About Susan

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fitness Challenge On!

Feels so great to stretch at the studio after all that gym work!

I'd meant to update sooner, but life has this amazing way of filling my days with so much that I'm only getting to it now!  Happily, a good deal of that activity has been physical.  I completed the 2 Week Challenge!  (Read about how it all started.)  It wasn't easy ... After facing kettlebells, trainer Nic introduced me to other new (and seemingly cruel) ways to build strength and endurance.

The Squat Rack
I laughed at the name until I realized what I was supposed to do.  The great thing about the squat rack is you can use it in different ways. First I was directed to use it as modified pull-up tool, with my body held straight with core engaged right beneath the bar. It's like this: Put both hands on the bar (set low) and pull yourself up, keeping your body perfectly straight. Nic wanted me to sweat and groan, so he had me put my legs way out beyond the rack - less leverage means more work!

That was fun, but then I got the real deal. The bar was adjusted to my standing height so I could lift the bar off the rack and place it on my shoulders. All I was missing were buckets on either end, filled with water or noodles or whatever!

First I did squats, then single leg lunges, then again - then Nic began adding weights on the end (be careful what you wish for!). By then I was starting to fatigue with the repeated reps, so after I finished each set, I watched in trepidation as Nic calmly picked up progressively bigger black weights. In the end, after nearly dying, he informed me that I'd been lifting 60 pounds at the end. Whoa! I was proud of myself!

Wobbly Walking Push-Ups
I have no idea what this exercise is called, but picture having your hands and feet in low-rider rollerskates that have gone wonky like bad shopping or airplane carts (you know, where the wheels will *not* go straight) and walking with your arms L-R, pushup, R-L, pushup, repeating, for 200 yards.  And then back again.  Body straight, with only the arms doing the walking.

Cruel and unusual punishment, I say!  I thought my upper arms were going to fall off - I could hardly do another pushup towards middle of the second set (yes, second set up and down, another 400 yards) even if I could manage to walk forward, arms shaking.

The funny part was that just about everyone on the gym floor stopped to watch and gave me helpful encouragement.  "You kicked butt," Nic told me after I picked my sweaty self off the floor, "Most guys can't even make it down one way the first time - I couldn't."  I totally didn't believe that he couldn't the first time, but then again, dance has given me a stronger than average core, which has helped me immeasurably throughout my fitness challenge.

Shock Your Body!
I did many other kinds of exercises in between, but the above two really made a deep impression on me.  They were super hard and very rewarding.  "C'mon, strong!  Mighty Mouse!" Nic would say whenever I started to flag.  (I sometimes wear a yellow t-shirt depicting Mighty Mouse in flight, over my leotard and shorts.)

In the weeks since, I've incorporated many new and interesting exercises and techniques into my warm-ups and workouts.  I like to "shock" my body by mixing it up each day so it doesn't get too accustomed to using only one set of muscles.  It's more interesting, and it also has me cross-training for the first time in my life!

I've found that I really enjoy working my body in different ways.  It informs my dancing and hasn't bulked me up like my Chinese dance teacher cautions me not to do (I'd never tell her I am going to the gym!).  I feel stronger in my core, too, and my endurance has improved.

The best part is, working out makes me love dancing even more.  I feel gratified when I lengthen my muscles and point my feet, shod in slippers and not trainers.

Most of all, I feel like I have more ways to challenge myself and to take care of my body.  I want to be like Skip, the 60 year old who congratulated me on my pushup walks - he was incredibly fit and proceeded to do the same exercise, but with a unicycle for his feet.  Hard core!

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