was making. However, once I made my goal weight, I tapered off. In the dead of winter I realized I had stopped doing them altogether. I made some efforts to do them again shortly after I moved to Nyack, but it had become a burden to me, and my mind wandered during the workouts. When my mind wanders, it's a bad, bad thing. I realized that any physical benefit the DVD's might give me was being outweighed by the depressive cognition, and that was that.

It was about this time that I started going regularly to yoga. I knew this wasn’t a serious weight-loss solution, but I needed to be around people, and I like yoga just for what it is. “At least it’s some sort of exercise,” G said. I agreed.

I once heard a yoga instructor say that he liked yoga “not so much for the physical aspect as for the place it takes me.” I agreed with that. Yoga is not very physically challenging for me. As a former dancer, I’m still pretty flexible, my legs are very strong. I can do more than most of my fellow students in the beginner class. However I quickly became addicted to the sense of emotional support and release that I felt while doing yoga with others. I have a couple of yoga videos, and although the stretch feels good, I don’t feel anywhere near as good about myself after a video than I do after a live class. I need people around me. I need to feel my humanity overlapping others. I can’t, I discovered, work out in a vacuum.

I began doing Hatha Yoga twice a week for $17 a class, which means I often have to ask G for the money. We both feel it’s more than worth it. The beginners’ classes on Monday and Wednesday nights have fantastic instructors. The classes are an hour and a half long, so you really get a total holistic workout, complete with breathing practice, floor work, standing poses, and a relaxation-style cool down called Shivasana, where they turn out the lights, turn on some calming music, and you just lie on your mat for a while. If you fall asleep, it’s ok; you’ll wake up when you’re supposed to. The room is candlelit, and when the moon is full and shining in the window, the effect is magical. I’ve whispered many prayers of thanks, lying on that mat.

Occasionally on weekends if the weather is nice, G and I will do something active – play tennis or something. It's a fun way for us to spend time together, showing off for each other, making each other laugh. It's also a kick-ass workout every time. Sadly, we don't get to do this with any real frequency.

This is no problem for G, since he lifts weights three times a week at the gym - that's his thing. He's been doing that for 16 years. We've discussed the idea of me coming with him and trying that, but frankly, I can't think of anything more intimidating. His gym is primarily for weight lifting. It's one of those serious places without all the frouf you see at Equinox or Crunch or any of the places that try to entice non-exercisers to change their ways. There's no point to dragging myself someplace I wouldn't feel comfortable. I'd have to build up to that. No pun intended.

When I’m not working, I spend a lot of time alone in the apartment, so on some weekdays, while G is at work, I often get to experiment with other types of exercise. Last week I had no work at all, so I tried several different things.

I like TV workouts because they change every day, and commercials force me to take breaks, which I usually use to drink water or do some stretching. They're not really "live," but they feel live, compared to videos. I swear, at this point, I can recite every motivational shout on my WATP videos, and I know the names of all the participants. No wonder my mind wanders - I'm bored. At least with the TV, I never know exactly how it's going to be, which keeps my mind where it should be - on the workout.

A lifetime ago, when my ex-husband and I were first engaged, I found a small pair of blue 5-pound weights in his apartment. It was the day after we had moved me into his place. I knew they weren’t his, so I thought his former roommate had left them behind. The former roommate denied this - apparently they had been in the apartment prior to even that! They were clean, and usable, so I tucked them away, thinking I might get into that sometime.

Seven years later, I still have the damn things.

Last week, at 9:30am, I turned on this show, and played along. This is really a basic aerobics class where the instructor takes a lot of liberties. And when I say “basic,” I don’t mean for beginners. I mean they do really basic, simple moves – but they are in incredible shape, and they do way too many reps, and they do a fast pace. WTF, I’m young and healthy, I’ll give it a shot. I rolled out my yoga mat (our floors are slippery) and set my little weights on the couch. I’d seen snippets of this show before, and they do all sorts of things, so I wanted to be ready. I felt silly as hell, but hey, I’m alone here. And I have to admit, I really groove on the scenery.

I lucked out: the workout for the day was Pilates. This is basically yoga without the woo-woo, stripped down to the basic physical fitness level. It was fun, it was stretchy, and since this is a TV show and that instructor can do what ever the hell she wants, it involved a few crunchers. Just a very few. I did everything. I didn’t work up a sweat, but I was pleased with myself, and relieved that I didn’t have to touch my weights.

After only a half-hour of this, however, I didn’t feel like I’d done a workout. I’m used to an hour and a half of yoga - a half hour of Pilates is nothing. So, after a bit of deliberation, I decided to try the next workout show. This one. Oy Gevalt.

Gilad is a freakin’ nut. He’s enormous, and he’s pushy. He's one of these sickos who doesn't get that not everyone enjoys pain. I would never take a live class with this asshole. I told myself I’d just do a few things, stop when I felt the burn, and switch him off when I he became too irritating.

I lucked out again – he didn’t immediately start in with the weights. I’ve seen this guy and his followers swinging ten pound weights over their heads while pumping on one leg and all manner of ridiculousness that should not be attempted by anyone who doesn’t have an Olympic medal in something. Well, this day, he was easy. He started with these stretchy aerobic-like moves, that involved using your body weight to create resistance in certain areas. He did them fast. I realized that half-hour of Pilates was the perfect warm-up for this, so I dove right in. Within a few minutes I was breathing pretty hard and fast, but my heart was chugging healthily and my system was humming nicely.

When he picked up the weights, it was slow, isolated work. Biceps, triceps, and some other upper body thing that I couldn’t figure out. I did all of it. It was no big deal.

Then that bastard had everyone doing crunchers. Unapologetic crunchers. I, like many people, loathe and despise crunchers so much that I will do almost anything else to avoid them. I could write paragraphs about the cruncher mentality, but the point of this statement is… that day, I did crunchers.

I did about 40 of them. OUCH. Oddly though, the pain wasn’t as bad as I remember it being in the past. Gilad did this weird-looking series that had you twisting and moving your legs while you were crunching, and I think the competing sensations made the whole process move more quickly and smoothly. It also forced me to breathe correctly, which I know I had a lot of problems doing in the past. (Yoga has helped with that too.)

When the crunchers were over, the class was over. A little stretch, and “See you next time!” I did an entire half hour of Gilad’s insanity, and I wasn’t gasping for breath or wincing in pain.

I felt SO good about myself at that moment.

I told G about it, and he was unimpressed, but he was pleased that I hadn’t spent the entire day on the internet or watching TV. S'ok. I was pleased enough with myself.

This week, I start a new temp assignment, so my 9:30 workout isn’t going to be a regular thing. I don’t start until Wednesday, so today I tried the Caribbean workout again, but today pretty much sucked. They were using mini trampolines, and since I let my Wild Sex Kitten membership expire, I don’t have a trampoline, so for me, the workout was just a lot of rhythmic walking. I skipped it. After that, Gilad was back to his ridiculous, over-blown self with the 10-pound weights and the 40 reps and the jumping all over – waaayyy too advanced for me. I have yoga tonight. Back to basics.

But what’s going on here is that I’m becoming a fitness person. This is new. I always loved certain activities that could be viewed as exercise, particularly dance. When I was a dancer, I was in top physical condition, but I was only marginally aware of that. I was focused on the emotionality of dance, the poetry, the things I was saying with my moves. Dance, for me, is art, not fitness. As far as other activities go, well… I like swatting tennis balls around, but if I never played tennis again, I wouldn’t wistfully pine for the court. I love yoga, and I love feeling the full extent of what my body can do, but again, yoga is so much mind-body that, for me, it’s more mind than anything else. I’ve never been one of those people who loves working out for its own sake, and I’ve never EVER said “Oh, I haven’t worked out in two weeks, I feel so gross.”

Well, let me tell you, the week my yoga studio was closed… I felt stiff, sore, and disconcerted. I was restless and fought a lot of anxiety. It was gross.

I’ve gotten to the point now where I want a combination of workouts. I want to do Yoga twice a week and some sort of cardio/strength training at least once a week. But… I start classes in one month. From October 17th on, I’ll be at work from 8am to 5pm five days a week (at least I’d better be), and in class from 6pm to 11pm four nights a week. This is going to eliminate my beloved evening yoga classes altogether. In addition to this, I’ll have to do 120 “Clinic Hours” – giving massages in the student clinic – on Saturdays, Sundays, and, most likely, some Friday nights.

It’s true that the very nature of Massage Therapy practice is physical, and my upper body will naturally strengthen as my training progresses. I’ll be in better overall shape as a result of the program. That’s comforting, since right now I’m wondering how I’m going to eat or take a shit, never mind work out. Hopefully I’ll worm something in on the weekends or Friday nights when I don’t have clinic. Of course there will be social events to which I’ll give precedence, so that first trimester, I can see myself getting one or two workouts or yoga classes in per month. The second trimester is a little bit easier time-wise – some classes end at 10:30. The third trimester sees yet a bit more slack in the schedule, but not to the point of having a night off here and there. If I’m not using the extra half-hours to sleep, I’m going to really appreciate the bits of free time here and there. And I might finish my clinic hours before I graduate, and reclaim my weekends. Yoga is going to feel soooooo good then. And giving myself the gift of “me time” will feel fantastic as well.

Hey, I might even blog.


Judy said...

Yay! for blogging!

MzOuiser said...

Judy - at least my fingers would be exercised...