Thursday, 17 March 2016

Stuff I Learned About Life From Intense Interval Training

Who am I kidding?
Me the queen of marathon-chatting sessions with girlfriends while holding a hot-caffeinated beverage in hand? The gold-medallist of all things sofa - books and movies and writing and cuddles? Me?! Interval training? When in the past, success was if I crawled uninjured after a Zumba class, for seniors?

Actually - yeah!
This happened to be a winter of deep hibernation for me - and those are dangerous!
For someone who already had one serious encounter with a beast called depression, being as much as even lightly brushed by its wicked whip poses a major threat. When depression approaches obstacles start to appear larger than they actually are. Minor everyday problems acquire a long and dark shadow. The appetite dissapears (which - I agree - for the first little while sounds like a welcome gift).
Wickedly, the bed then starts exerting its gravitational pull, the muscles go sluggish and the duvet is right there to conveniently muffle even the softest of cries. Shame moves in. It's so dangerous because it's so easy. It feels like comfort. Sleep is good. I am just tired. Let me put my head down...

I credit an incredible army of people for making sure I didn't get caught into the treacherous spiralling-down depression web that was so eager, so motivated, so applied to suck me in. Left on my own, I would have surely succumbed to it without a fight. Like a fierce giant insect, depression sucks life juice out of you, than effortlessly crushes the shell. Eats your heart. Then rips your head off.

But what if you - somehow - get dragged to take care of that shell first? Well, thankfully, I was.
He did it very much in a cave-man fashion, as - almost literally - he had to drag me there by my pony tail (thank you husband!).

There is this truly punishing gym in our neighbourhood my sole-mate raves about. They have classes called TreadSanity and ROWster and H.I.I.T. and Gravity, and countless others I am yet to try. Fellow-gym goers for the most part look as if they are all training for the friggin' Iron Man. It is intimidating as hell to step inside, but once you do - regardless of the level of ultimate unpreparedness - pure magic happens.

Here is what I learned about life from sprints and burpees and kettlebells and slamballs and shoulder-presses and push-ups and bands and sumo-squats and bosu balls. And buckets of epsom salt afterwards.

1. You do one hard thing as a break from another hard thing

This is also exactly how my grandfather taught me how to study when I was little. Doing what's hardest first (math) then taking a break with another demanding subject (French) than relaxing with the easiest thing (art project) so I can return to the second hardest (history). Without procrastination all was done right after school and the rest of the day was free for play and friends and writing.

The same rule goes for the gym: running on treadmill under an ever increasing incline is abruptly halted so I can enjoy 20 Mountain Climbers or burpees (oh how much I still hate those), or push ups. Who knew I would learn to rest doing a 60 second plank!?

2. Your weight is all yours - unless you drop it, you've got to carry it

Gravity Gear
This is just like life coaching - you can select to drop the baggage and travel light through life or it is all yours to carry forward. My personal twist is that I learned to quickly start loving my baggage at least for the duration that I have to lift and carry it as a burden. Instant gratification rarely exists when what you want is real, long-lasting and meaningful. I tend to joke about my load - it makes it lighter and I sometimes don't even notice when it disappears! Poof!

It is nowhere more obvious that all my weight was mine than in this workout called Gravity - 60 minutes of having my core, arms and legs pull all of the glorious me I managed to acquire under my own skin, especially since my little kids were born! There are no fairies, helpers or marines descending into the gym to help. One must carry one's own weight until the clock says so, no matter what.

3. You can do anything for 60 seconds

I learned this one night between January 23/24 1996. during the marathon no-epidural-available birth of my first son. As fellow women who attempted natural birth know - a contraction, that minute long WTF?! How did we even survive as species?! intense sensation, a contraction is a perfect example of us being wired to survive anything if it is a minute long. I still have the watch I had on my wrist in labour mesmerizingly envisioning the relief I would feel when the second handle passes the moon.

Some wicked gym guru clearly knew this because when we to this H.I.I.T class staying on each station for a minute with 40 sec of insane intensity and 20 seconds recovery time the body is tricked into a relief that really never arrives while the reward is amazing!

4. Angry music makes for great motivation

I admit. Growing up, I was a total new-wave snob with tunes (and mixed tapes and posters) of Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, Visage, Ultravox and OMD. I scoffed at people who wore AC/DC and KISS T-shirts while injuring perfectly fine denim jackets by embedding pointy metal beads into them. Listening to heavy metal. Shaking a big head of unwashed hair, tongue sticking out!

But boy can that 'angry' music make for an amazing trip while running or rowing indoors! I close my eyes and transport myself somewhere Mad Max-like and listen to the machine zip under my vigorous steps and pulls. It's rocket fuel. Who knew?!

5. Pick a great crew: Rocky Balboa, Hurricane Carter & moi

If in need of the initial drive to get one started it was so worth re-watching movies that celebrated a man's turn to physical empowerment as a stepping stone to mental strength. The hidden gift of hibernation is that days are really long and Netflix is really generous.

Those moments when the burn would be excruciating (ahem, only for me - the rest of the gym-goers seem to be immensely enjoying themselves) I got silver screen peeps to join me, make it meaningful and even more fierce. Imagination is an amazing gym prop!

6. Never say never

❤️my gym!
I know. The king of all clichés. But if I ever feel that it is true, it is right now.
There is no less likely person to enjoy being on a treadmill than me. How many times have friends tried to lure me into the Running Room group or a 5k run? My excuse was always the same: "Oh, I am not a runner!" Then I pull out the data about knees and ankles and running in filthy city air. Sure, I would do a Hawaii marathon, however... I love running on treadmill. Crave it. Just like I do yoga. Super weird.

The point is not to get as fit as to qualify for the Olympics. Or to match/surpass the number the 'treader' next to me seems to be effortlessly blasting through. The point is to look at each day like a marathon I was chosen to run. Then show up. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Sweat. Hustle. Burn. If I could do it - anyone can do it. And when a whiff of Lysol wipes fills the air, it means 60min expired and it's time to get the equipment ready for the next group of warriors. And that alone feels like gold!

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