I had no idea what was waiting for me when I left the house last week. It was a rushed affair getting myself and my toddler out the door in time for a morning Pilates class at the YMCA. I dropped him off and dashed in before the class began. I immediately realized something was different. In a haze of “mom brain” I showed up for the Wednesday Pilates class on Tuesday just in time for BOOT CAMP!
I had a quick mental wrestling match with myself to keep from bolting from the room. My instinct was to call the experience a failure since I mixed up the class days. I could stay in my comfort zone of the treadmill and do my same boring workout. Then something occurred to me, what if I stayed and gave boot camp a try?!
So I stayed.
The class started with jogging in large circles around the room, then skipping, walking backwards, and side stepping. After some stretching and balancing the remainder of the class was a combination of circuit activities. There was hula hooping, jumping rope, obstacle course laps, squatting lunges, balance work and finally some core work with free weights.
I made it through the jogging and skipping with no trouble and started to feel really great about staying for the class. The stretching and balancing confirmed something that the Wii Fit keeps telling me, I have terrible balance. The hula hooping was just silly. I never learned how to get a hula hoop going so I got more exercising bending over to pick it back up than swinging it around my hips. Jumping rope was good but that’s when I started to notice my legs getting tired. Next, the obstacle course reinforced my lack of coordination and I was falling behind the group. By the time we started lunging and squatting across the room my legs were on fire! I kept going, step by step feeling my determination growing stronger even as my legs were threatening to give out beneath me.
After the lunges we were supposed to side step back and forth with a resistance band under our feet and pulled up to our waists. This one really had me puzzled. I could not for the life of me figure out how to take two steps to the side without the band tightening up under me and tangling around my legs. If I hadn’t been focusing so hard on staying untangled, I probably would have collapsed from laughing at myself.
Next came more hula hooping (read bending and flailing). When the hula hooping ended the instructor told us grab a large Pilates ball and attempt to kneel on the ball with both feet off the floor and then sit up so our hands weren’t touching the ball and remain balanced in that position. Goofy as this exercise sounded I actually liked attempting to balance on the ball. I had a flicker of hesitation before starting that I would be too heavy and it would pop under my weight. I shook off the fear and attempted to become one with the ball. I kept thinking, “be a statue” and I finally got both feet up and began using my hands to balance the ball and just when I thought I might actually be able to let go and sit up, the ball rolled forward and I did a slow motion sideways face plant onto the gym floor.
We ended the workout with a combination of high intensity alternating knee lift, ab crunch, and weight lifting moves that, try as I might, were just not happening.
It was an hour of hopping, running, twisting, falling, and pushing my limits. I was shocked to realize it was fun! Thinking about all of those difficult exercises brought on a rush of painful memories. I thought about all the years of P.E. classes when I sat on the sidelines and watched. I was scared to participate. I wasn’t very good at the activities so I didn’t try very hard and was never picked to be on a team. I often tried to get out of exercise in school. I would suddenly need to go to the nurse, most of the time I did my best to blend in with the floor boards. Participating didn’t feel good. I was out of shape by third grade and as much as my body needed to move doing so made me extremely uncomfortable.
While everyone gathered their things, I approached the instructor and thanked her for the class. I confessed that going through the exercises had helped me make a bit of peace with gym class. As I spoke the words started to catch in my throat. The instructor sweetly assured me I had done a good job for my first time.
I am not sure if I am going to make boot camp a regular part of my work out routine but I will forever be proud of myself for staying. The experience was a further reminder that journeying toward a healthy weight is so much more than just cutting calories.
This article was originally published in October of 2011. It was updated and re-published in April 2016.