TEAM TUESDAY – So I decided that coach needs to get in shape and do a better job of staying there. Coach is me. I’d like to preface this note to all the parents out there who don’t have time to do what I did today. I know you barely have 20 minutes for yourself. I hope you can make this work in 20 minutes and maybe find a way to drag your kid with you to get your sweat on.
I’d also like to say that I thought of two friends today. Nickie and Samantha told me that they worked out together once in something cross-fit like upstate. Mid-workout, Nickie, a former college ballplayer – and a very good one – just sat down and said to the instructor who was trying to get her back up, “I have three kids.” I’d also like to say that my sister had a Nickie moment post-baby #2 when she had a personal trainer for a few weeks, and he was trying to motivate her with a burnout exercise, and she just stopped. “You got this,” peppy trainer said, “You can’t give up.” Meg stopped her endless wall push-up and replied, “Yes, I can.”
Our bodies aren’t going to be what they were, and neither is our desire. As former athletes, we’ve just put a fair amount of miles on these tires. Yet I went to the gym today determined to get myself on track. I did it for three reasons. I think subconsciously that re-connecting with Chamique Holdsclaw affected me, as did the fact that I always see her peppy friend and master trainer, Zakiyah. Zakiyah, who was a track start at Tennessee and still in great shape as a runner and dancer, is friends with my high school teammate, Marcell Harrison, who is also a personal trainer. I had Zakiyah train me for a short time – just once a month on all mobility drills because I believe athletes are not doing enough mobility drills regularly. Then I felt like a fraud. I played college and a little bit of pro ball. Do I really need a personal trainer to tell me what to do? I felt like I’d learned a fair amount, and I had to keep it honest. That meant training myself, just like I teach our kids.
The second reason I began my way back today is that I needed to kick my butt in gear is because I have been just dragging. Blame it on my thyroid (I am hypothyroid for several years now) or my difficultly in doing anything less than a 65 hour work week (for too many weeks in a row). I’m thinking that my not engaging in rigorous fitness is part of the reason. If I go to the gym, I get my eyes off the computer screen, which I am convinced more and more these days is taking a toll that we may not be aware of until it’s too late.
The third reason is that I had a full day of tedious, frustrating and boring admin work where I had to catch up on all emails, systems and controls, while building out an excel-google-word press project to jerry rig a calendar and notification system for our team players for the third time this year, thanks to our being handcuffed to a registration system that has huge holes. My plan is to work on that project, walk for one hour, return to the project, go back to the gym for boxing and yoga. A triple session – three hours in total.
I start on the treadmill, which is so boring to me that I have to turn on Telemundo and practice my Spanish. I understand the news fairly well that I insist on challenging myself by watching Casa Cerrado (Case Closed), which is a Judge Judy. I’m following all the drama between a woman and her ex, then a third party comes on the scene and literally gets in a tussle with the male. Fight is broken up, and I think I’ve got the drama all worked out on a bad relationship that got worse thanks to an evil brother. Then judge slams the gavel, makes her ruling for the female, which makes me happy. Then she exits holding hands with the defendant, her ex-husband or boyfriend, who ten minutes ago was causing her a lifetime of distress. I’m totally lost and confused or maybe that’s how it was supposed to end. I look up and there’s Chamique walking in the gym. She waves. I think I’m really cool. Seriously. It’s the equivalent of Michael Jordan walking in the gym and waving. Yet I’m walking on a treadmill watching Telemundo with my glasses on.
Minutes later as I am watching the news in Spanish at a slow clip of 4.0. I should not be running thanks to my squeaky hip, and honestly even if I could run, I just don’t enjoy it. Chamique steps on the treadmill next to me. I am saved. Seriously. I opted for the walk because when done in full strides, it really helps my hip. But I feel like such a wimp just walking. I talk to Chamique about what motivates her, if she still runs (she does), all the press interviews she’s doing to promote her documentary (May 3), where she wants to settle down location wise, her future career, family, life. She says she likes to workout for 1.5 hours a day just to help her keep her stress down, and as we both agreed, “because our bodies are used to it.”
I confide in her that I’m going for a triple session – three total hours, which is maybe half of what we used to do many years ago yet at a much, much higher intensity. A day in the life of an athlete at NU was broken into three parts: morning classes, head to the stadium from noon to 5 pm for training, lifting, rehab, ice, shower and training table. Maybe back by 6 or 7 pm. Then homework for three hours. I decide I’m basically doing the same thing on this day.
Chamique says not to overdo it. I say that there is no concern on that front considering I’m barely sweating after about 45 minutes. I say I’ll catch her later. I love my gym in Harlem because it’s filled with blue-collar to middle-class to higher-income earners (and it looks like some former pro athletes). When I am there, I feel blue collar given how hard people are working, and some of the crazy things they are doing on the floor. I like that feeling unlike the feeling of other gyms I’ve been in that have been about the outfit or the crowd more than the sweat. My gym inspires me – the range of people who are there just getting it done at the end of a tough day.
My one-hour walk is over, and I run home for 45 minutes of dinner and data entry. I run back to the gym for boxing. The workout is filled with a range of participants and the guy next to me tells me the workout is good – not too hard, just right. I agree. On a scale of 1-10, it’s about a 2-4. That works for me. The pairs me up with a 6’3” 240 lb. guy named Tiny. I decide to outwork him. I do it. Then I’m front and center on the pads and in my gloves to end the workout. I’m sweating. I feel good except my hip starts to hurt when we do our “suicides” which were short jogs, and then it hurts slight worse when we are sliding around the room. So does my thumb, which I think I jammed 4-6 weeks ago when I tried cross-country skiing. I don’t want to say, “my thumb hurts” so I keep hitting after changing my angle. I don’t want to say I am an old German Shepard because honestly I like to shadow box, especially when I am working on an excel spreadsheet for the rest of my day. I think back to our trainer at NU and another few boxing coaches said I was good at it. One trainer saw me and said, “How do you know how to do this?” I shrugged. He asked my full name. I told him. He said, “That explains it. You’re Irish.
I leave the class sweaty and pumped.I go into the yoga room, and I like it already because it’s jam-packed with normal people, not a class full of committed yogis. I’m stuck in the corner, so not ideal. Yet I don’t care. I just want to finish my set for the day, even if it starts with the all-too relaxing 10 minutes where you’re supposed to lose yourself in nothingness and all I can think about is work I have to do, and how long it’s going to take me to get in shape again. (I know, I know, this is not good.) Yoga just isn’t my way of relaxing. Yet I still make myself do it for other benefits. I’m not very good – just okay – barely – but I do notice that I’m really rusty – just off balance, not as strong, not as mobile as the last stretch of my life when I was doing yoga a few times a week. The woman next to me smiles and hands me her extra block. I laugh and say thank you.I see Chamique and Zak doing a short circuit on my way out. Chamique does cross fit and sprints on the treadmill, and is apparently not struggling with joint issues, which makes me happy for her and all the more impressed with her career. Yes, for sure she left the game banged up (Achilles, knee, other injuries that add up), but mostly because she was burned out, and maybe that decision to end it earlier than most will help her in the long run. I ran myself a little too long and too hard into the ground with my feet especially, and I honestly don’t have the body of some of the women I’ve played against. I wish I did. I tried my best with what I had. Yet I’m happy today that I took the time to get back to what I know. I know that I miss team sports so much, and that is exactly why I was so happy to have Chamique chatting with me on the treadmill. How great would it have been to play ball with Chamique? Just for a minute? I realized in boxing class that even though I am out of shape, I am still the one that will not give up or cut out of a drill. Yet if it hurts – legitimately aches – I am ready to tell the instructor not “I can’t run anymore” but instead I’ll use the words “I really like to throw.” Yoga served as the most important metric of how important mobility, balance and posture are for me. As good as it is for you, walking hides those issues. Yoga brings the rust to your attention, and that is a good wake-up call.I was happy to have reached my goal today. It’s nowhere near as great as getting lost in the game of hoops. There is no comparison to what for me what was and always be the best, pure escape from life. The emotional shower I wish I could take every day. But I can’t. The reality is that this is the second half of life. Shooting for a mix of a routine that promotes a good sweat, balance, mobility, strength and the social aspect of fitness is the best way to play our new game.
As I exited the gym, I saw two women who were awesome college athletes a few years back. They were still getting after it, and that filled me up.
“Way to go girls,” I called out. “See you tomorrow.”