Sunday, November 13, 2011

In which I dangle off a building and other fitness feats

It was 6:30 am Friday and I was gently swaying in mid-air 3 feet off the ground.

My left leg was bent at the knee in an elastic stirrup. My right was hanging straight down. Both elbows were bent up, my arms tucked tight into my sides and my hands were gripping two large rings suspended from the ceiling.

I was trying to execute a ring hold for as long as I could, keeping all 158 lbs of me up while gravity tried to take me down. My arms and, therefore, the rings, were starting to shake from fatigue about 30 seconds in.

I closed my eyes and gritted my teeth trying to hold on, but my free leg starting poking around in the air behind me, looking for the safety of the tall plywood box off which we jump to start the exercise. Seeing my struggle, my trainer strolled over and calmly, quietly and seriously said:

"Melissa, don't let go. You're dangling off the edge of a building."

Seriously, how much fun is that? Very.

I find the ring hold/pull-up exercises super hard. I remember the first time I tried one, I think it was back in May. I stepped off the box and immediately plummeted, I couldn't hold myself up, let alone pull myself up. But, Friday, progress: I completed 3 ring pull-ups and held the hold for longer than I've ever been able before.

And that's why I love bootcamp. You get to try things you never thought you could do - and most likely things you never wanted to do. Sure, in the beginning you probably can't do them, but pretty soon it's a random Friday and you're pulling your body weight up and down in midair. Yay.

The past three days have been very fun fitness-wise. Friday I had my Batman-like work on the rings.

Yesterday I went to a demo class at bootcamp: Les Mills Body Combat, definitely the most demanding cardio class I've ever experienced.

The class combined a series of mixed martial arts disciplines, so you're punching, kicking, blocking and jabbing for an hour. It was crazy fun and a great workout.

At one point, the instructor yells, "Street fighter!" and we're pretending to hold someone down with one arm and rhythmically, repeatedly, punch them in the head with the other. Awesome.

I was hauling for the whole thing, evidenced by my heart rate monitor, which told me I burned 450 calories in 53 minutes. And I learned how to seriously tune someone up with my elbows and knees. So, all said, time well spent.

I was psyched that I'm in such shape that I can try out a very advanced cardio class and keep up quite well. And, bonus, I didn't accidentally kick anyone in the head. Or stroke out. Holla! However, I have a serious case of noodle arms today. I went to put on deodorant this morning and made a noise no adult should make.

Today was a long run day, and I had the course simmering in my head all week. Much like The Grinch, I live atop Mount Crumpet, the two best ways to get to my house are via two major, very steep hills. I've driven the roads tens of thousands of times, and any time I saw anyone running up either I thought, "You go, runner."

Then, when I started running I thought, "Hmmmm...."

It took nearly a year of running for me to nut up to give it a whirl, and today was the day. I decided to run down one of the hills (Greenwood, for local folks), loop around and then back up the other major hill (Elmwood), ending at home for 5 miles total. The run went great and the closer I got to the uphill, the more I felt like a Who down in Whoville looking up.

But, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, took it slow and easy, and pretty soon I was at the top, just a quarter-mile from home. But, crap, Miles 3.5-4.5 were straight up. Click to enlarge the horror:

When I started running I was scared to death of hills. I would choose races via one criterion: Are there any hills? I would check the elevation charts and everything. Did. Not. Like. Them. Hills make running - already hard - even harder. But as annoying as they are, they do make you a better, stronger, more confident runner.

I have a race next Sunday and I believe the course is kinda hilly, but I won't bother to check beforehand. I'm not worried. If I can conquer that one today, I'm set.

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