February 9, 2011

Making Frenemies at the Gym

The weather here was forecasted to be in the 50's and sunny this past Sunday and Monday -- a dream come true after several weeks of 30's and rainy. I was so excited to finally get a chance to run outside, and the weather on Sunday did turn out to be perfect, but what with being lazy all morning and having to consume so many chicken-dip laden chips that evening, I just didn't have time to fit in anything resembling physical activity. Bummer, right? I promised myself I'd get out right after work on Monday, though, so somehow I managed to live with my sedentary self.
By 5:00 Monday, however, the temperature had again dropped and I knew that an outdoor run would be pretty miserable (that's right, I'm a wimp). After the food-fest that was Sunday night, I knew I had to do something, so I headed down to my favorite treadmill... womp womp. Four miles later, I felt a little bit better about things, even though I was still pretty sad that I missed a great day to run outside. I am beyond sick of the inside of our gym, as convenient and temperature-controlled as it may be. I hoped that after this, at least, my guilt over the curious absence of workouts from last week's calendar would be lifted for at least a day.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I got home around 8 last night and discovered that I actually kind of wanted to go back to they gym. I have no idea what kind of circuits in my brain were misfiring to cause this highly out-of-character urge, but luckily I knew enough not to question it. I threw on shorts, laced up my shoes, and headed down there just to see what might happen. I've been having some knee pain when I run that gets a lot worse if I don't give myself time to recover from each run, so I knew I wouldn't want to get right back on the treadmill. Instead, I hopped onto a machine that I've never used before but that has always seemed very popular. Apparently it's called an "Arc Trainer," but I was pretty sure it was basically a glorified elliptical, the machine that used to be my best gym friend back when I was scared of treadmills (remember? I'm a wimp!). I wasn't exactly concerned about my ability to function on this thing, so I set it for 40 minutes on level 5 (out of 9) of the "cardio" program. It started off easily enough with an "intensity" of 10 and then 15 -- it took a little while to get used to the pattern of movement, but being a seasoned elliptical user I caught on without too much trouble and was just feeling proud of myself for conquering a new machine when the intensity suddenly rocketed from 15 to 50.... and I almost fell off.
After a few minutes of moving along at a nice, easy clip, all of a sudden I was slogging through quicksand, struggling to keep my head above water. For the first time, I questioned whether I really should have followed those directions and consulted my physician before engaging in such strenuous activity. Luckily I was the only one working out at the time, so I didn't have to embarrass myself in front of any judgmental neighbors (although the thought did cross my mind that if I died, I might have had to wait a while for medical assistance).
Now I don't fool myself (or anybody else) by claiming to be superathletic. I'm struggling hard to find a place where running is easy and fun, and while some days I win that fight, more often than not I lose miserably and have to bribe myself with chocolate or wine (or both) to get through a workout. That being said, if I can make 4 miles on a treadmill, 4 minutes on an "Arc Trainer" really shouldn't kick my butt, but it totally did. It was incredibly tough, but I stuck with it for the whole 40 minutes, waiting the whole time for my heart to spontaneously burst from my chest and flop onto the floor, panting and clutching itself. 10 minutes in I was sweating from pores that I didn't even know existed, and by the end I was drenched and more exhausted than I've been in months. It was by far one of the hardest workouts I've completed, and even though I kind of wanted to die, I was so proud of myself for finishing and found myself already planning to incorporate this machine into my workout schedule. Am I crazy? Probably. Hopefully it will get easier if I continue to use it, but this looks suspiciously like the beginning of a love-hate relationship...


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