I sometimes toy with the idea of attaining exercise god status. The black yoga pants wearer, that adored symbol of strength and power. The all knowing being whom saunters into Pinkberry without a care or a ripple on her behind. I endeavored to be the cut / toned / tony-excessively smooth pantaloon wearer.
I embarked on this journey with some reservations but higher than proper expectations. I only wanted to do this if it fit nicely within my carefully crafted idea of invigorating exercise, and I painted a pretty good picture of the journey in my mind. A precise one in fact. I would accept it if it was moderately tiring but yet refreshingly rejuvenating. If I could meet other ladies and affiliate with them and we could form a team of supportive women working toward the goal of being ridiculously hot! Where shared experience and hardship made the journey that much easier and rewarding. I couldn’t picture myself caring much about some sweat. It might only serve to make me look like Jennifer Beals sans chair but still like Jennifer Beals. I had the curly hair that hung around my face uncannily like her…when I didn’t blow dry that is. And I accepted that I may feel a modicum of pain, but that soon my muscles would be toned and sculpted. But how much pain would be bearable? And, as I would learn, I wouldn’t get to determine that.
Well it hit me like a kettle bell on the side of the temple when I found out that there was no magical group of women welcoming you into their leg pumping lair. The women arrived, threw down their keys, knock-off sunglasses, squeezed their water bottles into cubbies and threw their white towels round their necks. They visually organized eachother, preened, hands on hips slowly checking out newcomers. There were no smiles, just long gazes, that if you caught one, a sort of straight grimace was returned. I seemed to have entered a paddock of overweight racehorses readying for competition.
I wasn’t exactly sure why all the life lessons I had had drilled into my psyche about ‘listening to pain’ were lost on the Exercise gods. I reasoned, I was the person who was feeling the pain, the person whose brain was responsible for the urgent messages to cease and desist whatever the particular activity was at the moment, so why was ‘ignoring the pain’ the instruction that I was given? .” I had discovered the essence of the problem that I had with ‘exercise’ Do they believe that our minds are separate from our body? Does the body not work in conjunction with the brain? does the brain not field signals from the body and then decide what actions to take? Is it then wise that we keep working the body in the repetitive manner when the body is clearly saying, “NO YOU CANNOT KEEP THROWING THAT KETTLE BELL OVER YOUR WANING LEFT SHOULDER AND EXPECT NOT TO LAUNCH IT INTO THE CHEST OF THAT ELABORATELY SWEATING CROATIAN WOMAN!
We began with two laps around the building and were told not to stop. One of the evil geniuses was stationed at the opposite side of the building to ‘keep an eye on us and make sure we did not stop. Our herd returned bounding for the water fountain. Seconds later we swang kettle bells to and fro. We then did burpies until dizziness set in. We lifted heavy bars while doing jumping jacks. We swung ropes as though ceaselessly straightening them out. We did squats that threatened to re-open our episiotomies. Even if they were given to us years ago. “Wider, Wider!” How My mind begged my mouth to shout, “yah? let’s see you open that wide!” We did push ups, chin ups, and fast weights to keep the cardio effect going. We army crawls and the dreaded burpie. Every time my body began to revolt, writhe with the equivalent of a physiological scream, heart pulsing out of my chest easily seen by passers-by, like some comic book grinch in love, and I would point at my chest signifying my lack of breath, The exercise god (female or male), Impervious to my impending heart attack, would glance at me momentarily finally offer a deliberation, “you can go further, you can do it Christine!” As I looked up with long eyes, intentionally trying to clear my double vision, my soaked shirt seemed to bangle in the wind like some latvian wet towel air conditioner. My jello thighs danced. My exercise god lavished a wide smile unto me saying, “THERE YOU GO!!!” Usually finishing off with the dispassionate and quite routine 90’s meme “YOU GO GIRL!!!”
The exercise gods believe in “pushing oneself” It’s a rite of the baptismal font of back sprains. The ungainly church of belly crunches and impossibly performed burpies. “If you push yourself, you will surprise yourself.’ ….”If you push yourself….you won’t be sorry…” “If you push yourself you will be so proud!” I find an extreme dichotomy in the fact that the women or men that are ‘coaching’ you, many of whom you do not know from Adam or Eve, are ripped beyond belief and do not remember their own days of cookies and carmel macchiatos. Well not really anyway. Those discretions are seen through skinny-latte coloured glasses. If you ask them, the cookies are remembered as necessary ‘Tiger Milk Bars” maybe only two a day, and the caramel macchiatos are declared but suddenly remembered as intermittent at best. The bad ‘ol days of minimal muscle and ripped adipose are forgotten and that is the disconnect.
Half way into the reality of the work out, the dry throat, the slight dizziness. The women wince in pain and look up as they rise from doing push ups. They begin to knowingly glance at each other. The tired faux warrior princesses realize that they need each-other. They begin to look for the affiliation that they narcissistically did not seek in the beginning of the workout.
Class after class this social machination repeats itself. Ignore each other, then feel pain and affiliate. Rinse and repeat. Do they like it? Do they like communal pain? Additionally, Do they enjoy paying the Exercise Gods to “make” them push themselves? I offer that they do.
Part of the motivation comes from pure peer adulation for ‘just doing it’ being ‘brave.’ I was recently told I was a ‘real trooper’ I kept going in part because I didn’t relish the idea of letting everybody know that I thought it was ‘too hard‘ for me. I had just been given the rather militaristic moniker of “Trooper” and I was feeling a tad nationalistic at the time. I pictured myself a sort of stylized Jane Q. Public upholder of the exercise ethos. Well, within my circle of soft-bellied family and friends.
Ultimately, I found that the exercise gods wanted me to believe that my body was my enemy and that I must conquer it with my Jedi mind.
It was not proper to let my body tell me that one or another exercise could not be done. Somehow I was to overcome all of the brutal messages that my body was sending me about my pain and satiety. I really WANT TO DO THIS, but my analytical nature may be getting in the way, oh! that and my muscle capacity! How can I know whether I can actually do this? …Guess I’ll just have to trust the ‘wrecking belle’ in a Real madrid T-shirt and Yoga pants.
Stay tuned for hopefully twice weekly updates on “The kettle Belle Chronicles” (Written by unwilling exercise maven, Christina Long) about the ugly and hopefully someday ‘beautiful’ side of cardio / strength training classes in Los Angeles on “The Trouble With Milk.” http://thetroublewithmilk.com