Cross training is the way to go apparently. It seems if I am ever to make any measurable progress with my running, or at least attempt to hold back the tide of decrepitude that comes with the relentless march of time, it is a good idea to try and find other forms of exercise.
I know my balance is rubbish, my core non-existent, in fact it’s amazing I can remain upright long enough to do the washing up some days. Possibly as evidence of this, or alternatively as an amusing aside, I once told a spotty youth at an induction session for a gym that I had a genetic abnormality that meant I didn’t have any abdominal muscles and so couldn’t do any sit ups or crunches etc. He eyed me up, and clearly this seemed all too plausible to him, ‘ok, just skip them’ he said. It didn’t instil a great deal of confidence in me for his basic knowledge of human anatomy nor physical exercise. Most importantly of all no rapport, no shared sense of humour, no progress to be made. It maybe didn’t help that when introducing ourselves at the reception before our shared induction, my friend unzipped her fleece only for a ketchup soaked chip to fly out and land in the paper diary on the desk. Never have I seen ketchup splatter so far and to such devastating effect. She had been starving whilst waiting for me outside after a long day of work, grabbed some chips to chomp on for quick carbohydrate fix and obviously one had had dropped down her top in her haste to consume them. One way or another we never did go back…
Anyway, I digress, I have been seeking some sort of class to supplement my running. I can’t motivate myself, and I don’t fancy any more outdoor sessions now winter is drawing in apace. I want not too expensive, good humoured but knowledgeable leadership. How fortuitous that the same fitness instructor who marshalled us for the Endurer Dash runs regular classes at a not to distant social club. I like her positivity, it is almost pathological, and certainly infectious, or maybe contagious. It might be contagious as she is quite tactile and huggy so could be spread either by physical touch or be airborne, not that it matters, the ability to pass on enthusiasm and positivity can only be a good thing.
The class is loosely based on dance moves, but that’s not entirely obvious to me. I do find it much harder than I ought to, but it is definitely fun. There is a lot of hip gyrating, and standing on one leg (or more accurately wobbling on one leg). The main thing that will motivate me to stick with it is probably the wall of mirrors that we face throughout. There is no way you can hide your physique from that reality check. Normally I will only stand in front of a full length mirror for a very limited period of time, the tolerable maximum duration being however long I can hold my stomach in for on any one particular day. I defy anyone to hold their stomach in for a whole 45 minute work out session, particularly one where you are standing on one leg for durations that even a self respecting flamingo might query. Despite the difficultly of the balance exercises, and the torture of the mirrors, the exercise class itself is strangely compulsive.
The instructor (coach, leader – I don’t know what you call these people) anyway, she has super-human mobility and stretch. She can do things with her body that I didn’t think were possible. She will ‘simply fold’ over, legs outstretched in front of her, reaching out effortless to touch her toes whilst burying her head on her knees and flattening her prone back. I am still pretty much as a right angle. I don’t even know which bit of my body is preventing the move. Is it because my stomach rolls get in the way, or is it because my ham strings are so tight they aren’t giving a millimetre in any circumstances, try as I may. Same with sit ups. She can do this amazing ‘impossible’ manoeuvre where she lies flat on her back, arms stretched above her and legs outstretched and hard against the floor, then in one graceful movement she slowly sits upright without using her arms to push her up or letting her legs lift from the floor, she arcs her arms round to touch her toes and folds her whole body against her legs, and then slowly and controlled with her steel abs uncurls and then repeats. I don’t see how this is humanly possible. It certainly isn’t humanely possible. The only comfort I take is that whilst I flail around, not even able to get up to a sitting position without using my arms to help me, I can see in the mirrors that the rest of the class is similarly struggling like so many fish out of water. Whilst the graceful instructor performs this miracle of muscular control, the rest of us flap about and sweat, thrashing around on the floor to little effect. One day perhaps…
Despite these indignities, the class is fun, I sweat a lot, and I know I’ll ache afterwards. It goes quickly, and you emerge into the sharp cold air of Autumn and the dark night almost in a state of shock. What happened there? How did I get myself into that? It is glorious, this is exercise that is fun.
Our coach also has a good trick, after the session she always sends a text saying how awesome we all are, and how proud she is of our ‘non stop energy’ or whatever. The thing is, even though I know this is a motivational technique, and I know it is her job to be positive and even though I strongly suspect the contents may not be entirely true re our energy and enthusiasm levels (let’s agree it might be an appropriate use of a little white lie…) it still sort of works. You get a warm glow of achievement. Yes I am non-stop with my energy and enthusiasm yes I can do this. Yes. We. Can! It seems I am just as shallow as I thought, all it really takes to motivate me is a kind word and a broad smile.
Dance classes on a Friday, core work on a Tuesday night, bring it on.