Doing the Impossible (With a Little Outside Encouragement)

I really intended to write a profound post about why I don't go to church anymore, and I will write that one (although I can't promise it really will be profound), but what's on my mind this morning is exercise. This makes sense, because this morning I had a session with “Guido,” my trainer at the gym. (His name isn't really Guido. He does have an Italian name, thought, and my husband nicknamed him Guido one day when I was whining about how hard he was making me work. I hope the nickname isn't offensive; it's meant as an humorous analogy to him being as tough as a mob enforcer.)

Anyway . . . I've been meeting with Guido twice a week since early February, when I joined a gym about a mile from my office. This is phase 2 in an effort that started just before New Years Day 2008. I am 5'4″ tall and had reached somewhere in the vicinity of 170-175 pounds. Not a pretty sight. I was fat and feeling old and worn out and uncomfortable. I can't even remember what triggered the decision (I think it might have something to do with my purchase of a new horse who was on the small side; I didn't want to break her back), but sometime between Christmas 2007 and New Years 2008, I decided it was time to do something about the weight. So I started watching what I ate, and dragged the stationary bike out of the closet. First time on it I could barely do ten minutes. Each day I added a minute more until I'd worked my way up to thirty minutes a day. I was getting bored sitting on that thing, so I dragged the treadmill in front of the TV and started walking every morning. First fifteen minutes, then twenty, then up to thirty. Then raised the incline and increased the speed. Eventually I got to where I'd do my walking outside when the weather cooperated, and I worked my way up to jogging part of the time and walking fast the other.

Following that routine and continuing to watch my diet, by October 2008 I'd lost close to thirty pounds, weighing in at 145 point something according to my endocrinologist's scale (I don't have a working scale at home). And I got stuck there. I tried walking/jogging longer, and doing more jogging. I tried adding some basic weight training at home, but I really didn't know how to do anything and just couldn't make myself do anything too difficult. So late in January 2009, still at 145 pounds, I decided to try some outside help. I joined the gym and signed up for personal training, and that's how I met Guido.

Two mornings a week I get up at 4 a.m. and drive in to the gym to suffer the torments of the damned. We do weight training and some cardio; it varies from one session to the next. I sweat and whine and fuss, but I just realized, sitting here today, that I love it. (Okay, I don't love it while I'm sweating and straining, but I actually look forward to going. Is that sick?)

The best part of it all is finding out that I'm able to do more, work harder, than I thought I was capable of. I've lost track of the number of times I've started a set on one of the weight machines and looked at him in disbelief when I feel the weight he's put on it. “Twelve reps,” he'll say, and on the third rep I am sure I've got no more than one or two left in me at that weight.

But I hate to disappoint anybody. And so I try, with everything I can find in me, to give him the reps he asks for. And so far, every time, I've been able to do it. Much to my surprise. (A week or so ago he gave me the biggest compliment I've received lately — I don't think he even realizes how much it meant to me — when he said something to the effect that he was impressed by the fact that I hadn't given up and that “so far, you've never refused to do anything I've asked you to do.”)

I had the same experience with my horse trainer/riding instructor. Often he'd ask me to do something during our lessons that I was certain I couldn't do (or maybe that I was just terrified to do). Afraid or not, though, I just couldn't bear to let him down, and I would surprise myself by being able to do the “impossible.”

That happens regularly at the gym with Guido. I have come to realize that left to my own devices I give up easily when something gets hard. But I will kill myself to avoid disappointing someone. So Guido gets out of me things I didn't think were in me, and I'm seeing results. After months stuck at 145 (despite regular exercise), I broke the barrier a week or so ago, and this morning the gym's electronic scale read 142.6!! Finally sliding down again. And even better, I'm finding muscles I didn't know I had — abs and arm muscles. (The other day while I was sweating away working my arms on one of the nasty weight machines, Guido commented, “Somebody's starting to get some definition in her arms.” And, wow, he's right!! Still too much body fat covering it, but little by little it's coming off, and my form-fitting exercise shirts are starting to look better on me!)

So the point of all this rambling? Sometimes we need a little outside motivation to find out what we're really capable of. And I'm glad I found Guido to provide that motivation for me.