Monday, March 24, 2014

That which won't kill me can only make me STRONGER...

Ugh. Kanye West. What a loathsome individual. G-d complex. Caused a Kardashian (and not the uber-cool Khloe) to reproduce. Vile geopolitical opinions.

But... If the man has one salvageable action in his life, it's releasing the song, "Stronger." 

Monday morning. Stuck behind cars, rushing to get to the YMCA in New Canaan, I revel in the fact that I found my Sony Walkman (thank you, Klout) - already loaded with workout music I hand picked from my Riding playlist with some new additions (thanks to a binge in Israeli, Mizrachit and Ladino dock), ready to attack my LIVESTRONG at the Y programs and, mindful of traffic law, pop it onto one ear and start playing. And what's the first song to play? "Stronger," by (stupid) Kanye West. And I start to feel pumped. I start to not only emotionally, but physically, get excited and revved. My mind focuses from hating the cars and buses in front of me to the anticipated rush and burn. My shoulder muscles, usually tense with stress, begin to feel looser, my face begins to warm, and I'm nearly drooling to sweat.

I park, jump out of my car, throw my cardigan in the drawstring bag, flash my badge, and run (yes, run) up the stairs - something I haven't been able to do in years. I'm a couple of minutes late, so the trainer tells me to do 10 minutes of cardio. No problem.

You would think I'd leap at the bikes, but if you've been following my blog for any time frame, you'd know that I can't just do 10 minutes on a bike - indoors or out. No, I'll save that for a spin class I hope to take, or, dare I say it, a ride in the next week or two. I hop on the treadmill, repeating "Stronger," and start out. I'm going to make the most of my 10 minutes. I start my pace at 3.5, and amp the resistance. And I pound out a fast walk. I was in "the zone" the minute my feet hit the driveway thanks to that song. My heart rate leaps up to 160. Time to rev up the speed. 3.8. Next song up. Ramp it up to 4.0 with Duran Duran's "Planet Earth." I'm feeling such a rush, I'm about to crank it up to a jog.

Crap. Stupid endorphins brainwashing me into thinking I can run. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Newly-found moderating brain cells remind me of the hell that 5k LIVESTRONG Challege did to me - and though I'd started treatment by then, I was still in better shape than now. Ok. Back to walk. My trainer must have noticed the idiotic move I was on the verge of making, tapped the machine, and asked how I was doing. I smiled and said fine. In my head, I was grinding the treadmill to shreds with my prowess. I was making it my bitch. Good thing 10 minutes just wound down - treadmill lives another day.

We get to work on our big muscle circuit before venturing to The Zone, a new set up. I hit the circuit. First, leg presses. I start where I left off - 2 sets of 12 at 140. The machine flies and I feel zero resistance. After one set of 12, I bump it up to 165. That's better. Not painful, but resistant. 2 more sets of 12.

I move onto the next leg machines - and I can do 3 sets of 12 with no pain - compared to the 2 sets of 12 last week. Legs are feeling like my own, again. Stronger.

Onto the pectoral fly machine. My arch nemesis of the gym. You see, it always was, but when you have your chest sliced and diced, expanding water balloons forced under your pectoral muscles, and then lumps of silicone permanently put into place where squishy, attached and organic breasts used to be, any activity that uses those now overly stretched-out pectoral muscles feels... WEIRD. There really isn't another word to use. It's just weird. You can't control the fact that your pseudo-boobs pop up and down, almost waving at the crowd, with every fly motion. They flap in the wind like two tops of tea kettles when you push down on huge button to pour out the water. Only with perma-perked nipples on top. Aside from the physical weirdness, there is an emotional sadness and moderate humiliation. But by now, Eminem is rightly advising me to lose myself in the music, and that's what I do. I lose myself, in the music, the moment, I own it, and I can't let go - I have to push through every rep. Failure is not an option - not now. I have to push through to move on. And just like that, I'm done. Moving on. 

Next thing I know, I'm on more upper body machines, but this time, I'm upping the weight a notch. I'm starting to do 3 sets of 12 reps on some, not all, but some. And then I'm done. I did it. And I can still walk. My back hasn't buckled. My shoulder bursitis is less painful than it was while I tried to sleep.

Dare I say it? Week #3 and I'm finally feeling... STRONGER.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

2 down, 3 to go...

March 5, 2011, I was preparing for my 2nd Rock the Ride & Run benefiting LIVESTRONG. I was unwittingly incubating two cancers in my right breast.

March 5, 2012. My friend, Mary, and I got the news that, so far, our chemotherapy and her radiation worked - we were now N.E.D. - No Evidence of Disease.

March 5, 2013. It was less than a month after Mary's funeral. I was declared one year N.E.D.
Today. It's been less than a month since Suzy ran out of time against breast cancer. I'm out of full-time work, currently back to teaching Hebrew School again, and midwifing a stray mother cat, Ahavah, as she labors to deliver her kittens today. And I celebrate 2 years N.E.D.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Starting from ground zero...

After long last, the universe is finally letting me start to rebuild my body again - not with silicone implants or skin grafts, but with muscle, strength, power and flexibility. My back injuries that flared up due to atrophy have eased just in time for me to start a new LIVESTRONG at the Y program at the New Canaan YMCA. Last Wednesday, we had a group orientation. Monday was our evaluation. Today was our first introduction to the machines.

On Monday, I left feeling pretty good about myself. I did my 6 minute walk with ease. My flexibility was great (though I was surprised at how different my right and left arms were!). I could let press 265 with ease. My arm strength was 3x better than I'd anticipated. I went into today's session excited.

Of course, when asked if I wanted to go on the treadmill vs a bike, I chose the bike. The trainer wanted me to try a recumbent, but it didn't feel right, so we went to the spin bike. Ah! Cleat friendly pedals! A saddle! Home!

I jumped in and adjusted the seat height like an old pro. I picked the 3 mile coastal ride - they said to keep it easy and quick. No problem!

I start off, and I'm passing the other digital riders. I'm spinning at 75 rpm and 15-17 mph. While I miss the wind on my face, I'm feeling comfortable. I'm shifting gears. I'm rolling. I'm catching up to the pace setter. I start chatting with the trainer. But, soon, the hills hit. A bit of strain. A bit out of breath. A little burn. Finally, a challenge.

But then, though I'm passing other digital riders, the phantom pace setter is pulling farther ahead. I push harder  I'm on a downhill and I try coasting to let the burn ease off. What!?! No coasting on a spin bike? Ugh. Fine. I keep churning, but even though I'm going I downhill, I'm burning. I'm slowing. The pace setter is getting away. I'm starting to sweat. I figure I've got to be near the end of the 3 mike mark. 

Then my heart sank. I was at 1.3 miles with 1.7 to go. And I'd already hit the wall. The trainer approached to tell me it was time to move onto the weight machines. Saved by the bell.

I think she could sense my disappointment as she reminded me, "Baby steps. You're doing great."

I kept telling myself that was true. That it was a spin bike. That there was no wind. But it still hurt to the core.

The rest of the workout was uneventful - I felt good about the weight levels, the pace, etc. Stretches were a surprise, though - pangs on the back and knees hit so I have to rely on alternates for now. But that will come in time.

I guess that's the hardest lesson of all to learn - it will come in time. I'm not used to that mantra.

But I'm relearning my body, my strength, and eventually my power.