Becoming Fit: An exercise-hater starts to train

Posted by Barbara Oleinick on December 28, 2018
Blog Post #5 – March 3, 2019

Beast mode

I have had such a strong couple of weeks. The combined weight of my deadlift, bench press, and squat is 235 pounds: deadlift is 140, bench press is 45 and squat is 50. I am surprised at how quickly you make progress in strength training. The weight I can lift just keeps increasing.

After I did my deadlift of 140, a total stranger told me I had good form. I puffed up right there. So now if anyone at the bus stop looks at me, I can add that I have good form when I tell them how much I deadlift.

However much I like the triumph of lifting, I have to admit that everything I have to do in between is pretty much no fun. I complained about doing some exercise and Dan said, “I’m not here for you to do what you like, I’m here to do what you need.”  And Attila is back.

So what I need is a series of deceptively simple exercises that are really, really difficult. Things like kneeling on a bosu ball with my heels together and up. That exercise activated every muscle between my waist and my knees. (Activate is trainer talk for on fire.) I did one-legged sit to stands. I did curtsy squats (who knew royalty was so healthy). I hauled a sled sideways while doing the hora. And I jumped.

I can jump 12 inches facing a box, but Dan wanted me to jump sideways. He started at 9 inches because I am always worried that I will trip and fall. Not just fall. I’m afraid I will smash into the ground and break my knees and my nose.

Then I had to start sideways, but twist in midair to face the wall when I landed. After ten times each side, Dan took pity on me and sent me for a drink of water. When I came back, I did the sideways twisty jump again.

After all of this, Dan showed me that he had inserted another three inch box under the 12 inch one so I was fooled into thinking I was just doing nine inches. So Sly Dan did an end run past my fears because he knew I could do these jumps.

I also managed to do an assisted pull up for the first time. I stepped on the machine and pulled myself all the way up. I was so shocked, I stepped off and said, “I did it! I did it!” I managed to do three sets of four pull ups. OK, 3 ½ pull ups.

However, I did fall. I was doing a circuit of the Ali Shuffle, hopping over hurdles (they were only three inches high!) and then up on a box, and running forward, backwards, sideways, and all out sprinting. Dan was taking an ego-deflating video. (In my head, the wind is rushing through my hair when I’m sprinting, but in the video, I look like Casey Hampton.)

Anyway, on the second circuit, I didn’t land well on the box and I fell. I rolled backwards onto the floor. I think Dan was there before I was. I thought I would be bruised, but even after two days, I had no bruising.

So my fear of falling came to fruition, but it was not anything like I had imagined. No broken knees, no broken nose, not even a bruise. I think all this training really helped me escape injury. When I started falling, I braced everything I had and, fortunately, there was something there to brace. After resting a couple minutes, I completed the circuit.

And not even the video could affect the pride I had when I finished strong.

Blog Post #4: Underachieving – February 6, 2019

I suffered a bit of a shock today. I have been running before my workout. Not a lot. But a few laps. Today I ran two laps, walked one, then ran two more. On that final lap, I talked to myself the whole way using all the Dan talk. (You have another lap in you. Halfway there. Finish strong.) I thought I did a half mile, thinking 10 laps was one mile. Then on my way to the steps I noticed a sign on the bulletin board. 15 laps = 1 mile. Sigh.

Then I looked at the clock to see how fast I ran. The clock told me I should put running in quotes. I am the person you should go hiking with in bear country because everyone can outrun me.

Dan is also trying to get me to do a pushup. He said my back is strong and now it is time to strengthen my chest and do a pushup. Currently, I can’t do a regular pushup; I can’t do a modified pushup. I can barely lower my face to the ground while on my hands and knees.

Dan told me to start in a plank, lower myself slowly to the ground, plant my knees, then explode upward. “Let’s start with 10-12.”

I started in a plank, lowered myself slowly until I was a few inches from the floor, flopped down, then exploded upward like a wet firecracker. “Let’s do 8.” I tried again. “You can do five.”

I know I have to look at how far I have come. My Rachel told me to mark my milestones just for moments like this. But I have been sore for six months and I am still chasing those elusive endorphins.

And now Dan has been sick so he couldn’t make it to two sessions. I thought about taking a class on Wednesday, but Group Active was at 8 am. I could have gone to the 9:15 class on Friday, but by that time I was committed to an exercise vacation. I did nothing. I did not go to the JCC. I did not work out at home. I did not go for a walk. I puttered around the house and met friends for lunch.  It was fabulous.

However, I will be meeting Dan tomorrow. I noticed that even though I can still pop out of bed in the morning, my joints are a little stiff at first. And it happened in just a week. So back to the exercise. My muscles may be a little sore, but at least I won’t stump across the floor.

Blog Post #3: New Year, Old Challenges – January 15, 2019

I acknowledge all the progress I have made. I see it in my everyday life. While sitting at a banquette, my 37 pound grandchild ran down the bench I was sitting on and launched herself at me. I picked her up on my arm, lifted her to clear the table, and set her down on the other side. And I was rock solid when I did it.

Yet knowing and experiencing all of these benefits, I really, really, really don’t want to work out anymore. I feel like I did after the first month. I know that I can get through it if I just keep showing up, but showing up is requiring more grit than the actual working out. Part of this is my natural sloth, part the dreary weather, and part is Attila the Trainer has increased the intensity of my workouts.

It’s my own fault. I want to increase my endurance. So Dan took me at my word and now I have a new goal of running for a mile so I could see the increase in stamina I want.

When Dan suggested this goal, I told him it was bad for me. Too hard on my joints. I even went so far as to solicit an opinion from an orthopedic doctor. He was no use; he thought it would be really beneficial.

I shouldn’t have told my daughter Sarah this goal while we were at lunch. I practically had to do the Heimlich maneuver on her. (“Have you ever run a mile in your life?” “No, but I can run for 30 seconds now.”)

In this quest for endurance, I have done deadbugs, and birddogs, and sumo squats (by the way, whose idea was all the mirrors?). I have done step-ups while holding weights and jumped rope (my 8-year old self was appalled). I did the Muhammad Ali shuffle where I looked less like a butterfly and more like a moth at a bug zapper.

I even started running a little bit on the track. Dan wanted to see it with his own eyes. He kept pace with me the entire way (he would take a step, then run in place until I caught up). After running, walking, running, walking, I tried to finish with two consecutive laps. Dan said, “Slowing down and keeping a steady pace is okay.” I wanted to say, “I slowed down?” but I didn’t have any spare energy.

But despite all this, or maybe because of all this, I feel like I have been spending the last couple of weeks trying to get out of working out while still saving face. Then Dan sent me a text, “Your commitment and hard work is unwavering.”

Now I feel bad. And I truly appreciate everything he has done.

But I’m not taking back the Attila crack.

Blog Post #2: On My Own – January 4, 2019

I actually worked out on my own last week. I know you’re thinking that I made a huge leap forward with that, but it happened by accident. I forgot that I wasn’t meeting Dan that morning. So there I was in the locker room all dressed and ready to go when I remembered. I double-checked my calendar just in case. But no.

I stood at my locker seriously thinking about going home. Or maybe just doing an executive workout (whirlpool, steam room, and sauna!). Then Molly walked in.

I’m not very good at outright lying, especially to someone who has listened to me complain for six months and has praised even my smallest accomplishments. However, I might have let her think that I was there on purpose and not by accident.

I then went and did a workout. Bird dogs (two animal names!), planks on the floor and on a bosu ball, crunches sitting on a ball, and bridges. I’m a really nice person, so I let myself out five minutes early.

My husband and I went to Chicago over Christmas. My daughter Rachel, who can deadlift 300 pounds, had asked if I wanted to go to her gym on Sunday. So I talked with Dan about a workout that I could do that would show my daughter how far I have come. Then, the next time we spoke I mentioned being ready to work out and Rachel told me we were going to a special class that Sunday: The Twelve Kettlebells of Christmas.

I immediately went to Dan and asked him to write me an excuse. (To whom it may concern: Please excuse Barbara from class today. She is feeling a little old.) Instead, Dan ran through the most likely exercises and told me that I knew how to do them all. There was no getting out of this.

The class turned out to be very doable. I did rows, swings and deadlifts with kettlebells. I did lunges, split squats and bridges. I also did something where you start in a lunge position, then lift your front leg 20 times. (Rachel was sure I would never be able to do that.) I finished up strong with a one-minute plank. Pretty good after an hour workout.

Of course, there were a few things I couldn’t do. I couldn’t jump over a bench (not like a hurdle, but like in the movies jumping over a fence with hands on it). I couldn’t leap in the air vertically with knees and feet up by your hips. I couldn’t hang from a bar, let alone do a pull-up. I climbed up a step, grabbed the bar, and slowly oozed down to the floor.

I also couldn’t do something called a burpee. It looks like you fling yourself flat on the floor, push up to a plank, bring your feet forward, and stand straight. Repeatedly and rapidly.

I told Dan that I survived the class and told him what I did and what I couldn’t do. He told me that he was very proud of how far I have come and he promised me that he would have me doing burpees in the new year. As if it was a special treat.

And I was just starting to like him.

Blog Post #1: Getting Started and Staying Started – December 28, 2018

It’s snowing today which makes it a real challenge for me to go to the JCC to work out.

Who am I kidding. Everything is a real challenge for me to go work out. It was a challenge for me to just go into the JCC. And I even had a membership which I didn’t use once in months. OK, years.

Everyone talks about the need to be held accountable. I knew I wouldn’t show up without someone waiting for me.(I certainly hadn’t so far!) But I also was so out of shape that I was afraid I would hurt myself or or wander around not knowing what I should do or find things so difficult that I would just quit. So five months ago, I made a serious commitment.

I hired a personal trainer.

I met Dan Holc for an initial evaluation. I couldn’t do one of anything he tried me out on. Not one knee-dip; not one squat; not one anything. I was afraid to jump on a mat that was three inches high. Stepping up and down a 12 inch high step was painful to watch.

Dan told me his training philosophy — Train as you live; live as you train. So I set my goals: Get up off the floor without assistance; pick up my grandchild; and climb Masada. (I would pick a trainer who had climbed Masada himself!)

We set up a schedule of three times a week for a half hour each. The first two weeks passed and I realized a few things. Working out was hard. I didn’t like it. I didn’t feel better afterwards. Apparently, I have no endorphins.

It’s a good thing I bought a ton of sessions because I was ready to quit. I really had to grit it out to get to the four-week mark. And this was with Dan babying me along. (Dan: Let’s do seven to ten of these. OK, six is good.)

Well, I didn’t quit. But I did complain a whole lot. (Me: Hi, I’m on my way to the JCC. My daughter Sarah: Oh, here we go.)

And after four weeks, I could do three of those knee dips and I had lost seven pounds without trying  I take my milestones where I can find them.

Where I am now

Over the next several months, I got stronger and faster. Dan stopped babying me. (Two more. Finish strong.) I discovered that Dan and I don’t count the same way. (Dan: Let’s do five sit-ups. Me: Easy! Dan: To the right, to center, and to the left. That’s one.) I don’t complain anymore, at least not verbally. (I know you don’t like to do this exercise. So give me the stink eye now and get started.)  I finally learned what a circuit is. (But, Dan, we already did this exercise. Why do I need to do it again.)

I currently can do 15 squats with 20 pounds. I can do 15 bridges with 50 pounds. I can deadlift 70 pounds 12 times. I can jump up 12 inches a few times. I can do planks on the floor. And occasionally, I’m the one to say “Two more.”

I can get up off the floor without grunting — still working on graceful. I can catch my grandchild when she leaps up without hurting myself. I haven’t yet climbed Masada, but I am sure I could.

I still hate the air bike and the climbing machine. I really don’t like anything that has an animal name in it: bear walks, duck walks, inchworms. I do not like lunges because my balance isn’t great yet.

What do I like? Lifting weights. I am really impressed that I can lift, and press, and carry such heavy weights. I know, I didn’t expect it either.

Five times a week

Thanksgiving made me realize how much I have to be grateful for. My family and friends, my cozy apartment, and — my body. I decided to commit to gratitude for my mobility and health and keeping it that way by working out five times a week. That is a big jump for someone who really hates working out.

So in addition to my sessions with Dan, I added Group Active and Zumba.

My first Group Active class wasn’t bad. I had some trouble with the routines, but I expect I will get it in a couple weeks. It also changes from cardio to strength to core to balance, so by the time I think I can’t take it anymore, we move onto a different exercise.

The big difference was the strength training part. I didn’t know if I was doing it right to get the most out of it. Dan always tells me which muscles I am firing up. (I’m learning anatomy by which muscles are sore the next day!)

Zumba was a different story. I have no rhythm, no coordination, no endurance, and still no endorphins. I left the class a little early because I cannot maintain that level of activity.

By Friday, I was exhausted. I am abandoning my idea of five times a week. I am afraid that Zumba is going for the time being. I will try to keep Group Active in the mix.

 

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