Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Nugget #47

Hello out there, I haven't been posting anything for a few months, but I'm ready to get back at it.  I've been busy since early October, plus I badly hurt my knee falling off my bike October 9th (yes, a training wheel came off), but that is finally coming around and I should be running again soon. More importantly, I've been busy getting an article into it's final form for the magazine Marathon & Beyond.  The article simply tittled "The Belle Watlings" appears in the current issue, which is the Jan./Feb. issue, and just hit the news stands a week or two ago.  I'm pretty excited, as this is just my third time being published, and it got me inspired to get back writing.  So whether you like it or not, here's my tale of joining a workout group recently in order to get in better shape since my running has not been going so well.

Siberian 360 Labor Camp Fitness
Bill Donnelly

            Last October Diane, my wife, decided it was high time for both of us to get more serious about getting in shape.  Yeah, we were both running, but we seemed to be treading water, not really getting more svelte-like.  Personally I felt I was looking pretty good.  Good being if the one looking at me was a water buffalo that also had a weight problem.
            So anyway, we had been hearing about a program several people were doing, and they all said they were getting great results.  Diane looked into it, and with a little persuasion, she convinced me we needed to sign up.  It’s amazing how persuasive Diane can be when she is holding me by one ankle while I dangle helplessly in the breeze with a view of the street below from outside our attic window.  Did I mention Diane is strong like bull?
            So off we went to the 360 Fitness Gulag over on Delaware Ave.,
not far from where we live in north Buffalo.  We signed up, paying good, hard earned cash for the privilege of being tortured and humiliated.  I’m here to tell you it’s been a wild, fun ride ever since.  Yeah, right!  Read on my friends, and I’ll set you straight.
            Now, for the purpose of this brief account, I will avoid using real names, so as to avoid being sued and/or beat up by angry fitness instructors, or anyone else for that matter.  Now that I think about it, I better change my wife’s name for this so as to avoid being beat up or dangled once again from the attic window, so for this article, I will only refer to her as Pooty Pie. 
Come to think of it, I better change my name too, or people may recognize me and thus know I’m talking about them.  So for now, know me only as Snooky.  Wait, that name seems too familiar as if someone else already goes by it.  Someone who just might be able to beat me up.  All right, I got it, just call me The Situation.  That should be safe enough.
Now in late October of 2011, Pooty Pie and I arrive at the Gulag on a cool Monday night for our initial class at .  It’s a one hour happy hour to be held every Monday and Thursday.  We arrive to find the class before us, full of local running legends, just finishing up.  They come crawling out, some blood soaked, and all sweat soaked, and tell those of us who have never done this to run for our lives.  I turn to do just that, but Pooty Pie has me by the ankle. 
There are about 15 of us brave souls ready and willing to begin, most of whom have done this eight week course before, and some just keep coming back for more.  One other newcomer, whom I shall simply name John for this tale of woe, has forgotten his shorts, so he does not take my advice to use this as an excuse for not staying, and he proceeds to do the first class in his jeans.  I’ll bet he’ll never forget his shorts again, although in a future class he forgets his sneakers, and he does the class in his ski boots.  Some people never learn.
We all gather in a room and for the first ten minutes, and I’m not sweating too much.  Of course we are just being lectured by the instructor (and owner of the camp) about the nutrition plan (more on this later), but even this talk produces tiny beads of sweat upon my forehead.  I won’t mention what my armpits are doing, nor my intestines, which are threatening to clear out the whole class with noises that are warnings of things to come.  A couple of the veterans, who I will call Barb and Pete for this piece, know to keep asking questions in order to delay and shorten the torture yet to come, but alas, they are too nervous to be able to think clearly enough to hinder things for long.
Thus, we are told by the instructor to proceed to the other room and begin by warming up.  He puts two of the best runners in Buffalo in charge of the warm-ups. These wily vets, who have been at this suffering for over a year (and who have scars and a limp to prove it) I will name Brian and Victoria for the sake of anonymity.  And thus it begins.
Oh yeah, I need to introduce the instructor, and I will be careful here in order to avoid more punishing workouts in the future.  I will not use his real name, but his initials are G. K., and his name rhymes with Blenn Baifas, and from here on in I will refer to him simply as Blenn.  Blenn is a tall, strong, blond, blue-eyed Arian.  I’m actually not sure about the blue eyes, but it just seems to fit.  I’m not even sure the part about being part of the Arian race fits, but once he proceeds with his methods, I can only picture him standing there wearing a black army uniform that has lightning bolts on the sleeves and a skull and cross-bones on the front of the cap.  A German Shepherd by his side and a riding crop in his hands would round out the image perfectly.
We begin by marching the length of the building doing what I call the Sieg Heil March.  We goose step along while sieg heiling our feet with the opposite hand from the foot that’s in the air.  I believe Blenn learned this exercise while attending the University of Nuremberg, at which he earned The Triumph of Will, Fitness, Wellness, and Psychological Torture Degree.
We do this sieg heiling a few times up and down the beer hall, er, the gym, and they we do lunges up and down, followed by sideway scoots  (you don’t want to know), and another round of sieg heils, only now we have to skip through them, looking like a bunch of gay Nazis.  I’m really starting to sweat now, and I look at the clock on the wall and see we have only killed four more minutes.  Now I come up with all sorts of questions I should have been asking Blenn during the lecture portion a mere four minutes ago.
I have to say I came into this program somewhat nervous, but not too much since I do run and I’m in some kind of shape.  However, a few things about me added up to strikes against me.  First off, Back in the Day, which everyone knows means the 1970s, I was running 16 miles a day, which usually took two hours, yet I wouldn’t spend 30 seconds a week to stretch.  Just seemed like too much time to spend on something that wouldn’t help my speed.  Duh, strike one!  Strike two is that I’m now 64 years old, and my flexibility, or lack there of, has suddenly come back to bite me in the ass big time.  The third strike is that I’m 64 years old, and the first thing to go when one gets to be over 60, besides flexibility and control of your flatulence muscles, is your balance. 
So here I am, watching others, such as Victoria, who is sleek, trim, fast, and young, goose stepping along, with her kicking foot ending up directly above her head, and half way to the ceiling.  What flexibility, what balance, what humiliation for me as I begin to waddle down the hall, losing my shoe on the first kick, bumping into John who was five feet to my left  on my second kick, and falling over on my third.
I composed myself and continued on, weaving in and out of the other participants, and weaving in and out of consciousness.  The second time I bumped into John he began cursing as me, even though I think he was mad his jeans had split on his first kick.  After four minutes of this I was ready to quit, and as I ran to my locker for my asthma inhaler (oh yeah, asthma, strike four) I thought of continuing out the door and running home.  I decided I would not let this get the better of me, so back I came for more.  Bad judgment, strike five, and in any league that should be an out.
I got back just as Blenn was explaining what we would be doing next.  The first three victims would get on a treadmill facing backwards, hang on and make the tread go in reverse for a minute or two.  Now we all know a treadmill has no reverse, so this aint easy.  When done with this, you proceed to doing 20 pushup-pull-through, which require you placing your toes on Frisbees so after each pushup, you can slide your legs up to your hands, thus leaving your buttocks aiming at the ceiling, and your already weakened flatulence muscles totally useless.
From here you continued on by frog-jumping the rest of the way down the hall.  I believe this exercise was named after the way French soldiers in World War II would run as they were retreating from the German Army, staying low and hopping along in order to throw off the aim of the Panzer tanks, thus frog jumps.  Not tough if you’re young and flexible, or a French soldier running for his life.  Just try doing this while off balance and desperately trying to regain control of said flatulence muscles.
Three quarters of the way through, and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  It was now run back, stand in place, pick up a 25 pound medicine ball, hold it high over your head, and then slam it to the ground,  Repeat 25 times.  Ouch!  Finally done, stagger towards the water fountain, and then hear Blenn say “Where you going toad, two more cycles of the same thing, so on the treadmill maggot, and give me three minutes!”  That light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be a freight train pulling 200 boxcars of steel coming straight at me.
By the time I finished, there were only 30 minutes left, and since I was last (the others finished five minutes ahead of me and looked refreshed and relaxed), Blenn said to pull out the yoga mats and lie on our backs.  Whew!  About time, a little relaxing yoga, and even though I’m lacking in the flexibility department, it can not be worse than what we just did.  Oh, oh, was that a freight train whistle I just heard coming around the bend straight towards me?
That it was.  Now it was lie on your back, head up, legs straight up in the air, knees not bent, hold 60 seconds, now right knee five inches off the ground, left leg straight up, hold 60 seconds, now switch legs, 60 seconds, repeat cycle three times, (stomach muscles screaming after one cycle), now reach right leg back, knee straight, touch left ear with right foot, hold 60 seconds, switch legs, 60 seconds, two more cycles, (stomach muscles beyond pain), both legs back, feet touching opposite ears, 60 seconds, cross legs, touch opposite hips, 60 seconds, three more cycles, (Stomach muscles split and joined to flatulence muscles), that’s it, now relax.
Five seconds later, it’s over onto your stomachs and into the “plank” position, which I believe got it’s name because pirates Back, Back in the Day (1630’s) would rather walk the plank than have to do ten minutes of the “plank” position.  This means of torture consisted of balancing your body on your forearms, face down, with only your toes for support in the rear.  Sounds simple, but what went on from there is what made the pirates jump ship, so to speak.
So now it was hold this position 30 seconds. Then up to your hands only and do a push up, back down to forearms, repeat ten times, now up to hands and lift left leg and do push up, down to forearms, repeat ten times, now right leg up , push up, down to plank and repeat ten times, now lift both legs, up to hands and push up, back to plank and repeat ten times, and back to plank, now lift both legs and up on right hand, push up, down to plank and repeat ten times, same on left hand, and relax.
I’m dragging and my heart is beating faster than it ever has.  I must admit, I did not finish every exercise completely.  With the “planks” I most likely did one or two of each, but tried to hide it by collapsing whenever Blenn had his back to me (only later did I realize the place was surrounded by mirrors and he could undoubtedly see everything I was not doing), yet I was whipped, a soggy pile of sweat and pain. 
I was so happy to hear him say “That’s it for today, we will get serious next time!”  I crawled over to Victoria and asked: “This must get easier, right?”  She looked me directly in my eyes, and with a look of foreboding, she simply said “NO!”  OK, I’ll not be back I swore.
Blenn then gathered us around, said fair job, and since he would be off running the Marine Corp Marathon the next weekend, we would not be having another class until the Thursday of the next week, a glorious week and a half to recover.  “I’ll be back!” I thought to myself, as I felt that would be enough time to recover from the evening’s workout/torment.
And so I would go back, but I must say, the next two days I discovered muscles I did not know existed in my body, only because I had never, ever used them before in my life.  Simple things such as sitting down, standing up, walking, and farting were suddenly painful.  I knew I had found a workout program that worked, and I was hooked.
More on the nutrition regimen and workouts that follow will be in a future blog.  It all just keeps getting better!

1 comment:

  1. Hopefully you stuck with that program because if you did, by now(2012) you will be in the best shape of your life.
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