Anyone wandering into Tracy’s gym for the first time might wonder, where’s the gal? The one who’s going to whip me into shape? Then you see her. A woman who’s so tiny, if you stuck a pair of wings on her back and set her on the branch of a tree, she’d look right at home. I remember gazing at the whiteboard with it’s strange set of instructions and wondering, what’s a thruster? Is it appropriate for public viewing? How about a deadlift, a man maker, and a Turkish get-up? Is this a gym class or are we doing some work for the mafia?
I watched Tracy skip lightly over to a set of parallel bars on the floor and raise her body in the air until she was upside down. Still talking, of course. “I’m not doing that!” I yelped, forgetting I was supposed to just shut up and listen. It’s a lesson I’ve yet to learn. “Oh, you will,” she said airily. I stared at my friends, the ones who’d talked me into joining the gym. They didn’t look any more convinced than I. But they were smart enough not to complain.
Whiners get handed extra weights, so wearing a pitiful facial expression is key. Channel your inner pillaged villager and you’ll have it about right. There’s no such thing as appearing too defeated, unless you want to add a hundred extra lunges to your day. Friends reading this are thinking, ‘Quit telling her all our secrets!’ I think she knows.
It’s also important to say how much fun you’re having, but without sounding sarcastic, which is much more difficult than it seems. Tracy loves it when we’re having fun. Because she’s always having fun. You can’t wipe the grin off her face as she hands you two kettlebells and watches you hoist them and squat like a constipated gorilla.
On the other hand, I’m stronger than I was at half my age. I wish I’d been working out like this before I gave birth, because that’s what it feels like when I’m shoving a kettle bell into the air and grunting like a cave woman. As desired by wicked Maleficent the kettle bell fairy, there are many who leave class smiling, their elegant muscles and endorphin highs an example to all. I’m cheerful, too, but more like the guy who just escaped from Shawshank. And yet.
I love the way I feel the rest of the time. I like my arms, and I’m at an age where no one likes their arms. I like my legs, and ditto. Mostly, I like the way they work and keep me balanced. As I mentioned before, I’m more ungainly than I look so I need all the help I can get just to stand upright.
I remember telling Tracy that I didn’t want to have ‘one of those weight lifting bodies.’ After much laughter at my expense, she said, “Never gonna happen. This is the wrong class for that.” I was relieved, but also puzzled. I felt like I was working as hard as humanly possible. Not only that, but I still had to listen to my muscle’s ongoing debate. My butt, for one, is a serious whiner with strong opinions.
“Look, Tracy said don’t use your glutes!” my butt says bitterly. “I wish that effing core would show up for once.” My glutes are right to be cranky. Though my core has returned from the Haufbrau House in Germany, it’s still as self indulgent as a hung over teenager. When Tracy says, ‘Tuck in your belly button,’ it replies lazily, “I don’t know how. Just leave me alone.” My rhomboids, trapezius and deltoid muscles also use the F word a lot. “Shut up!” I scream back, startling my fellow gym members. It’s very hard to do all those swings and deadlifts when your muscles are deeply engaged in arguing.
The gym is a loud place, anyway, what with all the grunting and the heavy music telling us we can’t do it. Or reminding us to go balls to the walls. (Seriously. That’s a thing.) I can’t get over how Tracy never gives up on us. I’ve tried to convince her I’m a lost cause, but she just won’t buy it. Based on her optimism, some things I might try in the future are:
1. Take part in a bar fight and win. ( Although I’m not really much of a fighter. The last time I even went to a bar was in Liverpool, England, where I tried to convince all the Scousers to emigrate to Canada. Though my success was limited, I made sure to let my fervor show. My fervor has increased along with my strength.)
2. Save someone. Even if they’re not in danger, I’d just like to try it. I don’t care about the situation, either. Burning building, someone trapped under an anvil. I’ll use all my skills to save them. I’m still clumsy, but also stronger than I look.
3. Do the Turkish get-up. This is an exercise where you get up from the ground without using your hands. My son in law, Bob, can do it with his tall, nine year old daughter clinging to one arm. When I told Tracy about it, she said, “Oh, you’ll do that, too.”
No, I won’t. I’m not that ambitious. I just pray for the day I can get up from the floor hands free.
Tracy is starting a class for beginners, in January. In spite of my bellyaching, I can honestly say that anyone who joins will have their lives changed for the better. It doesn’t matter if you need a hip replacement or had a hip replacement, have bad knees, shoulders, walk with a limp, or are in your eighties. We already have people that age in class, and you will only be stronger and healthier for the workout. (Going for coffee after and whining about everything is an important part of the routine.) There is no gun to my head as I write, but I’m hoping this earns me ten less squats in my first workout of 2020. Happy New Year, dear readers. And you too, dear Kettle Bell Fairy. Besides brimming over with dread and excitement, I’m filled with too many chocolates, glasses of wine and servings of turkey. It’ll take some heavy lifting to get this body into shape again. And that’s no joke.