Friday, November 25, 2011

Killer Beth: the perfect after-Thanksgiving Step instructor

It was fight or flight time at approximately 8:35 a.m. today when I walked into the aerobics studio at the Y. I had seen her in the life center during the past year, killing it on the elliptical like someone cross-country skiing away from a polar bear. But I hadn't seen her in this setting for five years.

Killer Beth.

Years ago, the first Step aerobics class I ever took at the Y was at 5:30 p.m., and it was so hard, I had to leave halfway through. I asked someone the next day if Step classes are always so vigorous, and the woman asked me which class I had attended. When I told her the time, she said, "Oh no, honey. That's Killer Beth. You have to work up to her."

Never were truer words spoken. During the past week, I have been incorporating Step classes back into my routine, proud of myself for jumping right in with the risers and being able to finish the morning classes without water breaks. But I was not ready for Beth. Many of us weren't. A few people left. We were all taking water breaks. It's amazing how different that class can be with each instructor, considering it's the same equipment and the same basic movements. But Beth uses a faster tempo CD, so every movement is a half step faster. She's a fan of double and triple movements, which ups the ante again. And when class begins, it's work time. No messing around getting warmed up with easy movements at first. She's all in. All bidness. And yet, from start to finish, she has the sunniest demeanor, kindest voice, never out of breath.

The woman is like a beautiful machine.

And I was like a dumptruck stuck in neutral, grinding gears to try and lunge forward ... then backward ... then forward.

It's as if she knew what we all had eaten yesterday. She saw the words "pumpkin cheesecake" written on my forehead, and she responded accordingly with lunges. So many lunges.

It was agony, and it was exactly what I needed. So at the end of class, I asked Beth if she still teaches regularly. She does, at 5:40 p.m. on Thursdays. So I told her, "Well, I better start coming because that about killed me."

And fittingly, as I gingerly lowered myself into my car, glasses fogging up from my hot, red face, the song "You Must Be Out of Your Mind" was playing on the radio as I turned on the car.


Monday, November 21, 2011

My two-part Thanksgiving plan: the Y and FOOD

Last week I went to South Central College to talk to a weight-loss support group, which was really fun. It's always cathartic to commiserate with folks going through the same junk you are. (And incidentally, I've lost 61 pounds at this point, and they gave me a round of applause, which absolutely warmed my heart.) But at the end of the session, a woman asked me how I planned to handle Thanksgiving. Until that moment, I hadn't given it much thought, and so like I do with everything else in life, I just said what came to mind: "I plan to eat a lot," I think I said.

Of course, I qualified the statement by saying, "There are times when it's OK to indulge. The trick for me is just to make sure that I get right back on track the next day."

From her expression, I don't think it was what she wanted to hear. And I can understand why. For many of us -- including me in the past -- a bad day tends to lead to several more, and before you know it, you're back to your old bargaining practices: I'll do better starting Sunday ... I'll just eat what I want the rest of this month, since there's only a few days left, and I'll start fresh on the 1st ... etc. So a day like Thanksgiving can trigger those behaviors, especially when you tend to have copious leftovers for days.

So all of this led to me carving out a plan for this week. The two-fold plan involves the Reebok Step classes at the Y, and food consumption on Thanksgiving. Part one was Step, which began today ...

I've been doing an hour on the elliptical in the life center with relative ease lately. It sucks that your body gets used to certain kinds of exercise, especially exercise that you actually enjoy (somewhat). And I knew that was what was happening, because I'd find myself looking down at the clock on the elliptical and seeing that 30 minutes had gone by without me wanting to kill myself. It's important that you experience a certain level of discomfort while working out, otherwise you're not getting a very good burn.

That led me back to Step class this morning to up the ante on my workouts, give my metabolism a boost, and burn more and lose a bit more before Thanksgiving -- sort of a preemptive calorie deficit before Turkey Day. ... I walked in, and I was so excited to see Lynette leading the class. Years ago, and several pants sizes ago, she was the one who whipped my butt into shape. She has a way of making me love her for the first 20 minutes and not-love-her-so-much during the last 20, which to me, is exactly what a good workout experience should be like.

By the end of the 40 minutes today, I was red in the face, sweating profusely, and rubbing my quads for comfort. I did that drunken sort of walk to the car, sort of meandering and disoriented. "Do I drive a blue car? I think it's blue. Maybe I'll just wander this way and I'll run into it." Now THAT'S a good workout.

I plan to get three good workouts like that in before Turkey Day on Thursday, when the second part of my plan will come into play. And here it is, folks: I plan to eat a lot. ... I know, I know. It doesn't sound healthy. But folks, sometimes food DOES equal enjoyment. Some events ARE planned around food. We associate certain memories from our past with grandma's Christmas Eve casserole and mom's famous pumpkin cheesecake. I would hate to look back on Thanksgiving with my family and remember that I weighed the ounces of turkey before I put it on my plate, and I passed on the gravy, and I asked mom to go easy on the butter in the mashed potatoes, and I skipped dessert. For some of you, that might be what you need to make your fitness goals work, and that's totally fine. But for me, I plan to enjoy myself with food on Thanksgiving.

And then the very next morning, I'll be in the upstairs studio in the Y getting my butt kicked.