Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Account of personal training

I was supposed to meet my trainer at 3:00. I had a meeting that ran until 2:30 and I still had to get home and then back to the gym. After all sorts of rushing around (and kicking two furry beasts out of my way) I made it the gym on time. I got changed and sprinted up to the second floor desk where I was to meet Ludmila... and I waited.

After a bit of administrative wrangling, Ludmila and I finally met. She seemed to have a gleam in her eye when she said, "You look very strong" in a distinctly Slavic way. Since she's only five-feet tall and probably weighs 100-pounds soaking wet, I wasn't too nervous. After a very quick introduction, I explained my goals (i.e., getting in shape for skiing, so legs and core strength). She looked me in the eye and then grabbed my belly with both hands and said, "You want to rid of dis too, ya?" By now, I was wondering exactly where she was from and where she had learned to be a personal trainer (Gulag Archipelego? Stalin?).

We first did some stretching. I was okay with this; I can stretch. We then moved to the leg press machine. While she approved of how strong my legs were, she tisked a little about how far back I had to set the seat ("Your belly is in da way, ya?"). After a single set of 15, she informed me that I would have to do at least 5 sets three times a week. And then we moved on to seated leg curls. I did okay with curls although there was a bit of confusion regarding the amount of weight I should actually be lifting. I responded to Ludmila's repeated requests to "move the weight up" in a manner that apparently concerned us both. Personally, I was convinced that my legs (and/or heart, and/or digestive track) were going to burst at any moment. She wondered why I insisted on lifting more weight. Apparently in the Gulag, "move the weight up" means to move the pin up a few notches on the stack.

<>Our next task was situps, very important for building body core strength for skating ("but I wanted to train for skiing!", "Same ting"). We went over to the situp bench (you know, the one where you hook your feet over a ledge) and Ludmila inspected my form. She approved. "You will do fifty of these each day." Fifty! When I asked her if I could take a break during the fifty she said, "If you must. One or two second at most. The burn is good." Right. I then made the mistake of asking how many sets I should do. Missing my sarcasm, she replied, "four. One straight; one twist to left; one twist to right; one straight. We'll start at 200 situps." I was stunned into silence (lately I've been struggling to sit up in bed). Taking my silence as a request for more information and guidance, Ludmila asked that I demonstrate how to do twisting situps, "NO! Start the twisting motion at the very beginning of the movement." So I followed her advice. "One, two, three, four, four and a half! ..." I don't think that I'm going to enjoy this part of the workout very much.

So we continued my workout in a similar manner. During seated rows, I didn't tuck my belly in so she deftly poked me any time I started to sag. With lat pull downs, I didn't pinch my shoulder blades so she delivered a knuckle to my spine in the manner of a skilled and talented schoolyard bully. When my hips slid back and I arched my back, she lodged her knee in the base of my spine to elicit the most discomfort possible. She allowed that while my legs are strong, "upper body needs much work."

Finally, she sent me off to the eliptical to see where I should be doing my workouts. Seeing that my heart rate was fairly stable at a relatively high level of output, she began to ask about what sort of running I did and if I had done a lot of running in the last few years. Quite proud of having completed a marathon, I told her everything. Little did I know that this sort of information is very valuable to one trained in the fine Soviet art of pain extraction. She stopped my workout and said, "Come. We row. You must train out of zone."

Shit.

Seated on the erg, she asked me to demonstrate my form. Remembering Claire had told me about pulling I started through my stroke.

"NO! Let me demonstrate."

And then Ludmila showed me how to erg in the most painful and inefficient manner possible: straight back, pull to the chest, drop your shoulders. When it was my turn, she used her flying knee trick to perfect my stroke. She then told me that today's workout--apparently I hadn't worked out yet--would be 25 minutes on the erg. She gave me some guidelines: 3 minutes at 45 strokes per minute; 3 minutes at 35 strokes per minute; Alternate; Cool down for 7 minutes at 25 strokes per minute. She left. After about 4 minutes, I was somewhere between passing out and pooping my pants when she came back (probably alerted by my red face and huffing). We revised the workout: 40 seconds at 25 strokes per minute, 20 seconds at 35 strokes per minute for five minutes.

We then cooled down by stretching, although I may have fallen asleep once or twice.

Well, I think that Ludmila will be a very challenging trainer--and that's what I (thought I) wanted. I certainly don't have to worry about the workouts being too easy. And I don't have to worry about setting my weights or my form. I now trust Ludmila's proficiency in extracting pain in the most efficient manner possible. She promised that our next meeting (tomorrow at 3) would be considerably more challenging!

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