Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Fit Club

July marks the first year anniversary that I began FitCamp classes. FitCamp is a mix of cardio and resistance that meets for an hour in a city park twice a week. The class is lead by Exercise Guru, a sprightly woman who is a personal trainer and lover of boxing. It all began when I reconnected with a friend from High School through Facebook. For several months she had been talking about this class and curiosity, coupled with the desire to get in shape prompted me to attend the classes.

The first month was rough. Soreness was a constant companion, especially the first week when going down stairs and sitting down was a painful chore. But my stamina grew over the months and my muscles adjusted. Exercise Guru quickly grew on me and I marveled over the countless creative ways she found to make the park where we exercised our outdoor gym. We lunge-walked up hills, ran up steps, used park benches to tone our triceps and biceps. We sweated through the summer and fall in the park before moving inside to an Activity Room at a nearby grade school for the winter months.

The torture, er, “fitness”, continued as Exercise Guru proved again we didn’t need the fancy provisions of a gym. We just needed our trusty weights and exercise mat. There were the “mountain climbers” (body in an “A” position as you jogged in place) followed by push ups, the “kayak” (you sit up straight on your bottom as if you’re in a chair, with your legs extended and you “paddle” with your weights), jumping jacks and jogging in place. Before the end of the month, I was exercising at the back of the room next to a wide open window. Exercise Guru would work me up into such an awful sweat that I came to look forward to the brain numbing cold during class days because it make the indoor exercise more bearable. Minus 5 degrees you say? Great! That meant the sweat would turn into little ice cubes on my forehead when I stuck my head out the window.

About a month or so into FitCamp, I began exploring other exercise possibilities to add to my class and found Yoga. I went to yoga classes at the Yoga Center for about 2 months. While I immensely enjoyed the calming effects of the poses, the class was too big for my liking.

When Exercise Sunshine (Guru’s substitute instructor for FitCamp) began her HardBody yoga classes in the late fall, I was elated. I was always happy to see Sunshine filling in for Guru and felt an almost immediate kinship with her. Sunshine’s HardBody Yoga proved to be a challenging class that incorporated strength training, stretching and breathing. We always began with modified Sun Salutation before doing such poses as Bridge, Dolphin, Tree (my favorite!), Warrior, “Froggy” or Downward Dog (and Sunshine, Downward Dog has finally grown on me!). And just because you’re on the mat doesn’t mean the work is easy. Try balancing one side of your body relying on just one hand and foot for support, or holding the plank position (starting position for a push up) while kicking one leg higher than your waist, then the other leg and doing this for 30 – 60 seconds.

Through these 2 classes I’ve learned quite a bit about myself. I’ve learned patience with my physical limitations and imperfections. I can only do a limited amount of cardio. Running, jogging, and skipping still leave me standing in my tracks. But I can run, jog and skip a little further than last year. Push ups are still a bitch and I still can’t grab my big toe with my fingers when stretching. But just because I can’t do as many pushups, run as fast or stretch as far as the woman next to me (or most of the other women for that fact) doesn’t mean I’m out of shape. Exercise, as most things in life, is not an all or nothing endeavor. I still get impatient and frustrated with myself, but I’m in class and doing the best that I can.

Both classes have proved to be an integral part of my routine. Classes are a must now, not an option. I talk about the class often, not only to provide accountability for myself (I want to answer “yes” when one of my friends asks me if I went to class) but to spread the word…these classes have made a huge difference in my life and maybe that enthusiasm will spark the desire in someone else to incorporate some form of exercise in their life. Because if I can exercise, anyone else can too. Fitness of body and mind is not out of anyone’s reach.

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