The next morning, the toilet was the toughest. In order to accomplish the task, I had to bend almost imperceptibly at the knees into a semi-hover above the seat. Then I just sort of fell back and hoped I'd land squarely enough not to hurt myself more. But the seated respite was ever so brief, and then I'd lean over on one cheek to reach the toilet paper, an action that produced such shooting pain in the weight-bearing glute that it felt like the toilet was devouring my entire body butt first. After that, all I had to look forward to was the getting up.
I'm not quite sure whose dumb idea it was to trade workouts. I'd go to Amy Atkins' trainer at A2O Fitness, and she'd run, hike or crawl to the top of Tablerock with me. Because she'd long ago categorized the climb as physically excruciating, she was intent on delivering me an ass kicking via Karin, her fitness guru/drill sergeant/slave driver.
Like all good fun, the problem wasn't in the doing, it was the morning after.
We started in A2O's courtyard one hot afternoon. The first task was the tire flip--something I'd watched countless times on TV. We took turns heaving a giant tire end to end the length of the building. The verdict: it was a sweaty workout, though not overly difficult, and I was able to tick one item off the fitness section of my life to-do list. Next. From there, it got harder. One of us on the seatless stationary bike with resistance at max, the other lunging with the kettle bell weight. After a set, we switched. Then we switched again. And again. The reward for the first leg-numbing set was the treadmill, and never in my 17 years of hardcore workouts have I ever been so happy to get on a treadmill.
Until I finished the next set, that is.
Round two started with a 25-pound weight on a small square mat. The goal was deceptively simple: run the mat and weight combo 20 feet by sliding the whole kit and caboodle on the floor. It's easier than it sounds. Then you stop and your heart feels like it's pounding outside of your chest cavity.
By then I started to notice a serious butt-and-thigh emphasis. Maybe it was coincidentally legs and glutes day, but I was starting to think it was something more deliberate. Like maybe, while I was warming up on the treadmill, Karin had sized me up and decided it was time to do something about all that junk in my trunk. Badonkadonk be gone, she'd resolved.
The reappearance of the kettle bell was what finally killed me. A few days before, Amy had confided that one particular exercise, which involved swinging a bell-shaped weight, made her want to cry and puke simultaneously. At the time I'd thought, what's so hard about swinging a weight, you wuss? Well, I'm here to tell you what's so hard about it.
First, the tire flips, bike riding, weighted lunges and weight running--three sets of each--slow you down a bit before you get to the swinging. Second, it's exactly the kind of exercise that takes someone like me by surprise.
I like to think I'm in decent cardiovascular shape. I mountain bike and run a few times a week; when I get ambitious, I dig out the interval workouts from track team days. Apparently, however, I'm not very anaerobically fit, which is what the silly bell swinging exercise is all about. Alternate that with a balance board targeting your pathetic, tired core, and fuggedaboutit.
Truth is, only once before had I met a workout I couldn't finish--the day before I was diagnosed with an advanced case of mononucleosis.
At least I was sick that time. This time, I was just ... pathetic.
I did the first set of 20 bell swinging exercises. I stopped at 12 on the second set. On the third set, I gave up counting and just prayed the treadmill was in my immediate future. It was, but so were three sets of crunches.
A few days later, I hobbled into A2O and thanked Karin for hurting me. I wanted to say, "Thank you mistress, I'll have another please, mistress," but I could barely walk, much less lunge. That weekend, I suited up and stretched for my usual neighborhood run. I started off at a slow jog, crossed the street and then stopped. I'd gone less than 50 feet but I was still too sore to run. As I walked back home, I thought to myself: "payback is going to be a bitch."
Staring down at the valley from the trail below the cross on Tablerock, I punched my own shoulder and offered up a little self-congratulations for making it (nearly) to the top. My pride was punctuated with pain, though. Not only did my arm throb, but the fist doing the punching was sore as well. I'd worked out with my trainer, A2O Fitness owner Karin Kimura, the day before and, as is always the case, 24 hours after a session, my muscles were in a state of protest. My ligaments and tendons were considering seceding from my body, and I'd just climbed almost one mile uphill. Even the freckle on my shin had a cramp.
About six months ago, I participated in an eight-week weight-loss/fitness challenge put on by A2O Fitness. A few pounds lighter and noticeably stronger, I'd made working out twice a week with Kimura part of my routine. Last week, I flippantly mentioned to BW editor Rachael Daigle that after one of my workouts, her regular trek up Tablerock might seem like a little walk through WinCo. Apparently, I was subconsciously throwing down a gauntlet because by 5 p.m., we had made plans to trade training and trekking.
The dirt path to Tablerock is part of the Ridge to Rivers trail system and starts at the Old Idaho Penitentiary. Daigle had guessed the distance to the cross and back at about 1.5 miles. I had every intention of stopping well before the halfway point, sitting on the trail and waiting for my much younger, much healthier companion to pick me up on her way down. I'd brought along an iPod and a book. Turned out, however, that she was still a bit pained from being tossed around A20 the week before and was willing to walk at a slower pace. I left my distractions in the car, tied my car key to my shoelace as I'd watched her do, and we set off, the cross looming not very welcomingly in the distance.
Daigle explained that the first few yards and the last few yards of the hike were the worst, and three minutes in, I was ready to turn around and run, crying like a teething infant, back to the car. Instead, sweating--and swearing--like a Navy grunt on leave in Bangkok, I stopped every few feet to catch my breath but soldiered on.
As the path leveled out, thunderstorm-borne gales had mellowed to a welcoming zephyr, and a few heavy gray clouds moved to cover the hot pre-dusk sun. A chance sighting of a little brown bunny, a path sided by bright purple and white wildflowers, a soundtrack provided by area birds and the entire trail to ourselves as we chatted about life, love and work, and the trip turned from an exercise in exercise to a pleasant--albeit still somewhat laborious--walk.
As we rounded the bend toward the top, Daigle was kind enough to suggest that we make our way to the informational sign near the summit and call it good. Maybe it was being that high up, but the cross still looked miles away. I nearly wept with gratitude, and when I turned and looked at the city below, I realized even though we didn't make it to the top, six months ago, I wouldn't have even driven to the bottom much less attempted a climb.
The next day, my limbs held an emergency forum, begging my brain for a moratorium on crazy decisions like hiking Tablerock. My gray cells pretended to take their concerns seriously, but they are secretly on my side. We already have plans to hit the trail again this weekend.