She jumps up in the air, down to the ground in a plank, performs a push-up, jumps to standing position, then hops. She is speaking while doing this exercise. That’s no problem, it is basically getting up off the ground. I think to my gung-ho self. Then she does it again, and again, about 20 times. And I am supposed to do the same. She is slender, in her 60s, and teaches a bi-weekly circuit class that I attend at the gym. I am by far the largest one in the class, but that’s another story for another time.
I learned what a BURPEE is and what a BURPEE isn’t. A Burpee is an exercise that engages lots of muscles in a few movements while also raising the heart rate. A Burpee isn’t easy, especially if you’re going to do it like a pro. Most people can’t talk normally while doing them as in the case of my amazing athletic instructor. It is not just like getting off the ground. It is very, very difficult. And here is a drawing of me, what I feel like, as I finish a long set of Burpees. I am literally crawling across the finish line.
I know there are a lot of motivational sayings out there (maybe even some that are prettily posted on pretty colored lettering and background) that say, essentially, “YOU MUST FINISH STRONG!” What I say is this, YOU DON’T HAVE TO FINISH STRONG!
Last year, when I first started to explore REAL, CRAZY, CHANGE-YOUR-BODY, exercise, my friend introduced me to a “Chipper” workout. Think of a large log that you have to cut in half. You chip away at the log until it is in two pieces. So you are given a “Log” consisting of a number of different workouts. Mine included 50 pushups, 50 pull-ups (or the modified “Jump-Ups”), 50 sit ups, 50 box jumps, 50 burpees and a few other sets of 50 that I can’t think of at the moment. You chip away at these, doing all of them, no quitting, as fast as you can. You have to do everything on the list, just like you have to keep hacking away at that huge log until it becomes two pieces. It almost, literally, tore me in half.
I started strong. Sit-ups are fairly easy, I knock out 25 of those. Then I do a few “Jump-Ups,” 25 down, not too bad. But there are still those big, ugly pieces waiting to be chipped away. The burpees, the box jumps, the pushups and the others. I finished 25 of everything on the list, half-way through. But the exertion made me need to poop badly. So I excused myself (clock still ticking mind-you), and came back to start another round of 25 sit-ups. I didn’t want to do another 25 of each thing. I didn’t want to do 25 of anything. But I did. My confidence waned, as I felt my muscles tearing in places where they’d been dormant for years, as my head was sobbing sweat, and as my lungs screamed for more air.
My friend finished her workout well before me. I worked my way through the last 25 of the hard stuff, when finally I only had 20 pushups until I was done . Just 20 pushups and that log would be split in two, I would be free. I pushed up, shook, then my arms gave way and I flopped on the floor like a fish taking his last moments of life on the deck of a boat. Then my eyes steamed as tears and sweat pooled in my lids. I cried. I didn’t want to do one more thing in that moment but sit there and bawl. I’m not a fit person, I can’t do this. And It just HURTS. And I’ll never get to where I need to be. AND This would be so much easier if I hadn’t let myself gain so much weight. And It’s just not worth it. I’m not worth it. Those were my thoughts, and somewhere in the background, You’re crying, OVER A WORKOUT!! That’s hilarious.
My friend pulled me aside. Told me to take a minute and just breath. She didn’t make me feel like an idiot, she understood I was at a precipice. I needed a minute to decide what I was going to do. So I took that minute and I cried feeling like I had failed. When I composed myself, just a little, she encouraged me to finish. The clock didn’t matter now. I had to complete this workout. So I did. My form was bad, my attitude was bad, I was crying, and I took liberties with how deep I went into those last push-ups. But I finished.
When you’re like me, starting out, you’re not in shape, you don’t have to finish strong. You can finish on the floor crying, maybe even peeing your pants. But just finish. Do everything in your power to complete the workout minus actually injuring yourself physically. Set a goal and make it to the end. Even if you are crawling and cursing the idea that it even came into your head. Modify, use smaller weights, or take the weights out entirely, but just get through the movement. Keep going and one day you will notice the weights getting lighter, the movements getting easier. Just don’t stop. Y The pain is worth it. you are worth it.
I’m down 5 pounds now, and I’m just getting started.