Sorry for the Portal pun. It’s a bit outdated these days… but still so relevant to my current state!
As promised, I’m back to give an update for those curious about the TRX class that I took on Tuesday. To sum it up, the experience was BRUTAL… but it was also just as much fun as I was hoping it would be!
I showed up to the gym on Tuesday morning feeling like I was going to puke. I couldn’t sleep for most of the night before, and spent most of the morning unsuccessfully trying to get my nerves under control. If you know me well, you know that I don’t project my nerves at all unless something is well beyond the pale – I have a legendary poker face, and I pride myself on being unreadable – but inside, I was ready to run home screaming. Yet, there I was in the locker room, preparing for my first-ever fitness class, after bidding my final farewells to my reasonable, non-TRX-ing, happy-to-cardio-by-himself-thank-you husband.
Steeling myself, I made my way to the nearest elevator. In my panicked daze, I managed to forget that the Pro Club has a couple of different elevators, both of which go to different places in the building. If you’ve never been there, it’s kind of like the Ikea of gyms; once you learn the layout, you can find anything you want, but people that have worked there for years still get lost on occasion. I’d toured the area where the classes would be held the day before, but memorizing that route hadn’t stuck with me after my tough trainer workout. The elevator I chose, of course, was the wrong one.
The old Amy would have taken this as a harbinger of doom – who gets lost on the way to class? she does. because she doesn’t belong in a gym in the first place. she can’t do this kind of thing. (My head used to be a real jerk, if you haven’t figured that out yet.)
As it turned out, a Pro Club staff member was getting on the same elevator I’d accidentally hailed. Instead of sticking to the old Amy policy of “just get out and wander around until something clicks,” I opened my mouth and asked for directions. Imagine! Not only was she sweet enough to offer said directions, she got off the elevator and took me all the way down to where I needed to go, which was quite a bit out of her way. I never got her name, but I’m so grateful for the help! I’ve said it more than a few times, but everyone that works at the Pro Club has always exceeded my expectations when it comes to kindnesses like this, even prior to 20/20.
I arrived with plenty of time to spare, which I spent waiting outside the door and watching the nearby Pro Jam class do their thing. I noticed one person enter the room from a different door, and after moving around the room for a bit, she came to stick a towel in the door nearest me. At first glance, I assumed that was the instructor, and took the opportunity to brace myself for a moment. By the time I’d done so, a string of three other ladies (?!) had joined me at the door, and I skulked in after them, still feeling like I was a fish out of water.
It wasn’t more than a minute or two before someone (who knew what they were doing) handed me one of those grabby handled tools that are sold to the elderly in order to help them reach things. This was finally the breaking point, since I thanked her and then proceeded to admit that I had absolutely no clue what to do with it! Erin hadn’t used one of those in our training lessons, and unlike the free weight room where I’d been practicing, the straps for the lesson weren’t even hooked up yet. My helper laughed. And then got to work educating me.
As it turns out, all of the ladies nearest me were incredibly helpful and kind, and I can’t thank them enough. They helped me get situated with everything I needed. The grabby tool was intended to help me reach the tops of the TRX strap harnesses, which had been wrapped around the room’s ceiling support beams so that other classes could use the room. Upon entry, students are expected to grab a bag containing their straps for the session and hook them up themselves. Fortunately, this is dirt simple and just requires you to attach a giant carabiner hook into a giant loop. You really can’t go wrong. Someone also brought me a mat, which was my first clue that the class would be following a similar format to the mini circuit training sessions that Erin had introduced me to: a few TRX strap exercises, followed by a few other things, and then repeating it all in order.
At this point, I noticed the instructor (clearly not the woman I’d assumed; she was wearing the obvious Pro Club uniform) talking to the many students all pouring into the room. To my surprise, every single one I noticed – including the instructor herself – was female! Ages ranged from folks that I took to be my age or younger, to folks that I’d guess to be my mom’s age. So much for the Internet’s advice to only expect men. I was simultaneously thrilled to not be as much of a unicorn as I’d feared, and alarmed, since that meant I couldn’t take anything else that I’d read or heard for granted! It also meant that the room was FULL – a bit nerve-wracking when everyone takes up a ton of space the way TRX requires!
As it turned out, the location I’d chosen to set up my straps in was Grand Central. I’d aimed for the back of the room, not wanting to show off my ignorance at the front; unfortunately, the mirrors at the back are useful for those wanting to keep track of their form as they work out. I should have known, since I often pick treadmills near mirrors so that I can be sure I’m not messing up my lower back by leaning or slouching. Despite this, I stuck to my guns and my position, and everyone else was happy to work around me. From the number of people that stopped to say hello and welcome me to the class without my saying a word about being new, I began to realize that most of the folks in the class were long-time veterans. No such luck finding other new folks!
Then the instructor (who was also wise enough to notice the new kid despite my failure to talk to her beforehand) announced that it was “weight day.” According to her, this was something that she hadn’t done in class for months, so it would be new to almost everyone. She ordered us to go grab a set of light weights and a set of heavy weights from the stand against the wall before getting started. I was able to at least ask her where to start, since I had no clue; Erin has kept me exclusively on weight machines, mat exercises, and TRX straps for weight training. I wound up with a pair of 5-pounders and a pair of 10-pounders. Then I got to try to arrange those, the mat, my sweat towel, and the TRX straps into something approaching “my space” for the rest of the workout. In short, I now know that micromanaging all that stuff such that it doesn’t get in my way OR anyone else’s way is at least half the exercise!
Not long after I’d settled into something workable, the class itself – and the real fun – began. I cannot express how grateful I was for all the folks around me, as they were quick to correct me gently each time I got something wrong, stood in the wrong place, or missed something the instructor had shown. They even helped me adjust my straps for the many exercises that required it, as adjusting on the fly like that is something you have to learn by doing (Erin had done it for me prior to my using the ones in the free weight center.) TRX straps can be used for exercises by supporting the feet, not just the hands, and the instructor herself came over to help me sort that out the first time too, which was great. She offered lots of modifications throughout the lesson for me, and when I still couldn’t do some of those, I did my best to stay engaged and doing SOMETHING the whole time. No sitting on the mat and crying for this kid!
Doing planks with your feet suspended in TRX straps is a unique and special sort of hell that I’ve come to know; when the rest of the class moved on to doing pikes, the lady next to me admitted that it had taken her six months of attending class before she could even attempt it, so it was perfectly fine that I needed to take the modification and keep doing what I was doing. It was pretty clear that everyone had their own strengths and weaknesses, and the weights were unexpected for everyone. Each time the instructor tried to psyche up the room with the old “Is everyone having a good time?!” line, most of the responses were a grumbled “meh,” not just mine! I was definitely not the only person struggling, and even the folks that seemed to take it in stride were working hard and focused. I don’t think anyone even looked at me crosswise except for the people that were helping me (and/or making sure I didn’t mess up badly enough to hurt myself and/or them!) It was a far cry from the death glares I feared.
My biggest fears by far were the feet exercises, as a) I have big feet and wasn’t at all sure I’d even fit (I did) and b) it is AWKWARD to manage at first. Everyone around me agreed with the assessment. The idea is for you to sit down on the floor and put your feet in the handles (now stirrups, from your position on the floor) while facing up. Then you cross one foot over the other before flipping yourself over so that you’re facing down the way you need to be for the exercise. Your feet are in the stirrups, in the air, a bit like a wheelbarrow. Remembering that cross is key, since anything else will just confuse you and make the flip impossible. I got an abject lesson in this the first time I had to do it myself; I figured out what I’d forgotten just at the same moment one of my helpers pointed it out for me. Erin can tell you this is normal for me; anytime I get a new exercise and have to be corrected on form, I’ll invariably do it wrong for a couple of reps and then remember what I’m supposed to do right as she’s about to say something. At least I learn fast!
The weights portion of the class turned out to just be part of the circuit; we weren’t using them at the same time as the straps, for which I’m very grateful. I followed orders on the first circuit and used the 10-pound weights, but after that, the orders were just to use whichever set was most comfortable. As it was my first class and I was already working my rear end off, I admit I dropped back to the 5-pound ones for the rest of class – which was good, given the number of times we had to use them. There’s a huge difference between being ABLE to lift something, and being able to lift it over and over again for a minute or two from a challenging position. It’s a little counter-intuitive, given that I’ve been lifting much more than that on the weight machines – and my own body weight! – for weeks, but so be it.
The actual strap exercises, as I expected, were exhausting and yet SO entertaining. I got to do all of the things Erin taught me and then some, so for a few brief moments of the class, I got to know what I was doing and do it well! It seems that I can still squat with the best of them, though we did so very many of them that I wasn’t sure I was going to make it out of the room by the end. I did not, however, reach the point some others were at where they could jump back up from them. At one point we were switching between the squats and the rows, both of which I’m familiar with, and I felt like some kind of superhero. My body was doing what I wanted it to, I was doing it right, and I was strong enough to do it right – the perfect combination. I’m still amazed that I can keep my core stable and engaged without sagging or bending, which can hurt you pretty bad if you do it at the wrong moment. All of Erin’s patience and my practice has paid off. I really want to hit that point with more of the exercises over time… but it will take time!
When it was all over, I realized that I’d been dripping sweat all over my mat. I’m always quick to notice when that happens during trainer workouts, but I’d been so busy focusing on doing what I needed to do that it never registered. My helpers all congratulated me and helped me figure out the cleanup process, which was just the reverse of what I’d done on the way in, plus cleaning your own mat (standard Pro Club policy.) I didn’t get a chance to thank them as much as I should have, since they were all much faster than I was, but I did get a chance to talk to the instructor on the way out. I told her I was planning to come back once a week, since everyone had been so amazing, and since I enjoyed the heck out it despite the difficulty! She suggested I come early again next time (now, I know who to look for!) and she can show me more of the ropes so that I’m more familiar with things.
As the week has gone on, I’ve found myself… sore. REALLY sore. I won’t lie – that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, and I definitely felt it for several days afterward. Thank goodness for Tylenol. That said, it was not as bad as I feared it would be. I showed up to my Wednesday trainer workout and was still able to keep pace, though Erin did promise me she’d keep it on the lighter side since I’d just pushed myself so hard. She even gave me Thursday off from additional cardio as a recovery day, for which I’m very grateful. (This also helps me mitigate the extra cardio, since getting too MUCH can actually backfire for progress, given the calorie deficit we’re on for the diet portion.) As of Saturday, the most I felt was leftover soreness from Friday’s trainer session. (I’m learning lunges. They are not fun.)
The funny part is people’s reactions to my success this week. While everyone is absolutely THRILLED for me (from both the social anxiety and the exercise standpoint,) almost every single person has also given me the are-you-insane look when I talk about how fun the class was. I don’t think some of my super-fit team members would have had the guts to do what I just did, which is a weird feeling. I guess the reputation TRX has for being hardcore is a prevalent one, and I somehow managed to miss that until now. As my therapist put it, that is NOT the nice little class she would have suggested for a scared newbie!
What can I say… I’ve always been the sort of person that starts hard on things, even when I don’t realize I’m doing it. I’m usually too impatient to put up with hand-holding for long when I’m new to things; I’d much rather try my best, make mistakes, and learn the hard (or right) way the first time. I can see, in hindsight, that the class was definitely tough – I’m not sure something like Zumba or Pro Jam would have taken such a toll on my entire body the way TRX did. That said, it wasn’t any worse than I expected from something that I knew would test my strength as well as everything else. I’m really proud of myself for tackling something like this, even after I started to get a few hints that people thought I was crazy beforehand. It would have been easy to panic and decide to go with something else, but I wanted to do it and I did, even at the risk of being hopelessly outclassed. As it turns out, I can keep up with a lot more than I thought I could, and the rest… will just take time, as it would for anyone learning something new.
All in all, it’s been a week for scaring people at the gym. In addition to my TRX success, I also got to show up in a dress, heels, and makeup! John and I had tickets to a show at Benaroya Hall, called Ravel’s Magical Opera. It’s a very short one-act opera that isn’t often performed due to the fact that it’s also a stage play, requiring a HUGE orchestra and cast list compared to a typical opera. Seattle is known for being one of the only places to perform it regularly, and the premise sounded interesting enough that we gave it a shot despite not being huge fans of opera otherwise. (Ironically, we went to see Bluebeard’s Castle a few years ago too – another short opera that turned out to be one of my favorite things I’ve been to! Very dark, but a great story if you like that kind of thing.) We had to check in at the gym prior to dinner and driving to the show because of a rescheduled dietitian appointment, so I arrived in my dress and heels, and then used the locker room to go put my makeup on for the finishing touch.
Running into the folks who only see me drenched in sweat and almost falling over every day was a treat. Eyes nearly fell out of their heads. I’m not often one to like being the center of attention, but there was something delightful about getting to be the put-together, classy lady I like to try to pretend to be, for the first time in ages – at the gym. The additional irony of doing this two days after diving headfirst into the very-unladylike TRX class just made it all the sweeter. This is the kind of lady I want to be, when it boils down to it; the kind of lady who defies expectations, no matter what they might be. It’s not about being contrary for the sake of it; I’m just not the sort of lady that wants to model traditional roles for much of anything. At the end of the day, I want to be me – strong, powerful, and brave, but still gentle enough to lend a hand to those that require it. Whatever that makes me, I’ll take it, and I think that others seem to respond best to me when I’m willing to own it. Anything else isn’t honest, to others, or to myself.
It’s now Monday, the day before my next TRX class – and folks are still talking about how amazing I looked last week. It’s a little bit embarrassing, but I’m also pleased. It’s been a long time since I allowed myself to be anything but invisible. I’m not sure I ever wanted to be invisible in the first place; it was the fear standing in my way that made me think I had no other alternatives. I don’t need others’ permission to be who I am, of course… but for the last ten years, I’ve thought that I did. The freedom is headier than I expected.
I’ll be even more proud when I start standing out for being skilled physically – being pretty isn’t all there is in life – but for now, I’ll take the compliments. Every day is still something new, and I’m always looking forward to finding out what tomorrow brings.