Friday, April 22, 2011

Royal Whatever

I take a strength-training class twice a week at a gym on Newbury Street. It's taught by a charming, energetic, sadistic gentleman who puts us through the ringer. There are strong, fit regulars in the class — people who run marathons and take class the next day, people who can lift a 35-pound barbell hundreds of times. But our instructor finds ways to challenge everyone, every time. Sometimes I am reduced to lying prone on the mat at the end, barely able to move. Instead of sympathy, he chuckles and ask if anyone has yellow tape because I'm "a crime scene."

The class draws a mix of people: men in their 60s and 70s, students, professionals on their lunch hour, a Celtics cheerleader, the gym manager. We regulars are on a first-name basis after a couple of years, which is nice. It's also an incentive to show up, since we'll get grief from each other if we don't.

I'm so used telling time backwards, from watching the studio clock (on the wall behind us) via the front mirror, that I have a hard time telling time the normal way now. I distract myself from lifting, lunges, pushups, planks, and kettle-bell moves by mentally calculating how much time has passed, as in, "We are 12 percent through with this class now...." If the instructor catches me turning my head to double-check the clock, he makes a pointed comment; sometimes he makes us all do another set of whatever torture he's forced on us at the moment.

He delivers a brisk monologue through the class, giving orders, counting sets, and endlessly criticizing our form. He also fills the time by joking around, complaining that we're slacking, warning us about swimsuit season's imminent arrival, and speculating about all the Easter, Christmas, Valentine's or Halloween candy we've been consuming, depending on the season. He also likes to point out what an excellent bargain we're getting, since he's cramming a two-hour workout into one.

Naturally, I wouldn't miss this class for the world. It feels too good when it's over.

As I'm stretching and catching my breath on the mat after our Thursday class, with Lady Gaga belting through the speakers, I am very happy. It's beyond an endorphin rush:  It's The Weekend. I don't have to face gym class again until Tuesday. Bliss. Those four days between sessions seem an eternal, golden stretch of hours, far removed from a 20-pound barbell.

I'll still have souvenirs, of course: sore, stiff muscles in various spots from neck to toe. But I also can see muscles I didn't know I had. If I could lose about 10 pounds of flab, I'd have fabulously toned abs, arms, and legs like never before. Since I don't have flabby shoulders, they look much better than they did in my 20s.

We were performing this exercise yesterday where we do a side lunge with a biceps curl, holding barbells, and then we "curtsey" — a backwards lunge where one leg crosses the other — with another biceps curl. We were alternating these two moves for a minute or two on each leg, moving quickly to the music. I had 8-pound dumbbells, and I was tired. The instructor likes to chatter about how prepared we'd be to attend the Royal Wedding during this exercise, since we're curtseying a million times on each leg. (I always want to point out to him that most of us are Americans, so we needn't curtsey to Brits, but I am too busy trying to stay upright.)

Various things he said led me to believe the Royal Wedding was today. I haven't paid it much attention but I do want to see it. (I remember Diana's wedding, lovely but doomed. It will be good to see an actual happy couple marrying this time.) Last night, I read some article online detailing the fancy menu some woman is preparing for a Royal Wedding party in front of her TV, and I also thought it meant today. So I had my husband wake me up at 6, and I channel-surfed for half an hour, watching crappy morning news and wondering what was going on... until I realized that it's Good Friday and nobody gets married on Good Friday.

So I went back to sleep and had guacamole for breakfast. I'll look forward to catching the wedding next Friday, and may there be tea and scones for the occasion. In the meantime, I will tell my instructor about my mistake, which I believe was his mistake. He'll probably sentence me to an extra minute of pushups for my trouble.

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