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Sabbath Revival: Math is Hard

By Sandra Clark

This week’s post from the past is Dalene’s piece from 2009, a recounting on progress as she schleps herself to the gym to train for a triathlon. She shares her perspective the numbers don’t fully measure feeling or achievement.

Last July I did a brave thing. I overcame my fear of being judged and dragged my sorry and broken body (hip, shoulder, knees and toes) to the gym. A certain gym chain that has a bit of a rep for being a bit of a meat market and sporting a lot of silicone (or whatever they make them out of these days–not that there’s anything wrong with that) and, sometimes a good bit of skin.

After the first couple of days at a training boot camp (did I mention our session was at 6:00 in the morning, during summer vacation, when people are meant to sleep in?), I could hardly walk. I was hurting in muscles I didn’t even know I had. Despite that, I discovered I kind of like the gym. It wasn’t the exhibition fest I expected. Because really, if you’re going to the gym just to check out/flaunt hot bodies, you’re probably going to wait until at least 6 p.m. Only the diehards show up at 6 a.m. (Except for during the first three weeks of January, when everybody and their dog is there.)

Sure there are some hard bodies. But those are a dime a dozen. The people who catch my eye are the people who, like me, sort of limp or drag themselves in. The elderly woman with the cane. The sister of my friend down the street who’s been working out for the past six weeks with her arm in a sling because she just had shoulder surgery. Not to mention the cute and very pregnant girl who was there every day pre-delivery with her husband. And then was right back at it seemingly mere hours after delivery, with a noticeably flatter-than-mine tummy. I like seeing those people at the gym. They make me feel like I can do this.

Eight months later, how am I doing? I can swim more than one lap w/o hacking up a lung. And–despite my worst fear–so far none of the other swimmers has ever jumped out of the pool and run away screaming “Orca!” when I jump in wearing my classic black tank suit. I’ve improved by 50 pounds the amount of weight on the pull-ups machine. Yes. I said pull-ups, people (and I didn’t mean the kind used for potty training purposes). I can now either walk or do planks while chewing gum. And my stationery biking exploits have taken me to Canada for curling and short-track speedskating, borne witness to several intense wipe-outs on the Downhill and Super G, and endured numerous early-morning episodes of Charmed and a handful of Friday-night movies of the week.

Have I lost any weight? I don’t know. Probably. Math is hard. It’s not really about the numbers for me. But I’m sure I’ve lost at least 20 pounds in my bust and one and possibly another half of my extra chins. I have to cinch my belt a few notches tighter on my favorite pair of jeans, which I can now pull down to the floor while they’re still buttoned up (not that I really want to, but if I did, I could.)

The best thing about becoming a gym rat is that I’m not going it alone. I found the perfect workout partner. She meets me at the gym several early mornings a week. The fact that she comes at all amazes me, because she is still the mother of young children, children who don’t always sleep at night. But even after sometimes only finally getting sleep at 3 or 4 a.m,. she still shows up with her game face on and even manages to make me laugh. She is awesome like that. Laughing at the gym, however, is not always recommended. Recently I dropped a 25-lb. dumbbell on my lap. (Note: this is not a move I’d suggest adding to your regular work-out routine.)

This dear friend is a triathlete. Which means that when she told me she was signing up for a triathlon this year I realized she would be training for the triathlon during our gym time. Which meant that if I wanted to train with her I would be training for a triathlon too. And it stands to reason that if I were going to train for a triathlon, I might as well participate in one, right?

And so I am. In about six weeks. It may just be the end of me. Part of my workout now consists of getting my heart rate up by running between a state of confident denial “I can do this. I’ve been working out.” to a state of total, hyperventilation-inducing fear. (Can you hear my heart racing this very minute as I type?) Why am I doing this? Partly because, in addition to my ADD of housework, I also have ADD of working out. Kudos to the half-marathoners and marathoners out there, but after about two miles (of walking–not running–I don’t run.), I’m quite sure I’d be distracted by the nearest Super Target and start fumbling for my credit card. But changing it up a bit with swimming, biking, and running a walk? Maybe. I might just be able to do that.

(Shhh. Don’t tell. But the real reason I’m doing this is in a deliberate effort to escape my resident slacker status here at Segullah, home of numerous winning marathoners and some real triathletes (as opposed to my what-will-surely-be-feeble attempt), all highly educated, accomplished women. I figured doing a tri is cheaper and much less work than taking the GRE and applying for a graduate program. And I don’t want to get kicked off the board.)

Mostly I’m doing this because on most days it feels good. I don’t want to swim, bike or run walk in pursuit of a number on a scale. The triathlon is a nice big carrot to dangle in front of me to keep me going back for more of something that truly makes me better, faster, stronger. Knowing I have a sisterhood of gym rats (you know who you are–GO US!) working towards similar goals (only in different gyms), makes me better, faster, stronger, too.

What about you? In addition to normal life, which sometimes is just plain hard as well, what hard things have you recently pursued? Have you signed up for a new class? Made progress on personal a goal that is important to you? Learned or done something you’ve always wanted to?


Oh, and do you have any advice to share for a newbie’s first try at a tri?

About Sandra Clark

Sandra Clark Jergensen's writing (most often about food) has been published in Gastronomica, Apartment Therapy, The Exponent, and at Segullah, where she was once the Editor-in-Chief, and now as Features Editor. Sandra geeked out on food and writing as a master's student food studies at University of Texas, Arlington. She makes her home in California where she runs without shoes, foster parents, teaches cooking, develops recipes, and struggles to take pictures with her eyes open, and sometimes all at the same time. She is the owner and creator of thekitchennatural.com.

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