Posted by: Hannah | 03/31/2016

work it

At the gentle urging of my younger sister, I signed up for a 28-day fitness boot camp.

I am not someone who enjoys exercise. I’ve never had the endorphin rush. Running makes my boobs hurt. I’m super-competitive but also woefully uncoordinated and the results in a class setting tend to be catastrophic.

I don’t work up to things. I dive right in with both feet, throwing caution to the wind. I go like a mad thing until the deed is done… then as soon as I get away from the rest of the class I crumple to the floor, gasping, vowing to never again do That Exercise That Was Going To Change My Life But Is Now Terrible.

I did a spin class once. It went pretty much exactly like when Bridget Jones tried it, except in my version I limped for a week and cried whenever I had to step into my bathtub for a shower.

I’ve been down this road before, so I’m not going to pretend that this time will be different. I don’t know that. I will admit that two classes in, I feel surprisingly good. The instructors are encouraging without being drill sergeants. If you need to take a break, you just take one, and no one bats an eyelash. If they see you really struggling, they suggest mods or gentler variations that challenge without discouraging. They only want you to do three classes per week and suggest taking a walk or maybe doing some yoga on the rest days.

This is all good stuff.

This wouldn’t be a very interesting blog post, though, if I was all I started an exercise class and I think it’s going to be a good thing and the nice folks who run the gym seem very kind. This is me we’re talking about here! I sprained my ankle standing at the bus stop one day! I fell asleep during savasana and drooled on the mat when I took pre-natal yoga! In grade nine we had a field trip to a new gym and I wrecked my arms so badly trying to show off how much I could lift that I ended up missing two days of school!

What’s the opposite of a gym rat? Whatever it is, it’s me.


This is what I feel like every time I try running.

We started with a short orientation session the evening before boot camp. We thought it would be a tour and an explanation of how the routine works. It was… but it was also a quick primer of all the various exercises we’d be doing as part of the actual class. With boot camp, there is no time to explain how to do a burpee or a mountain climber.  The class starts and boom! you’re rotating through the various stations every 45 seconds, with a 40 second break after every complete circuit of the gym. I did everything at orientation, except the pushups. (I can’t do pushups. I’ve never been able to do pushups. In the 5th grade I missed pushup day when our class was working through the Canada Fitness Test; I was forced to do them in front of the whole class as a make up, and when I say “them” I mean “three”, because even though the minimum baseline was seven that was not something I could do.)

I was feeling pretty confident when my alarm went off at 5AM the day after orientation (because did I mention the classes are at 6AM? I didn’t? WELL THEY ARE. Welcome to my harried schedule where literally the only time I can exercise is before the rest of my family wakes up). My confidence lasted all the way into town and even got me in the front door.

Then, I wobbled.

Everybody else in the class already knew one another and were on a first-name basis with the instructor. They go so often they leave their sneakers at the gym! I was supposed to be there with my sister but she hadn’t arrived (I later learned she had a roaring case of influenza and could barely get out of bed). There were men in the class, too – I’m not sure why I hadn’t expected that, but I hadn’t and I was immediately wary. I forgot my water bottle in the car and my hastily-purchased sports bra had shifted position, causing my two boobs to become one tragic uniboob in the middle of my chest.

In short, I looked and felt like a total noob who was in waaaay over her head.

The music started. “Let’s warm up with some jumping jacks!” said the instructor cheerfully. Wait, I thought in a panic as I started doing my first jumping jacks in twenty years, this is the warm-up? WHAT THE HELL? Wait… wait… did he just say “now push-ups”? OMG HE DID. Now jumping jacks again! THIS IS ONLY THE WARM-UP I AM GOING TO HAVE A HEART ATTACK AND DIE.

And thus commenced 45 of the toughest minutes of physical activity I’ve ever endured… and I’ve delivered three babies. Squat lunges. Burpees. More push-ups. That bicycle leg thing that looks deceptively easy but is actually really hard to do. Squats while holding weights. Balancing on one leg while lifting weights with one arm. I was good at that one. I’ve got great balance. TAKE THAT, MAN STANDING ACROSS FROM ME. You may be lifting 50lbs to my 12 but you keep falling over so HA HA ALL OVER YOU.

At one point I felt myself fainting. Everything went dim, the music faded, and everything swam. I immediately got down on the floor and rested in child’s pose until I felt OK.

When the forty-five minutes were up, my legs were jelly. I could barely walk. There is a high step to get out the gym’s front door and I was honestly flummoxed how to manage it. Driving home was agony. When I pulled into the driveway and looked at the five steps leading up to my front door… and then remembered the additional flight of steps once inside because I bought a split-entry nine years ago like a dumbass… well. I’ve never come so close to living in my car, let me tell you.

Yesterday was ROUGH. My quads were on fire. Going up and down stairs hurt like a bitch, and I run up and down the stairs in my house all the time, as it turns out. Getting down to floor level where the dayhome kids were was agony. By day’s end I was actually howling every time I had to squat down. By bedtime I was honestly picturing myself just standing there in the next boot camp class, failing again.

But I got up this morning at 5AM. I rubbed A535 into all my sore spots and took a couple of Advil. I wedged myself into the stupid sports bra and drove downtown. I went into the gym and stretched carefully. And when the jumping jacks started again…

…I did them. I did all four circuits around the gym, moving with the group. I didn’t do as many reps as the more seasoned people, or hold my side planks as long. I used 12 pound weights for the bicycle legs and 15 pounds for the squats. I did all the arm pulls on the TRX without quitting and I even had time between gasps to chat with an old classmate of Michael’s who was taking the class.

The drive home wasn’t quite as painful. I made it up the stairs without limping. Today I got around pretty well and while my muscles still ache, they aren’t screaming in protest when I try to move. My next class isn’t until Sunday and I’m actually kind of disappointed.

So, we’ll see. My goal from this is to finish, and to increase my strength and endurance. If I happen to lose some weight too, that would be nice, although one thing I noticed about the class that I approved of is the wide range of body types on display. While there are a few of the wiry gym-types that people find so intimidating, there are also some heavier folks like myself, and then some who just seem ‘average’ but are incredibly strong. I’d like to be like that, thanks.

A more specific goal would be to complete a push-up, correctly, by the time this is all over.

I’ll let you know.





  1. You are boss for doing a boot camp kind of class at 5 am! I find the idea of both 5 am and boot camp terrifying.

    I still remember after the first time I did the exercise class I now love, I was physically incapable of taking the one flight of stairs up to get out of the building and get to my car. I’ve never been so glad to see an elevator in my life because if it hadn’t been there, I was going to have to live on the basement level of my gym. My family would have missed me, but at least there are showers and a place to get snacks…

    • Right? The basement is WHERE IT’S AT.

  2. Hooray for you!

  3. Well this sounds like a terrifying experience. Good for you for being so brave! No gyms for me. Swimmng pool would be great if I could actually find someone to watch the baby at a dedicated time several times a week (hahahahaha) and I will take the dog for long walks while listening to Zombies Run on my phone.

    • I totally understand about not having the time or childcare setup to get to the pool, or the gym, or the wherever. There’s a reason why this didn’t happen until my youngest got old enough to get himself out of bed and get some breakfast with the oldest’s help (and yet I still have to do it at the crack of dawn because the evening class conflicts with supper clean up, lunch prep, bathtime, etc). You’re mired in the thick of it now. It will ease up as the kiddos get older.

      • For some reason this nearly made me cry. I feel so trapped. But you’re right, it can’t last forever.

        • Honestly, when G was little and people would say “it will get easier” I wanted to throw something at them, because it seemed so improbable. BUT IT DOES. And it happens so gradually that one day you just realize that all those hours (and hours and hours) you used to spend serving the needs and whims of tiny humans are now time that you’re finishing a cup of coffee, or reading a book without falling asleep three pages in, or folding a basket of laundry without someone unfolding everything behind you. You’ll realize that you are starting to have time again.

          It will come, I promise.

  4. Exercise is horrific. It is torture, and it is awful. And then it GETS YOU and somehow you cannot stop doing it even though you still hate it. Long, long ago, far back in the mists of time, when I was much, much more foolish and energetic than I am in my decrepitude now, I got up at 6am to go running every day and I signed up to do a half marathon and I hated it every single minute. Back even further back, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was a fresh-faced university student who had just discovered the joy of ice hockey I went to land training twice a week and despised it so much I usually cried as I ran round and round and round and round the track in the dark.

    Now, of course, I am older and wiser and get my exercise by walking from the armchair to the sofa and then to the bed. Much safer. Far less painful. Not likely to ruin my joints. Although I have recently started to feel a peculiar twitching in my legs, and my swimming costume somehow has taken to leaping out of drawers at me, as though it were possessed by the ghost of an an over-caffeinated rabbit. Despite my best attempts at ignorance, I have managed to discover that there is a swimming pool just a few minutes’ cycle away from my house. I think it is starting again…

  5. I think you’re doing awesome! I know I told you this but the first time I ever took a yoga class, it hurt to laugh for a week. Also, my hamstrings were in agony. But the more you do it the better it gets. You’ll finish. I know you will! HANG IN THERE KITTY. A535 is awesome. As is China Gel and Tiger Balm 🙂 I find just getting stronger/ faster/ whatever is motivation enough to keep going.

  6. […] in month three of my “get fit or die trying” […]

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