A few years ago, a former colleague told me about his experiences in the Peace Corps in a rural part of the Dominican Republic. On his first day, he saw a big, huge tarantula in the shower and later learned that there were tarantulas everywhere in the region where he was to spend the next two years. He told me that his first thought was, “What did I get myself into?” Such was my experience on Monday morning–only for me Gold’s Gym on 54th St. is my DR and Ariane is my tarantula!
I shouldn’t have been surprised given that I had taken a few classes with Ariane a couple of years ago. I knew her classes were hard, but I didn’t remember how challenging they really are. Perhaps it’s because I was in better shape back then, though I wouldn’t say I was ever in good shape. I was surprised to see so many beautiful, strong, fit looking women in class. Being weighed, measured, and photographed was a humbling experience, but what was most humbling was having my body fat percentage taken. I had this done only once, maybe twice before in my life. Both times I was under what is considered average. Despite feeling fat back then, I was told that I was considered to be lean. Now, I can’t even bring myself to write what my current percentage is, though I understand why it is necessary to know it. It is an excellent barometer for measuring–literally measuring–progress. They always say when you set goals, they should be measurable. And when it comes to body fat percentage, numbers don’t lie. You can cover it up, suck it in, or stuff it into a girdle (today they call them “body shapers”) but at the end of the day, it’s still there, even if only you know it. I saw this documentary film about a novice marathon running program for high school students. In it, one of the coaches makes a statement about how fitness is something that you can’t fake. If someone asks you to run a lap, do a push up, or do a full sit up, you either can or can’t do it…there’s no ability to hide.
We started our first session with a fitness test, basically a way of assessing our current fitness level. I admittedly was happy that the measuring, photographing, and fitness testing ate into our class time. We started the actual class at least 10 minutes later than the regular 6:30am start time. “Woo-hoo…we get a little break today,” or so I thought. By 7:00am, I was looking at the clock, trying to figure out how I would make it through given that we weren’t even halfway through a regular class. I felt nauseous and tired, and I couldn’t keep up with the reps. “Aren’t we supposed to stretch or rest between sets? I know I could do this if she would just slow down a little.” Then I remembered what Ariane said at the start of the class about how part of our goal is to build endurance to be able to keep up. So I will have to learn to be patient with myself and to accept where I am right now rather than where I “should” be.
Ariane asked us to come up with four goals for the next four weeks to bring to the next class, so this is what I came up with:
1. To have only one chin.
2. To be able to see my feet when I look down.
3. To be able to see my collarbone.
4. To have a space between my thighs.
Ok, as much as I want all those things, here are my REAL goals:
1. To reduce my body fat percentage to below 24%. I don’t know if this is even possible in 4 weeks, but I have to strive for it. Twenty four percent is just below the “acceptable” range for women and is the high end of the “fitness” range. Being just acceptable is not acceptable to me.
2. To fit into my “fat” skirt. Ariane asked if I meant to write my “skinny” skirt, but I explained to her that I had to buy a new skirt to wear to an event when I put on a few pounds a couple of years ago. I figured that it would be a very temporary part of my wardrobe and never imagined that there would be a day that I couldn’t wear it at all. It feels shameful to have as my goal fitting into that skirt, but I cannot get caught up in that feeling–it will just impede my progress. Besides, I need to be realistic about what goals I can achieve in 4 weeks. It is not to say that I don’t ever aspire to fit into the skinny skirt, but I need to take this one step at a time.
3. To be able to see my collarbone. Ok…I’m keeping that one. I never thought much about my collarbone until I realized I couldn’t see it anymore. Obviously we all have different body types, and for some people, a prominent collarbone is a sign of being ill or emaciated. For me, however, it has always been a “normal” part of what I look like, so not seeing it is abnormal.
4. To not feel winded when I climb the (steep) subway stairs. I’m ok on the regular stairs, but there’s a long, steep stairway at the station near me. I used to make a habit of climbing the stairs every time I came off the train and would be able to do so reasonably. Now I feel winded when I climb the escalator (at least I’m still climbing!) so this is a clear sign I have to increase my lung capacity.
I plan to keep a copy of these goals in multiple places (kitchen, bathroom, wallet) so I don’t lose sight of them. I already have noticed that in the last 5 days from the time I developed these goals to the time I posted them, there have been moments where I have lost focus on what I am supposed to be doing here. One week is already over, and this is only a 4 week program, so I need to get busy. From now on, every move I make and every morsel I eat will be made with these goals in mind. I will ask myself, “Is this bringing me closer to my goals or taking me further away?”
I hope that I have the discipline to keep up with this and that I don’t disappoint myself.