The length of the football field loomed ahead of me.
I can’t do this, I thought.
We were wrapping up the 2nd day of boot-camp class. After our warm-up lap and exercises, we made our way down to the killing athletic field and embarked upon a series of torturous exercises. Push-ups, jump lunges, frog squats, and arm dips for 60 seconds each, then sprint down the length of the field and jog back, then jumping jacks, extreme jumping jacks, plank, and some other ab thing for 90 seconds each, then sprint down the length of the field and back.
And then the whole thing was repeated. But instead of the final sprint down and jog back, we were going to sprint all the way down and back and 5 people had to make each leg under 20 seconds and everyone had to make each leg under 30 seconds. Or else we’d have to do another set of sprints.
Everyone was going to hate me, I just knew it. I was always the last one to make it in our warm-up jog and the previous set of sprint/jogs. When we jogged, I did something between a shuffle and a trot or walked. When we sprinted, I jogged. I was the fat, out-of-shape one huffing and puffing the whole time during the class, doggedly making it through the exercises, having to stop to catch my breath. Crap, how the hell was I supposed to sprint each leg under 30 seconds?
I’ve always sucked at running. I was on the soccer team during freshman through junior year of high school (on the C-team and eventually JV), which seems ironic since soccer involves some running. But I liked the drills and I could handle short spurts of running, nothing prolonged. I played defense, which was perfect for me — lots of standing around since our offense was good, and periodic skirmishes to keep the ball away.
Anyway, I envy people who like running and can actually run. I’ve never really had the stamina or endurance to do so. That’s kinda not true. I have the stamina and endurance to make it through a tough work-out class -I may have to slow down and modify, but I will get through a class. But running I can’t do. I’ve tried. I know most of it is mental. But some of it is physical. As I’ve gotten heavier, no doubt it is harder on my body to propel itself faster than it is used to.
However, the hallmark of my struggles with running are the wheezing and difficulty in breathing that kick in not long after I’ve begun. Well that’s because I’m fat and out of shape, right? That’s the easy answer, the one I’ve always come back to. But last year during allergy season I noticed the same symptoms, along with incessant coughing. The diagnosis was allergy-induced asthma, and I was given an inhaler, which helped things. Then the doctor mentioned that I probably also had exercise-induced asthma and to try using the inhaler before a work-out. I tried it before a kick-boxing class, before walking a 5k, and indeed, the wheezing went away and I wasn’t as winded.
So when I signed up for this boot-camp class, I knew that the inhaler would help me breathe easier, but that I still had to get over my mental blocks. The inhaler wasn’t going to help me get through 90 seconds of planks. (By the way, when one has a large chest and a big butt, there’s no way in hell I’m going to be perfectly straight when doing a plank and push-ups. Think about it.) The inhaler wasn’t going to get me through extreme jumping jacks. The inhaler wasn’t going to make the parking lot any smaller when doing the warm-up lap or the mile any shorter when we did our assessment training the first day.
And it wasn’t going to make me sprint down the field in under 30 seconds.
I was going to kill my coworker and my husband. My coworker for telling me about this class and bringing me along for buddy-day one day, for getting me so excited about the class, for not telling me HOW SORE I was going to be the next day. (Just kidding, she did tell me, and I don’t really hate her!) My husband for giving me the push to sign up for the class (It’s just one month, he says. You’ll get the exercise over with in the morning and be done.) And because he gets to sleep in and not have to wake up at 5 am. And for still being asleep when I stumble back from class, blissfully snoring away while I’m sore and sweaty. (Fine, I don’t really hate him either.)
We lined up. The trainer yelled “GO!” Everyone took off, leaving me far behind. I stepped up the pace, but I was still the last person out. I kept my eyes on the end of the field. Almost there! “19, 20, 21 . . .” counted the trainer as people made it to the end. Just do it, I thought, I don’t want to make everyone run more because of me. I went. “27!” the trainer called out as I made it, everyone clapping for me.
We got 15 seconds to catch our breaths, and then lined up again. Oh god, I used up all my energy making it the first leg, I can’t do this, it’s so far away. I see the other end of the field, our towels and water bottles awaiting us. Get to the other side, and we’re done. Come on, do it. It’s so nice outside, the sun’s rising and we’re here to enjoy it. Just don’t think, just go.
The sound of feet trampling the field, my loud breaths in and out. The first wave of people making it to the end. “19, 20, 21 . . .” No, I will NOT be the one to make everyone run another set of sprints. My legs went as fast as they could, I was running out of time.
I was out of breath, but I had made it.