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Fitness assessment

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Fitness assessment

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 The gym membership comes with one "fitness assessment" with one of their personal trainers. It said "$80 value" on the big standing poster thing, but, whatever. If they're offering it, I might as well use it, right? Mine was with a guy named Sean.

First thing they do, they weigh you. This was not especially stressful for me, though I know it's a giant stressor for lots of people, with good reason. There are such unrealistic expectations built around those numbers! I remember, it's got to be fifteen years ago now, being in an online RPG where I was deliberately playing a character who wasn't skinny -- she was a panther shapeshifter, and I wanted to give her a realistic body mass to match a full-size panther. And I was cool with that, until someone else described her character as something like 5'10" and 110 pounds and I had a hissy fit all over the game list, because I'm 5'4", and I was about 110 pounds in high school, and I was pretty damn skinny-looking (seriously, a 1980s size 5, and cheekbones forever), and I was like DO YOU REALIZE YOU HAVE DESCRIBED A COAT HANGER? Because I had envisioned my character as being solid and curvy and maybe even plump, but compared to those numbers, I was worrying that the other players would envision a freakin' hippo, you know? So even though I only get numbers stress by proxy, I know it's there.

So anyway, I got weighed, and my Mathematically Useless And Irrelevant BMI came in as "normal", and then he had me hold some sort of futuristic gadget with electrical sensors at arm's length that claimed to measure my body fat percentage, and that came in at the high end of "normal", and then we went into one of the offices to have a health-history and goals chat.

I was upfront about the bipolar and about wanting to use exercise to help me keep my moods even. And about how motivation was one of my big challenges, and especially my period -- because I'm sidelined with pain for the first two days of my cycle, and then I feel like I've broken my streak and I don't pick it up again. And also how I don't mind physical labor, but most exercise for exercise's sake is so distasteful to me that I'd rather clean the cat box, and classes make me feel clumsy and stupid, like gym class, and how the mere sound of a gym whistle will send me into a low-level panic -- I told him about the Wii Fit and how the exercises themselves in the calisthenics section weren't bad, but the whistle that told you when to change freaked me out enough that I couldn't bring myself to do them. I wanted him to know that I was going to be pretty stubborn and resistant!

When he asked about goals, I told him I didn't really care about the numbers on the scale. If I built muscle and they went up a little, I wasn't going to flip out. I told him about the C25K program, and the 100 Push-Ups and the 200 Sit-Ups programs (and how the apps felt like toys, so I was more willing to use them than other stuff), and that I was more interested in building up strength and stamina, and if I could flatten my stomach in the process, great. He asked if there were any occasions or dates that I wanted to look a certain way for -- reunions, weddings, that kind of thing. I said "nah, not really. My parents have a beach house, and I wouldn't mind wearing a bikini on the beach this summer, but I'm gonna rent a surfboard anyway, so I'll be wearing a wetsuit, so it hardly matters." He laughed, and said "everyone looks good in a wetsuit!" I said, "You know what one of my main goals is? I know it sounds silly, but I'm serious about it as a motivation: the first defense against zombies is cardio. I'm training so I can outrun the zombies." He didn't look like he understood that at all. But, I mean: zombies! The C25K app even has a setting with a zombie voice for the instructions! Well, if he doesn't take that into account, he'll be sorry when the zombies attack, is all I'm saying.

So then we went up to the weights room on the top floor. I got a chance to look at my form for push-ups, and boy, did it SUCK for classic ones -- years of computer work have left me round-shouldered, and I can't get my back flat enough. I can do it on an incline though (using an aerobics step with about three risers on it), and the number I could manage was the same as the self-test I did with crappy form on the classic ones, so I don't have to change the setting on the app. My form for crunches is fine, and I can do squats holding a 10-lb ball (those are OK, they're like modern-dance pliés, and I liked modern dance in high school), and then he had me try bridge-ups. I didn't know that's what they were called; I thought of them as the Jane Fonda butt-lifts! (I used to do the Jane Fonda workout in high school, and I was good at it then.) He was all "how is it feeling?" and I said "I could do these all day." He said "okay, try this" and had me put my feet on a medicine ball. I got my feet on it, and immediately said "oh no. No. No way." He said "It makes you work harder, and builds stability." I said "It makes me feel like I'm gonna fall on my butt, and I'll never do it." He said "okay, try pointing your toes up and resting on your heels." That worked; it made the butt-lifts feel harder, but I didn't feel like I was going to fall over.

Then we started getting into stuff that sucked. He had me try doing push-ups on a squishy hemisphere. Once again, I couldn't get my back flat, and the way I looked in the mirror was depressing the hell out of me, so I just said "no. I'll do the inclined ones." He left it at that, and went to free weights. Bicep curls with a 10-lb dumbbell? Nope. For one thing, it was too heavy, and for another, I just don't like them. They're boring and they make me cranky. Next? Next was even worse. He had me lie face down on a bench and try to pick up a couple of discs and lift my arms out straight to my sides. YUCK. That one failed the cat box test by a LOT. I told him that I didn't like it, and could we try some machines instead? He said, "Free weights are better, you know. They're more like real life, and they burn more calories." I told him, "Screw the calories. I'm not in this for calories. And an exercise isn't better if I'll never DO it. I need to find ones I'll do." He made a face like he was disappointed, but you know what? I didn't care. Hanne Blank's awesome book helped me remember that I was 43 years old, dammit, and that this was NOT gym class, and I wasn't getting graded, and he was working for ME, not the other way around. So I ignored the face, and he brought me over to the machines.

I like weight machines. We never had them in gym class. The first time I ever saw them, I was about nine or ten, and my dad's office had a weight room with a 1970s Universal thing with brown upholstery, and I sometimes got to play with it, and the stations felt like a more complicated jungle gym. I didn't know jack about how to use them then, so I just fooled around, seeing how much I could do with the leverage, and it was a toy. I like toys. Even when I was older and had opportunities to use them properly, they still felt like toys, and that's good.

He asked if I'd ever tried circuit training with "active rests" between the machines, like jumping jacks. I said "oh HELL no, that sounds horrible." He didn't push it, and just showed me how to use a bunch of them, and adjusted the weights until I could manage a set of 12 on each one.

I asked if he was writing them down. He said "no, we don't do that." I explained that I HAD to write it down, because I wasn't familiar with the names of the machines at ALL, and with my ADD as strong as it is (and it's pretty strong), I'd forget which ones I'd used in about five minutes, and just saying them to me wasn't going to help me remember. We went back and forth on this a few times, but finally he let me get my phone and make notes of it. I was silly and didn't get my reading glasses, so I got some mistypings in there, but here's my list:
  • Leg press
  • Lat pull
  • Seated row
  • Inclined chest press
  • Rear (self?) back fly
  • Arm curls
  • Seated dips
I'm doing all of these with pretty wussy weights, but you know what? Just like my body weight, it's not about the numbers. It's about working my muscles. I can still lift a 50-lb bag of flour, or a full copy paper box, and I very rarely have to make more than one trip with the groceries, even if I have more than four bags. So what does it matter what the numbers on a bunch of toys say?

All in all, I think it was a pretty productive session, and I'm damned proud of myself for insisting that he find me a program that I would DO, rather than me agreeing to do what HE thought was best ,while knowing that I'd loathe it and quit after a week. And I'm indebted to Hanne Blank for reminding me I could DO that.

Today, even though I was feeling kind of sore from C25K on Monday and Wednesday, and the training session yesterday, I dragged my sorry ass out of bed and went to the gym by 8AM, so I could do today's C25K on the treadmill before the snow started. I now feel very virtuous.

And if the zombies attack, I'll be ready.
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