Monday, March 10, 2014

Love/Hate the Gym

Okay, to say I "love" working out would probably be pretty close to a lie. I do love going to the gym. I love putting on work-out clothes and going to the gym. I love feeling like the kind of person who works out. I love the way working out makes me feel - energetic, healthy, a better sleeper, decreased junk food cravings. I love the results - the thinner thighs, the tighter abs, the defined arms. But what I don't love so much is the actual workout.

I judge how much I enjoy a class (and again "enjoy" is fairly relative) by how soon I start watching the clock. I went to Pilates a couple of weeks ago, thinking I'd enjoy an "easy" class. Make no mistake - balancing in any pose is never easy. I enjoyed the first twenty minutes or so. Then I started glancing at the clock. As the routines got more complicated (and required more balance), I became increasingly more clock-conscious. The class may not have had me gasping for breath, but it certainly had me sweating. I was relieved when it was over.

In a weight-lifting class, I usually genuinely do enjoy myself. Of all the different kinds of group fitness classes, Pump classes are the most fun to me. The warm-ups are easy, and the variation in movements keep my attention. I like going from squats (get them out of the way quickly) on to my back for chest presses, then back up on my feet for triceps. Back to my legs for lunges, and then biceps and back, my two strongest muscle groups. I usually don't even check the clock until I'm about forty minutes into the hour-long class. That's a good class.

Cardio workouts are much less enjoyable. I usually avoid them at all costs, but since Lolly now has her KidFifit classes at the same time, I am sort of trapped into going to whatever is on during that time slot. On Mondays, that's Kickboxing. On Wednesdays, that's Step Aerobics. I hate both of them.

Today I went to Kickboxing. This is the second time I've attended this class. The first part of warm-ups were fine. Then I looked at the clock. I'd been warming up for ten minutes. The actual workout was just beginning. I took a drink from my water bottle. I wondered if anyone would notice if I slipped out the door and just walked on the treadmill instead. But my jacket and my handbag were with me, and everyone would notice if I gathered up my stuff and left after only ten minutes. So I pushed on, telling myself I could sneak out a little later.

Twenty minutes into the workout, I was ready to stop. But no one else was really even breaking a sweat yet, and I couldn't bear the shame of leaving after only twenty minutes. "Only fifteen more minutes of cardio to go!", the instructor enthusiastically cheered. Another fifteen minutes?! Was that supposed to be encouragement?

Thirty minutes in. My "bounce" was more like a slight knee bend. My jabs were a barely perceptible wrist thrust. My chest was tight and my sides were splitting. I was half way there. When I wasn't watching the clock, I watched the instructor to make sure I was still following along, and at all costs I avoided seeing my reflection in the mirror. Any time I caught a glimpse of myself, I saw a frumpy, exhausted, red-faced chimp in cute workout clothes. Shimmy over to behind the fans that block the mirror. That's better.

Fifinally, at forty minutes, we completed the cardio segment of the class. We got out mats for the abs workout. I always look forward to the abs part, because I get to lie down. Then the crunches start, and I remember I sort of hate the abs portion. I'm pretty good at crunches... in moderation. But ten minutes of crunches and mid-way pulses and bicycling, and worse, planks and push-ups, make my flabby post-children squidgy tummy want to cry. I think there are some muscles in there somewhere, but I only know that because they hurt, not because I can see them or use them. At least during abs, if I lie flat for a second to take a break, no one really notices.

Then comes the payoff. The best feeling of the whole class is when the instructor tells us to lie flat on our backs and stretch. Ahh, the stretches. The cool down. My favorite part of any workout. I put more effort and energy into my stretches than I put into the first 50 minutes of exercise. I think, "Thank God it's over." We take our last deep breath in and out, and then, out of nowhere sane, I think, "Hey. That wasn't so bad."

It's almost like childbirth; you forget how bad it was right after it's over.

I put my mat away and walk out the door, feeling good, with plans to return again tomorrow for another "not so bad" workout class.

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