Tuesday, May 01, 2007

"I be up in the gym just working on my fitness" I'm Sassylicious

I discovered yesterday that I have managed to somehow mascarade as a fit person. I suppose that technically I am a fit person, but I wasn't always, and the fact that I am still amazes me. I feel like I'm getting away with something, or pulling the wool over someone's eyes. Like I get to hang out with the cool kids for a while - until they discover I'm not so cool. Or maybe that I'm cool anyway.

I was chatting with my bestest bud NPapaya about working out and she said something along the lines of, "blah, blah, blah. You've always been fit."

Now, NPapaya and I chat about pretty much everything. I don't hide a lot from you, dear readers, (hello, toilet incident) but I really don't hide a lot from NPapaya, so the fact that somehow she thought I have always been a fit person surprised and amused me. Admittedly, we met when I was already into my transformation from couch potato to gym rat (I still can't say "athlete" because I don't think that's appropriate despite the triathlons and other races I've done. Inside I'm still that "plumpish" kid/adult sitting on my ass.) At the time, I didn't even realize that I was going through a transformation. It was very slow going and very much not planned.

To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, here's my physical life in a nutshell:

Age 10-18: One "jazz" dance class per week (My brother and sister were taking 4 or 5, and then teaching some. I was the "smart" sibling, not the active one.). Maybe one or two gym classes per week (and we all know how fabulously beneficial to our physical fitness those are.) I'm 5'2" and there was a short period during high school where I weighed 119 pounds and was a size six. It lasted about 3 days and was the result of being in the school musical while fasting for 20ish days for a Baha'i holiday (I was in lust/like with a fellow student who was Baha'i and I was trying it out. What?) I did not play any sports and I could not run once around the track.

College: I took a "fitness" class one semester that involved doing a circuit or two on the very, very, very pathetic nautilus machines in the gym basement once or twice a week. It counted as my entire phys ed requirement for all four years of college. It did get me over my fear of what to do on the machines so that was good. I took a random aerobic class or two. I didn't have a scale but I believe I was at least 140 pounds with no muscle when I graduated.

Age 21-23: I lived in Texas and was in graduate school. I joined a gym and took my first Step class. I don't remember doing anything other than that. I must have gone on a stair master or something but it wasn't much. Then I started at a different gym with better equipment and I started using nautilus. Still with no goals and also with very little motivation. I had a friend at the time who was fairly overweight but had confidence oozing out of her pores and she got certified as a Step instructor. People loved going to her class because she was "normal", not a vision of perfection in spandex. That was the first time I actually knew a "fitness professional." I thought it was totally cool for her to do it, but it never crossed my mind that I could do something like that. I left Texas weighing 151 pounds, as far as I know that was my highest weight.

Age 24-28 (2000-2004): Moved to NH, joined a gym but continued to just kind of be there. I wasn't training for anything. I wasn't really using heavy weights. I had no plan. I just walked on the treadmill. Two things happened in about 2003-2004 that started me on my path toward fitness - 1) there was a really (I mean, really) cute guy teaching a 15 minute ab class two times a week at my gym, and 2) a friend of mine, A, who was no more fit than I was, hired a trainer to help her do the all women's Danskin triathlon. She asked me to do it with her and I said no way, but I was intrigued.

I began to take the abs class religiously and my friend managed to complete the triathlon. I decided that if she could do it, I could do it, so, before I thought about it too hard and backed out, I invested the $75 in the registration fee in January and started training for the triathlon that was coming up in July. I was too cheap/poor to hire a trainer so I just started doing stuff on my own. I knew I had to do a 5K run, a 12 mile bike ride, and a half mile swim so now I had goals. Instead of walking on the treadmill, I tried to run. I could do maybe a half a mile. Maybe. And it was torture. Then I tried to run for longer. Or faster. I didn't have a real plan, but I knew that I'd have to be able to run 3.2 miles so I just kept working up to that distance. I jogged with friends of all levels at lunch on a nearby track. I did the same thing in the pool. When I first started, I could do one length. That's it. Not even a full lap. But gradually I got better at everything.

I certainly wasn't going to win the race, but I might just finish. My only goals were to finish and not die. I did a 5k race as training. I came in second to last. But I finished and I now could say I ran a 5K. Doing a 5K had always been one of my secret goals and here I was doing it as training, almost as an aside. It was awesome. Painful, yet awesome. Speaking of painful, my friend A and I decided to do a local triathlon as training. Not just for the physical training, but to see what I'd need to do at the transitions from water to bike from bike to run. I believe I came in dead last. And I may have cried. Not at the finish, but on the run. It was awful - my calves and Achilles were on fire. The swim wasn't too fun either. I had to convince myself that I wasn't going to drown. I was panicky and I couldn't breath and the finish line never got any closer. But eventually I made it, and I wasn't even the last person out of the water.

The great thing about the Danskin triathlons is that it is all women, there are a bazillion competitors, and you start the race in heats (one group at a time, one after another) so even if you are dead last, you may not actually be in last place because someone who started before you may have taken longer to finish. Also, about 50% of the people in the race are first time triathletes so you're in a race with people just like you. Not "athletes," just normal, mildly crazy, women with a goal. I managed to finish and I went on to do two more triathlons the next summer.

At some point, the really cute ab guy left but suggested to the gym management that since I was there all the time and knew all the exercises, I should teach the class. Holy shit! Now, I was a "fitness professional." Who knew?

I am still 5'2" and now I weight about 136. I am not teeny tiny (size 10) and despite the fact that I do a whole lot of ab work I still have a tummy. But, I have actual muscles now (somewhat hidden beneath a mildly padded exterior). I use weights, nothing hard core, just enough to do the job. But I keep trying to improve, and keep trying new things - like skiing. I also keep surprising myself. And I think that's the most important part. There's nothing like realizing you can now easily do something that used to make you want to die to make you feel proud of yourself.

So to all those of you out there trying to get fit, I applaud you. And I really mean it when I say if I could do it, you can do it.


Npapaya said...

Dear Sassy,
You go! It is inspiring to see you working so hard and accomplishing so much. In my head my comment to you went more like "you've been fit for a long time" not necessarily since birth so if my mouth didn't make that translation I'm sorry! But I did have you figured for an "active most of my adult life" person so, good job on the fakeout and here's to many more years of personal fitness for us both.

DecemberFlower said...

You are inspiring, especially to a lazy ass like myself. I've been wanting so long to start getting fit, but it just seems like such an immense undertaking. It's great to see that it's not really all that impossible. I just need to dig up some motivation.