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“So today, KT, we’re going to work to failure…”

Failure. Shit.

I stared down my trainer with definite wariness.

He’s a fifty-something black former Navy Seal who cuts to the quick both verbally and when he’s piling weight on one of the machines he has me using. His name is Vince.

I’ve never been an athlete. Never even really played a sport (except youth soccer and softball – where teams were made of various colors like Teal and Gold) or tried to hone my skills in a non-organized pastime (i.e. skiing or golf). I never had the stamina or the coordination to even try-out…except 8th grade volleyball, but that ended badly and I’m still bitter.

What I have learned to do to exercise and stay healthy is workout…I enjoy going to the gym and through that, I’ve come to appreciate the dedication that goes into manipulating your body to work towards a specific goal regardless of endzone or finish line.

I’m pretty religious about exercise and it’s for purely selfish reasons. If I’ve had a crap day where nothing seemed to click in place, I’ll go to the gym and pound my frustration into a treadmill and feel better. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. It’s a sense of intense satisfaction when I’ve finished a good workout.

The gym where I’m currently a member offers free training for your first month and then once a month after that. I signed up for a session with Vince and knew we’d hit it off when after shaking hands he said, “ready to cry?” then swatted my shoulder with a, “let’s get to work.”

We train…to failure. Arms. Legs. Back. Shoulders. He has me lift until I am physically incapable of raising my arm again. I’m standing there staring at it and it’s absolutely, completely refusing to move. Then he says, “do one more.”

And I do. And the day I told him I was a Redskins fan, he doubled the weight, adding five extra reps – he’s not a fan of that football franchise.

“OK, we’re done here.” Vince makes a note on my chart and I hobble behind him to the next machine to repeat.

At the end of an hour, my muscles are shaking with exertion. But I feel good. And I find myself fascinated with the fact that he says this is working to failure because failure to me means not accomplishing something, not seeing it through, a cacophony of negative. Yet he sees these failures as measures of success, as an opportunity to learn and grow and build – to eventually reach a tangible goal of fitness.

I’d love to be able to apply this thinking to life where failure actually becomes a means for creation, but I have a feeling that in most cases if a person (me included) hits failure more often than not, they’ll be unwilling to ever try again. Somehow, I’d like to get out of that mindset – and in ways, I think I am.

Vince pushes my muscles to failure and I come back the next week ready to do it all again. I look forward to working beyond what I think I can do to what I actually am capable of completing. So each week I work to this end. I add more weight, do more repetitions until finally I hit failure again.

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Somedays, I have Workout A.D.D. I’ll go to the gym and spend ten minutes on the treadmill before my eyes go crossed with boredom, ten on the elliptical, 15 on the bike, 15 on stairs…and I’ll leave the gym feeling like I didn’t even work out.  

So I like to mix it up a little by participating in the classes offered. In NYC, I spinned 3 days a week at 6:45 a.m which meant I was up at 5. I’m still not sure how I did that because down here I am absolutely unable to lift my head from the pillow before 6. My eyelids flutter open in mild surprise if the alarm beeps at 5:45 before flapping down like window blinds in an adamant refusal that it’s time to wake up. With the stagnant gym circuit and the inability to get moving in the morning, I knew I needed a shakedown.

Slim suggested I try zumba. She’d been going for awhile with a few friends and said it was a great workout that didn’t actually seem like one….my kind of exercise!

zumba

 Zumba (for those of you who don’t know) is a fusion of Latin and International music that incorporates dance moves with a fast-paced cardio workout. Now…I’ll be the first to admit while I love to dance, I know I’m not the most coordinated person on the dance floor. You’re unlikely to see me bust a move in the middle of the circle; I’m more likely to lead the clapping for whatever brave soul jumps in with their version of the lawnmower.  So, clearly I was skeptical when Slim told me it was a “get low” type of class, but I gave it a try.

Lili is the instructor; she’s a spirited chica who bounces all around the room to her Latin mix of songs. I stood next to Slim in the back while the Latin Mafia* filed into their positions in the front row. They’re all Latin divas who are 40, but look 30 and wear only Zumba tanks and wind-pants. As the music started, we salsa-ed through a warm-up and I quickly realized I was out of my element. These women were shaking parts of their bodies that I didn’t know could move independent of other parts.

A mirror ran the length of the front wall and I watched my awkward “white girl” body struggle to catch the groove and rhythm of the beat. Lili yelled, “Alright ladies, squat down and SHAKE IT,” the “it” being your butt. I tried, really I did…but Slim looked over at me and busted out laughing.

“KT, you’re supposed to shake your ass, not your head.”

Apparently in trying to wiggle my rump, I’d also been bobbing my head and jiggling my arms, but my butt was going nowhere. So I got lower and really concentrated on bouncing it.

But I ended up feeling more  like Homer Simpson in Homer’s Triple Bypass when Dr. Hibbert says,

“Now I’m going to do a fat analysis test.  I’ll start your jiggling and measure how long it takes to stop.

[starts it jiggling]

[jiggles for five seconds]

Homer: Woo hoo!  Look at that blubber fly!

Dr. Hibbert: Yes.  [to intercom] Nurse, cancel my 1:00.

 

than a vogue dancer from some movie like Step Up (yes I saw it and yes I liked it enough to reference it here).

“I don’t get it,” I frowned.

“You just shake….move it around…that’s it.”

Well, that was easy for her to say…she’d been doing the class for awhile. We sashayed across the room….meringue-d and cross-stepped through a few more songs. Then a song came on that caused everyone to groan…I looked around apprehensively.

Groaning is never a good sign.

Lili laughed, looking only slightly sadistic, as she hollered “Trabájelo!”

I recognized the song as Apple Bottom Jeans” only here, instead of bopping my head to the song like I typically do, anytime she hit the floor came on we had to swing down to the floor and do push-ups, pop back to stand then, crunch our abs up eight times. I have come to negatively associate that song with pain 

By the end of the hour, I was drenched, but it was fast, furious, and fun. Slim and I’ve been going to Lili’s for a few months now. She did a Turkey Burn around Thanksgiving and a Holiday Boot Camp at Christmas; both were an hour and a half of high-intensity zumba.

I still have trouble bending and shaking in some of the ways she asks us too, but I’ve managed to at least learn the routines pretty well.  Slim and her other friends in the class joke about taking their moves to the bars. But I think I’ll wait a little longer til I show you what I’m workin’ with…

 

*10 of Lili’s “original” dancers who’ve perfected the booty-jiggle lifestyle with zumba and margaritas on the weekends.

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