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Friday, August 27, 2010

Field Trip to Café Kelly

Mental Note: Think twice before ever again googling 'Scary Seat Belt'
Mental Note: Think twice before ever again googling 'Scary Seat Belt'
It isn't everyday that I am lying on a table while a large muscular man straps what appears to be a complicated seat belt around his waist in preparation for laying hands on me. I am learning just how far my eyes can rotate to the side while the rest of my face is acting casual.

So on one of the worst days ever to be a big rig in the Bay Area (three different flipped-truck accidents,) I drove to San Francisco to have Kelly work some more on my shoulder.  After over two grueling hours in transit, I  arrived at Mr. K's café.

So back to the seat belt scenario.  I'm lying on the table, eyes glued to the belt.  But  before I have a chance to formulate a coherent question to ask Kelly what he has in mind, we are interrupted by a of course, muscular man carrying two coffees.  While they chat, I inhale deeply hoping to snort up some of the caffeinated aroma.

Then it hits me.
Kelly is drinking coffee!  What?!?  I thought we all had to drink that green tea stuff.
Coffee.  Think Garbage #1 Crush
Coffee.  Think Garbage's #1 Crush.

Sure enough, Kelly is a serious coffeeisseur. 
I felt like a deprived oenophile (Word of the Day) living in a Carolina Dry County who finds out her church pastor is boot-legging fine French wines.

BTW, here is a true story:
When I was in the hospital with the bleeding ulcer, I was forced into coffee-withdrawal cold turkey.  My decaffeination-generated delirium was so pitiful that the lobby coffee vendor actually brought open canisters of freshly ground coffee blends for me to smell.  But I digress.

So snapping the belt in his hands, Kelly discusses his brewing techniques, drinking preferences and favorite blends.  And he is giving me permission to re-enter the world of sensual Coffee-opium Dens. And here I am, totally coffee-seduced, distracted away from the fear of the seat belt (is it a restraint?)

To top it off, Kelly promises to share his coffee!
I had that promise steaming in my mind the entire time.

And then the visit took a sadistic turn.

He drank up that entire coffee all by his own self.

I mean, what are friends for

if not to provide you with fodder for first-rate anxiety.

Here I am thinking my gym was a local Bay Area chain run by military sort of guys.  But I just discovered my gym belongs to a massively popular industry, like Jane Fonda and Zumba! (except with more guys.) There are places like mine all over the world!
I found this out when one of my (non-gym) friends thoughtfully sent me an article which describes the group as a cult!
cult films are fun, right?
I've always been very careful to avoid whack organizations, especially those involving rackets, Fidel Castro and/or volcanoes. So, how is it possible for me to become involved in a cult without my undergoing some interesting initiation?  
OMG, sudden thought:  maybe I am too weeny even for a CULT!

Did I fall under the spell of a charismatic leader?  Possibly. Hmmm, intriguing thoughts about seedy bordellos, polygamy, and unusual rituals, followed by gruesome thoughts of bad Kool-aid, skank hair and a complete lack of oral hygiene.

Although the article makes it sound extreme (a puking clown mascot? Must be a guy thing,)  I can honestly say I haven't seen any such signs (or clowns) at my gym that indicate the secret formation of a self-flagellating commune.  Well, actually, the prowlers are pretty suspect.  So I'm not going to read any more articles like that (unless they really do involve polygamy) (or pancakes.)
the night started out hecka fun!
the night started out hecka fun!

After all, one party experience of drunken bunny-chucking with resultant hangover is usually enough for anyone.  Nowadays, my body reserves tossing the chum for the emergency evacuation weapon that it is.

Mental note:
  • write about me and Gretchen at Folly Beach w/pink champagne
  • possibly relate Bathtub story as well....
  • Absolutely, Do NOT under any circumstances tell the Whale joke!
Mata Hari
Mata Hari

If the gym is a cult, it is a pretty clean one outside of ass-smacking Harry's salty vocabulary; and it's often entertaining, like Paul blurts out that he likes Shakespeare In Love and begs me not to tell anyone (but forgets to add not to blog it.)

Besides, when I work with Paul, I'll just keep an eye out for open cups of fruit juice.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Field Trip 3 : Dagobah

Kelly probably weighs more than Yoda
Kelly probably weighs more than Yoda
And now,  Kelly vs. the Shoulder!,  the highly anticipated wrestling match in which Kelly heroically wretches my arm free of the deadly clutches of Darth Shoulder.

So as Kelly took a grip on my arm, I braced myself for the fight. 

Me:  I won't fail you. I'm not afraid.

Kelly:  You will be. You... will... be.

I entered the cave to face Darth Shoulder where we struggled for a while.  And, in a moment of great frustration, I mentally slew (slayed?) Darth Shoulder. 
Of course, the helmet vaporized, and, in a classic Spielberg denouement, whom did I see in the helmet but my own weeny-ass self.
Crikey!  Am I trying to kick my own ass?
Crikey!  Am I trying to kick my own ass?

It isn't Kelly vs. the Shoulder and it isn't even the Shoulder vs. Myself.  In fact, there isn't really a conflict at all.  Just me letting go of guarding.  And Kelly getting the shoulder moving again.

It's a good thing I realized this early on into our session because despite my best intentions to suck it up and let him work it free, I was dangerously close to seriously biting Kelly's forearm.

"Don't go into the Pain Cave, " he advised.

I had been staring intently at his tattoos to distract myself from savaging his arm with my teeth.  I now blinked and mentally re-assessed where I was.  Nope, I was not in a Pain Cave.

I was in a fully-furnished, beach front, ocean-view Pain Condo.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Field Trip in which Paul orders lunch before we see Kelly

Don't argue with a carb-deprived sword dancer
Don't argue with a carb-deprived sword dancer

Episode 4:  I stare down Paul until he puts the cookie back on the counter.

Friday, August 20, 2010


I am still wearing professional face
I am still wearing Professional Face
So today I learned exactly how gingerbread dough feels when it is flattened into shape under a rolling pin.

Paul wanted me to get on my side and grind my quads into a hard foam roller the size of a shoe box. This proved difficult because of the strain on my shoulder.

So he hopped up (he really does spring to his feet) and returned with a short, heavy wooden pole. He slapped it into his palm several times, and said, "ok, we'll just have to roll 'em out."

I realized immediately that it might have been better to endure tearing shoulder pain. I mumbled something about trying the foam roller again, but he had already grabbed one quad, flipping me on my side.

Sure enough, he rolled that wooden thing up and down my legs, flattening out the kinks and cramps. I could feel my flesh crushing under the hard wood. I'd like to say I was stoic but I was actually reduced to scraping the floor with my fingernails to keep from grabbing that roller away from him.

Of course, I felt a wee bit of satisfaction at finally seeing the sheen of sweat on his face when he got up. Baking is hard work.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Checking out my chimp armSo I am thinking that perhaps Paul is not sure what the heck to do with me since the only thing I do well doesn't appear to involve any sort of strength.  And the exercises that do involve strength jack up my shoulder (which incidentally while not having achieved Meerkat status, is fast approaching the chimpanzee level.) 
The areas that need to be tight are flexible and the areas that need to be flexible are fiercely tight.  Could I possibly be from a Mirror dimension like the Star Trek episode with Evil Captain Kirk?
You aren't very persistent, Mr. Sulu. The game has rules. You're ignoring them. I protest, and you come back. You didn't come back.
You aren't very persistent, Mr. Sulu. The game has rules. You're ignoring them. I protest, and you come back. You didn't come back.
At any rate, today involved T-Rex stretch, Velociraptor stretch, squats & an attempt at a weighted squat made awkward b/c I closed my eyes.

Another trainer (I'll call him "Jesse") helped out early on by gripping lots of individual muscles in my shoulder and trying to unlock them from each other.  It was probably like trying to separate Siamese octuplets.

I am a sled dog Today I learned that the wheels I drag across the parking lot are a machine called "the Sled."  The Egyptian slave fantasy is gone. 

I am now an Alaskan Malamute.

Next up: Kelly vs. the Shoulder

Monday, August 16, 2010

Back in the Saddle

So this past week has seen me shuffling into the gym feeling like Dug wearing the Cone of Shame.

I wear the cone of shame
It's hard when I feel even weenier than my original weenitud starting-level.  It also didn't help that I spent part of the last couple of days watching the Special Forces Training TV series on the history channel.  It was humbling to realize that I weigh less than the backpacks the candidates lugged all over North Carolina for two weeks.

But anyway, today I was finally able to do some rowing and push the (pink) Prowler toward the Happy Door (a door across the parking lot with strange tape on it in a pattern that looks like two eyes and a smile.)  I was so relieved to be kicking off stress and moving in a way that made my heart jump and pound.  Rest is boring. Unless I am asleep.
I tried extra-hard to do it as effortlessly as possible so Paul would let me keep going.

Of course, first I had to endure the sledge-hammer in the abdominal aorta activity in an attempt to hit my tight psoas muscles.

Paul vs. the belly dancer
Then Paul decided to loosen up my hamstrings with the T-Rex stretch.  He worked on the left leg for several minutes before saying, "ok!" in his That Is The Last Stretch voice.
   So I totally relaxed and he took advantage of this to lean into it more to stretch it even further!  This could cause trust issues.

He did get me working on some leg-lifting butt exercises which he then promptly complicated by pushing down on my legs
(see above photo for perspective.)

At any rate, I got back up on the horse.

Study Habits: possibly why my back is so limber

seriously, my head is resting on the floor.  I study like this.
seriously, my head is resting on the floor. I study like this.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Field Trip #2: Tuesday we visit the Kellai Lama

So this time Paul met me at Kelly's:  he drove with another large muscular man with whom he planned to work on some muscular weight-related-activities stuff later in the afternoon.   I'm pretty sure it wasn't a reflection on my driving skills. 

Anyway, today the Shoulder got a Get-Out-Of-Jail free card since my spinal cord got first ups.  Kelly laughed off my morose demeanor and in 5 minutes time had (painlessly) (easily) straightened out my vertebra.  I didn't even have time to feel wary.

the challenge of catching minnows
He then proceeded to show me where all the looseness in my back was causing me trouble and setting me up for injury again. Part of this demonstration involved his pressing down on my abdomen while I attempted to breathe in a very specific manner.  For those of you who don't spend your time micro-managing your every movement (like breathing,) this will seem very dull.  For me, it was like trying to catch minnows in a stream with my bare hands. The more I thought about it, the more aware I became that there are a lot of little muscles.  I had to figure out which ones to use in which order, like a puzzle.

It did not help my concentration when Paul decided to ask right at the very moment I was inhaling, contracting, and being flattened by Kelly, "Has anyone ever farted while you are doing this?"

Kelly approaches bare-handed
There were a few more stretches that I hope I will remember because they felt great (I was on a serious post-pain high and was totally ready to simply fall asleep.)
Kelly then worked on my psoas muscle which basically felt like he was attempting to remove a kidney with his bare hands (See Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom.)

Psychic surgery!
I pointed out that the abdominal aorta was in that region, just FYI, along with some other important organs I most likely needed for survival.  Eventually he started on the right side which was better, so then I wondered if he could feel all the bacon, eggs, concord grapes, blueberries, oatmeal and fish oil capsules milling around (I believe most injuries heal much, much faster -and better- if they have plenty of fuel.)

Kelly then asked Paul, Have you used the Sledge Hammer technical words technical words technical words?
Kelly lifts the sledge hammer
Paul said, we have Sledge Hammers, but I haven't used them with her yet.
Now, I have seen only videos of people swinging sledge hammers at a large tire (which BTWIMHO I think is neither practical nor productive.)   I cannot come up with a single image in which I am using the sledge hammer that does not result in my death or the death of anyone standing near me.

So when Paul went outside and returned with a real life heavy-ass sledge hammer, I was trying dimly to think of some excuse to avoid swinging it (or, in fact, to avoid any contact with it at all.)
Kelly placed it head down on my belly where earlier he had been performing bare handed psychic surgery.  "There!" he smiled. "See, you can do the same thing to yourself.  Use the weight of the sledge hammer to relax the psoas."

This was so anticlimactic that I
just stared blankly with absolutely nothing to say nor a coherent thought in my head.
(hover mouse for full cricket effect)

NAiya can do it!

At any rate, my back is finally not tweaking.

Next field trip:  working the iron shoulder, mwhahahaha!!!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

What your neighbors don't know

Assessing the possibility
So Paul casually mentions that he went to a clinic on Spines and heard an interesting discussion regarding an Olympic gymnast.  She could grip a pole with her butt cheeks and then raise both her arms and legs into the air and hang on the pole!  Her coach had her do this to strengthen her glutes.

At first I thought, Please do not let him be telling me this story because it is a future goal or exercise for me.

Then, I thought, If this is a future goal, can Paul do this and if so, is he going to demonstrate it?

Finally, I thought, I, of course, am going to try this at home somehow.

Loser (warning : it's just so not funny)

Loser Alert
Loser Alert: Making the Sucktacular Decision
So describing the latest workout is irrelevant in the face of the momentously stupid decision I made to try to lift more weight than I felt confident with.  Each set felt a little harder, and I ignored a rising anxiety about the tension in my wiggly low back.

I think you can see where this is going. 

So when the electric pain shot up & down my spine and down my right leg, I shouted, F***!  F***! F***! adding serious social embarrassment to everything else I experienced. Note: for once I dropped the weights correctly: I just let go.  I hope Paul noticed.

Anyway, those shouts break down as follows:
1st:   I am in a F***load of pain
2nd:  I am so F****ING stupid
3rd:  I F***ING just blew a weekend of serious dancing, including the Carnival of Stars for which we'd been rehearsing for several months and 3 bookings ($$$.)  And probably no dancing for the next week or so.

Poor Paul iced my back for like 20 minutes which helped numb my pretty stunned back muscles; but it didn't stop the lightening striking down my back & leg.  I then became a deadly menace to society by driving home, which involved a lot of lip-biting.
Where are the painkillers?!
In Painkiller Search mode (notice urbanwear)
I spent the day lying and crying on the floor, packed with ice and sucking back any pain drugs I could find regardless of interaction, ulcer or expiration date (and this morning I am still crawling through the cabinets seeking drugs like a web bot scuttering the internet. 

Bottom line: Crikey, is it possible that I'm too weeny for a manly gym?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Why I don't teach Math

So after some lunges (which I felt for the very first time - three days in a row will do that, I guess), Paul set me to grinding around on the Lacrosse Ball, even though I repeatedly offered to lift stuff or drag weights around instead.  Although painful, it wasn't as bad as the first time I used the Lacrosse ball: and I was actually able to move my arm with deliberation.
While rolling around on the floor with Paul holding my ribcage down (yeah, try breathing like that sometime), another trainer (I'll call him "Harry") explained to his group of hard-working clients that I actually really, truly, was doing an exercise.  He said, yeah, she is suffering from F***ed Up Shoulder and Paul is helping UnF*** it."
Laughing while someone is compressing your ribcage at the same time that you are waving your arm while a Lacrosse ball is penetrating through your torso has potential as some sort of Las Vegas freak show act.

So now that my shoulders were looser,  Paul said, Ok! The Prowler is all set up for you!  I walked over, actually looking sort of forward to doing something to kick off some serious stress. 
Give yourself to the Dark Side.  In time you'll learn to use it as I have.
Give yourself to the Dark Side.  In time you'll learn to use it as I have

But it was not the pink prowler.  It was black.  It had large wheels with the number 20 on them.

It was the Darth Vader of prowlers.

So I mentally geared myself up and then shoved.  WTF???  It was heavier than the pink one.
I struggled to get it moving and after turning to head back, I wondered if I could actually do two more runs (ok, I say "run" but I suppose at times it is more like stomping.)

I got through three with effort and felt relieved.  Until I saw Paul turn Darth to face the front again.  He smiled, we're doing four, right?  I smiled back, yes, of course (I would LOVE to, thank you SO much.)

After the fourth trip, he turned it again.  Let's do six, he grinned.  What!?!  I slapped on PF, and thought, fine, ok, so my legs turn to jello; I'll be damned if I get out there and can't get back!  To distract myself as I shoved, I tried to figure out how much I was pushing.  Two 20's are 40 pounds, and then the Prowler must weight like 40 pounds?  During my last breather, Paul got into a discussion of the weight of the machine and then picked up another prowler with one hand and walked it over to the scale.  68 pounds.  I weighed myself just to check the accuracy: 118 pounds.  So I still weighed 10 pounds more than the 108 pounds I was pushing.

I got through the last trip with wobbly legs and a pounding heart (and yet, mysteriously, no sweat!)  Paul seemed pretty proud that I did it, saying, "you pushed 156 pounds!  You couldn't do that two weeks ago!"

I blinked, "um, no, those were two 20's, it was 108 pounds."

Paul: "uh, 20 KG - that's 44 pounds each."



So, FYI, I can now push a small man out of a burning building.

Next up: Another Field trip to see the celebrated Mr. K!

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Nature of Desire

no bathing suit here
no bathing suit here
So we had a show up in Oregon on the Coast which incidentally is pretty much the coldest place I've ever been to in July.  Wait-except for Crater Lake: one July there were still piles of snow on the Rim Drive.
I went down to the beach wrapped in a sweater, jeans, corduroy jacket & scarf.  The icy waves playfully smacked the hard grey sand littered with tons of smooth stones, but no shells.  The sharp wind was too lazy to go around me so it just tore through my clothes.

Leukocyte engulfs the Proteus killing evil traitor Dr. Michaels
Leukocyte engulfs the Proteus killing evil traitor Dr. Michaels

The fog coiled and scudded across the beach to the hills where it caught in the trees, swallowing them like the white blood cell engulfing the Proteus in Fantastic Voyage.  Clearly, my optimistic bathing suit was staying in the suitcase.

I went in search of hot food.

portrait of a pancake addict
portrait of a pancake addict
Oh, joyous glory! There was a Pancake House just down the road!  I am a serious pancake addict, and I can pack them away until I have to lay flat, barely breathing.

I could smell the seductive perfume of pancakes as I approached the door.  If my stomach had eyes, they would have been glittering with excitement.
This is my favorite order from Cracker Barrel : Momma's Breakfast with a side of grits

Women swept by with flirty trays of pancakes piled with fresh blueberries, crispy hash browns, tantalizing bacon, buttery eggs, and golden waffles swimming in butter.

And then I remembered Paul and Kelly frowning at my heinous diet.  Obedience warred with insane temptation.
I stalled by ordering scrambled eggs and bacon hoping that I would be too full to care about the pancakes.

I desperately focused on my eggs & bacon under the sympathetic eyes of my waitress who asked, "honey are you sure you don't want to try just a short stack?  They're really good."  I opened my mouth to say "yes, ma'am!  Give me the full Momma's Breakfast!" and amazingly Paul somehow channeled through me and said, "No, thank you so very much though."  I choked on my eggs.
If my brain had a face, the rest of my body would have slapped it, thrown a drink at it and stormed out of the restaurant.

It didn't help that the show turned out to be outside in the chilly evening air on a stone patio.  I warmed up, and once I got dancing I was no longer cold; but as I danced and smiled at the audience, I was wishing fervidly* that I had stuffed down a few hotcakes soaked with melted butter, dripping with hot syrup, and smothered in whipped cream and blueberries.

The passion in my face and in my dancing was absolutely genuine.

[*Goal!  Fervid  was Word of the Day on my calendar!]

Pretty in Pink

I woke up actually not in pain for a change:  I opened my eyes and it was like birds were singing everywhere, the sun beaming over the horizon (or would be, since it wasn't up at 4:30am,) all was right with the world.

After scarfing my eggs & spinach breakfast, watching the DVR of Kaya & Sadie (you girls so rock!) on AGT, slurping back 4 cups of scalding green tea, showering and getting ready, I had 30 minutes before going to work with Paul.  I decided to practice dancing instead of icing.  I was so surprised how much looser I am.  I got more confident and let my arms move in an extended range of motion: no tweaking!  WOW!  I was clearly on a serious Karma high today!

Off to the gym, totally feeling the universal rhythm, zoning with Allman Brothers AFE.   I walked in, smiling and then all the 6:30 gym class participants all looked up at me.  This was new.
Perhaps a predator shouldn't be pink.
a predator should not be pink
  Paul was on the floor rolling the Lacrosse Ball under his calf,  leading the class.  He smiled, "Hey, did you notice anything new?"  I said, no, without looking around since that smile of his meant some sort of S & M bondage gear/machine had probably just been installed, and I didn't want to see it and lose my confident mood.

He said, we got a prowler just for you, ha ha ha.  I glanced at the stack of prowlers.  Sure enough, there was a Pepto Pink one (Pepto as in that prowler might look cute, but it probably weighs a nauseating ton.)

I got on the rower determined to knock it out before Paul could come over to yell, "Catch! Drive! Finish!" at me. He can sense when I go languid and uncoordinated.

We did lunges of all forms.  That's not a royal "we" - he does them too, although munching on a breakfast snack at the same time.  I won't rat him out by revealing that it was some sort of breakfast pastry for which he would have made me drag the wheels to Canada if he caught me eating it.

Then Paul said, you're going to do some squats! Notice: singular form.  I thought, um, ok!  But then he led me over to the frame that holds the bars.  Uh, oh.  Squats with a weight bar.  The fizzy weakness that swept through me reducing my knees to Styrofoam is pretty much the same as Stage Fright.

I put on the PF and actually tried to pay attention to what he was instructing.  He put the Barbie bar on first.  I got into the squat prep position, rolling the bar up on my neck until I could barely breathe.  I stood up.  Crikey!  The bar wasn't that heavy!  I stepped back and then did the deep squat.   Paul had thoughtfully placed a square wooden nugget behind me that I had to touch with my butt before standing up.  I stood back up, with Paul making suggestions like, "Back on your Heels! Lower! Explode up! I actually listen, but I can only absorb with the "up" part for now.
I did a couple squats; I must have looked too pleased.  His eyes narrowed.  He went and got the Ken bar.  "This bar," he noted, "weighs 45 pounds."  I narrowed my eyes back and said, "I can do it."
And I did!
His eyes narrowed more.  And he added some weights.
I narrowed my eyes also (but possibly this was a bluff.)  He said, "This bar weighs more now so mentally prepare yourself."  (BTW I think it is better to not say stuff like that.  Thinking obviously messes me up.)
I got the bar on my chest, rearranging my hand and feet positions, tightening my abs so much I am sure the food in my stomach stood out like braille across my belly.  And I stood up.  And squatted.  And stood back up.  Several times!

I am wearing a yoke.
As a reward, Paul, eyes narrowed a la Clint Eastwood, removed the Ken bar and went for a large leather-padded yoke that looked like something you might see on 2,000 pound oxen.  My entire molecular structure watched anxiously while he set it up.  He explained how to duck under it, rest the bar on my upper back shoulder area, holding on with my hands.  I shuffled my feet around trying to find where I would feel secure, like Charleston, South Carolina, took a deep breath and got into the frame.  And stood up.
  • My first thought was, "I am actually standing up."
  • My second thought was, "I feel like a farm animal."
  • My third thought was, "If I squat with this, I will sink through the floor to China."
I squatted - and would have fallen over if Paul hadn't hooked his pinky finger under the bar to help me up.  He frowned and then sent me off to get a few red stretchy cords which he threaded around the yoke.  After a few more struggling reps, I got the hang of the motion and was able to do 12 in a row although massively assisted by the stretch-bands which I suspect removed a lot of the 65 pounds at the bottom of the squat.

On the Plus side:  My shoulder held up and didn't tweak once! 
On the Huh side:  I'm Still the Gym Weeny;  Paul reminded me to wear my pink leg warmers on Monday to push the pink prowler.