Did I really commit to “interval training three times a week” in my last post? With cardio training on the days in between? You know what happened, right? Yeah. It didn’t happen.
Perhaps it was over-enthusiasm. I wrote that post while in the grip of a post-workout high, hadn’t yet been leveled by the sore back and knees that set in following day. I was daydreaming about my youth when I could train six days a week and not suffer for the next six months, riding the fumes of my good genes and a long history of “being athletic” (that’s how a locker-mate put it the other day, sizing up the frankly unearned muscle tone in my arms: “How do you do that? Have you always been athletic?” Um, yeah. That’s sounds reasonable.) That quick-to-recover period would have been when I was a teenager, mind you. In my early twenties, my knees staged a full-on rebellion. Patella femoral syndrome, meaning, no, you can’t walk up and down stairs easily anymore. And later, with my first pregnancy, my lower back joined in the protest.
The point is my training plan isn’t exactly working.
Maybe all of this would be easier if I delegated the job of how can I train without hurting myself at the advance age of forty-four to someone who knew what he or she was doing? Someone objective.
Someone who just showed up.
Yesterday, I walked into the gym intending an easy cardio workout and ab work. Nothing difficult. Instead, I walked in to find a personal trainer I know behind the counter, his ball cap angled slightly to one side. I met him when he first arrived at the gym and started teaching interval classes: non-stop cycles of push-ups, burpies, mountain climbers, jump-squats. As an instructor, he is relentless, the take-no-prisoners type, with a martial arts training background. He watches me walk through the door, catches my eye and doesn’t drop his gaze until I am standing in front of him, caught.
“Where have you been?” he asks me. “What have you been doing?” It’s not really a question. It’s more like, you haven’t been training, have you?
“Um, I haven’t been doing much,” I say. “I’ve been back a few weeks and every time I come in I manage to hurt my back.” I haven’t so much as taken my coat off yet.
He is still looking at me, hasn’t so much as blinked. “I’ll work with you a bit,” he says. “Go get changed.”
For the next hour, he puts me through a series of physical tests the likes of which I haven’t seen before. “Screening,” he calls it, setting my feet up alongside a measuring stick, my arms angled up at a perfect ninety-degree angles. He has me do lunges, hamstring stretches, push-ups, all with my body position carefully managed.
“I’ve never seen that before he says,” after I perform a series of push-ups. I don’t know what he means; I don’t even care. I’m just grateful to be told what to do for a change, to have someone else do the thinking.
He has me touch my toes and points out that I’m able to reach an inch or two further on one side than on the other. An assymetry, he says.
“Yeah, that would be tied-up lower back.”
“Uh no,” he replies. “That would be your left quad and your right hip. Come with me.” For the next fifteen minutes, he stretches my quads in ways they’ve never been stretched before, or at least, not for the last decade or two. When I stand up, my legs feel like jelly. When I try to touch my toes again, though, there is a marked difference.
“Wow,” I say.
“Cool, huh?” He might have cracked a smile. But just barely.
What is it they say? When the student is ready….Or maybe when the student is tired enough, tired of constantly injuring herself, repeating the same old patterns. I wonder: can I move past this lower back issue? Untie my glutes? Maybe even the gut discomfort with running? Dare I dream so much? Who knows, but I guess we’ll find out.
“We’ll address the asymmetries,” he says. “Get you moving properly and then we’ll add some conditioning. I’ll give you homework.”
Homework. I guess I can add that to the foam roller series my chiropractor gave me. And the glucosamine.
July 21. Fifteen weeks. What can it hurt?