Late last year I started working out with a trainer. I felt I needed to step up my game a little bit. I had hit a plateau in my regular routine because that is what was: a routine. Like anything in life, once something becomes routine it becomes boring: food, relationships and workouts. Food is easy to change up, just go out for dinner. Relationships, just throw in some spontaneous outdoor sex, leave naughty little notes under a pillow, or simply have an affair (*insert cheeky face). Changing workouts though? That’s hard because it requires motivation that is difficult to garner independently. I love trying new food, I love spontaneous sex, but do I love doing squats? Fuck no, particularly when I have to make them harder by adding more weight or reps. Don’t get me wrong, I love the endorphin rush I get from working out, but the actual act just sucks because it’s hard if you’re putting in proper effort. It’s probably the best example of a love-hate relationship.
So I am going to be very honest here. I liked my self-made workout routine. It was varied enough to work my whole body and after a while I could just do it without really thinking about it, like brushing my teeth. I got lazy in my workout, completely counterproductive right? But one day whilst in the gym I noticed a trainer kicking some guy’s ass to Tanzania and back so I watched them for a few minutes and then I realised that the trainer was HOT. There and then I decided I needed to step up my workout and hire this guy. If some hot, amazingly in-shape guy wasn’t going to motivate me to move my ass then nothing would. So I inquired, he gave me a good price and I committed to 10 one-hour sessions three times a week. The cost was roughly $10 a session. This is likely the most pathetic way I’ve tried to date a guy. Such is the Single-in-Surabaya situation.
We started with cross-fit. Now I knew nothing about cross-fit before him. I just knew cardio (running) and weights and a bit of resistance. I’d never been a gym person until I moved to Surabaya. I’ve run outside here a handful of times and each time I felt like I’d developed a mild case of emphysema, which I figure is counterintuitive to a healthy heart. I also tired of slow drive-bys coupled with requests for pictures whilst I’m trying to just be normal. Seriously, families in SUVs would slow down, roll down the window, wave their child’s hand, and take a picture. I felt like an animal in a zoo but without the benefit of having peanuts thrown my way. But this is not limited to outdoors. Recently, my trainer told me that sometimes people film or photograph me in the gym during my workout. What the fuck. I asked him to point how who had done so on that particular day so I could have a word. The man apologised profusely and claimed that he had filmed it for his wife so she could have some tips on how to stay in shape. I politely asked him (I am too polite for my own good sometimes) to please ask next time instead of shadily hiding behind the benchpress.
So the gym has always felt a bit artificial for me, particularly the hamster-on-a-wheel effect of running on a treadmill for 30 minutes whilst staring at a blank white wall. That might be one of the most depressing things actually, like being stuck in Orson Welles’ 1984, but simultaneously a test of perseverance and awareness of time passing oh so slowly. So cross-fit started off with a bit of step, some squats, spiders (bending down, walking hands out to plank position, and back up to your toes to standing). And then he introduced Burpees. I capitalise this word for a reason because I like to give credit where credit it due. Few words in the English language elicit such fear in me as that ghastly one. If you aren’t familiar with burpees, all you really need to know is that THEY FUCKING SUCK. Nothing feels good about a burpee except its end. If you want a visual, click for a link to my “beginner’s burpee”. Now I think there are variations of burpees and I am only on level one. I believe a level two burpee involves a squat and a pushup somewhere in there. I am always going to pretend they are hard, even on the very slim chance that they become less hard, so that I never have to get to the level two burpee.
So I did cross-fit about once a week with my trainer, with the other two days involving weight lifting and resistance. And it was hard but great. I felt my strength build and noticed a difference in my stamina, mood, and muscle tone. And then… I went to Laos for a month and drank a large beer everyday and ate lots of sticky rice. How easily a month of training can be undone inside a daily beer and an I’m-on-holiday-attitude. I returned home to rainy season, a head cold that wouldn’t go away, general lethargy, and a penchant for a daily post-work whiskey and nap, so I only worked out a couple of times in January and both times nearly killed me. My legs were boulders for three days and my ass and thighs felt like they’d been pummelled with pomelos for 30 minutes without interruption. I nearly collapsed getting up to pee in the night.
Getting back into exercise after a long hiatus is always difficult, especially as I get older but I finally made up my mind to do it once the cold was out of my system. Now I am back at it with a vengeance. The first couple sessions were hard, but I feel now like the whole damn routine is getting harder. Evidently, my trainer has decided that cross fit is necessary every session, and though I agree it is probably the most effective way to build strength and tone up quickly, I fucking hate him for it, particularly because after just three weeks of being back into it, he’s decided I’m ready for level two cross-fit. I think he’s just enjoying my pain and it’s entirely possible that my grunting, squealing, cursing and thrashing about during intervals is somewhat comical. So I have to be honest here again: I sound like I am having sex when I workout. I know it but I actually can’t help it. I know I raise all kinds of hairy eyebrows, among other things perhaps, and I see those knowing smiles from the local guys on my way out. I am absolutely sure I am contributing to the idea here that Western women are “liberal”. So be it.
Today I met my trainer in the gym after work and he started me out with push-ups. These push-ups however, involve the step. So one repetition is a push-up with my hands on a step, roughly 30 cm in height, on either side of me and then I step my hands down to the floor for another push-up, elbows in and hands directly under the shoulders. THAT is one repetition and I must add here that the second, floor push-up is not a normal pushup. For me, that one is equivalent to five push-ups. So I started with 15 repetitions, so really 30 push-ups, and then switched to dead-lifts with a 15 kg bar and arms stretched out and a little jump once I was standing straight. No break between. And then I went back to the absurd push-up concoction. I did this four times for a total of 120 push ups, but not normal push-ups remember. If I times that by five, for me, it was like doing 600 push ups. But I did it. The whole time I internally cursed my trainer and my body screamed ever so insolently, ‘oh yeah? Well I’m going to drink a whole fucking bottle of wine tonight, so there!’ From there we moved on to using the TRX bands to do pelvic raises. These involved me hooking my heels in the stirrups and pulling my heels in as I lift my core. Each repetition brought on a charlie-horse type cramp in my calves, which I naturally stopped to address. I explained to my trainer “cramp” as I howled away. He just giggled gleefully as though mind-splitting muscle cramps are a necessary part of maintaining a healthy body.
From there we moved to squats. I guess he thought a day of total body concentration was necessary. He often points out the flatness of my ass (it is NOT and I find that comment funny coming from a Chinese guy anyway), and he says that I have a jiggly little belly (okay, he wins that one). He barely speaks English but he knows how to say FAT, MORE, and FASTER and he is quickly learning the meaning of the words I teach him: FUCK YOU. Sometimes I feign confusion just so I can grab an extra 10 seconds of breath and a chance to mop my sweat. He doesn’t believe in normal squats, and neither do I frankly, but I like them because they’re easy. So I did jumping squats from one step to another, placed irritatingly far apart and with one just slightly higher than the other. A jump from one to the next into a squat and back to the first with a squat was one repetition. Split between four sets I did 90, which is actually 180 squats because each rep involves two squats. With a short interval, I went into a different jumping squat, which was actually more brutal. By the end of all my sets I’d done 300 squats. I’m terrified of what my ass is going to feel like tomorrow, particularly because I’m going back for more. If I don’t have ripped abs, buns of steel, and legs that can shimmy me up Rinjani again with barely a whimper by the time I leave here in three months I hope I’ve at least developed the strength to kick my trainer’s ass to Tanzania and back.
So combined with regular cross-fit I am also getting back into yoga and have recently decided to do a 30-day online yoga challenge. A good friend of mine is also teaching me a bit of boxing with his heavy bag, which is good fun. So in addition to building strength and keeping my mood up (oh, that blessed endorphin rush), I have found a way to justify my recently-developed beer habit (coupled with a shisha once a week and I have a happy place in Surabaya). It’s all about balance in the end. And if you’re wondering, no I’m not dating my trainer; his muscles are too big for my taste.