Five Ten Fifteen

So last Friday (aka Ballday) my PT crew asked me if I was available on Tuesday for some additional work. There was going to be some sort of competition within the PT class, and they wanted to know if I could make it. Normally, I wouldn’t be able to, because it would be right during my work day. Fortunately, my schedule had been rearranged, and I was available, so I agreed to it.

Maybe ‘”fortunately” is too strong a word here.

When I left on Friday, I was told that the competition would be held outside on the track, so I dressed for outside work: sweatpants and a long-sleeved T-shirt. When I got there on Tuesday, there were complaints that field was too cold and wet, so we were moving the competition inside. No problem, I thought: this was going to be something that amputees were going to be doing, so I should be able to do it without getting too overheated.

Except, I noted, I was the only amputee there. In fact I was the only person over 50 there.

Well, maybe the professor of the class might have been close, but he’s one of those extraordinarily fit dudes who have so little body fat that he might be in the negative percentiles. Yes, he could actually absorb minute amounts of your own adipose when you stand too close to him. I swear you could bounce a quarter off of any part of his body.

“Okay,” he said to the class (and me) when we started, “we’ll start out by doing a little warm-up and stretching. One hundred jumping jacks, and then stick the big toe of your left foot into your right ear.”

Yes, I’m exaggerating the stretch. But only a little. And I’m not exaggerating the jumping jacks.

One hundred jacks later, he put us through a number of stretches, the purpose of which, he said, were to prevent injury. I didn’t know preventing injury was so painful. But if stretching my groin would prevent me from pulling it, hey, I’m all for it. “How ya doing Brian?” asked one of my PT guys. Actually, they all asked that. Constantly. I’m not used to attention, and I know they’re only asking because they don’t want me to get hurt, but it gets a bit annoying at times. On the other hand, they’ve just spent four years busting their asses in order to help people become as physically capable as possible, so screw the bad attitude, big guy. “So far, so good,” I replied with a smile.

Actually, that was a bit of a lie. I pulled my calf when I did the jumping jacks. However, I didn’t want to lame out on the very first part–the freakin’ warmup for chrissakes–so I continued, promising myself that if it started to twinge more, I would stop. Fortunately, my calf stayed quiet for the rest of the competition.

Again, “fortunately” may not be the best choice of words.

We were doing a cycle of exercises: five burpees, ten pushups, and fifteen squats counted as one cycle. We would be seeing how many we could do in fifteen minutes. For those of you who are unfamiliar with a burpee, here’s what Wikipedia says about them:

The burpee is a full body exercise used in strength training and as aerobic exercise. It is performed in four steps, and was originally known as a “four-count Burpee”:

  1. Begin in a standing position.
  2. Drop into a squat position with your hands on the ground. (count 1)
  3. Extend your feet back in one quick motion to assume the front plank position. (count 2)
  4. Return to the squat position in one quick motion. (count 3)
  5. Return to an upright standing position. (count 4)

Except we were doing six-count burpees, where we added a pushup after count 2, and a jumping jack at the end. And we would be doing five in a row. Not so tough.

And the pushups were modified too: We were to lower our chests to the ground and lift our hands briefly off the ground before pushing back up. (This was only for the ‘pushup’ pushups. The burpee pushups were done normally. At least, I was doing them that way.)

“How are you doing, Brian?” asked one of my PT peeps.

“We haven’t started yet,” I said.

“Well, if you want to do the pushups from your knees, go ahead.”

“Isn’t that cheating?” I asked.

“No,” he replied. “I’m probably going to be doing them that way myself. Just about everyone does, eventually.”

In the writing business, that comment is known as ‘foreshadowing.’

The one part of the exercise where I really wanted to keep my form as proper as possible was the squats. For them to be counted, the back must be straight at all times, and our heels needed to be on the ground. Ever since my days as starting catcher for the Allens Plumbing Pony League Red Sox, my heels came up when my butt went down, so I did my best to be aware of this change.  Another disadvantage for me was the fact that I have no ankle on the left side, so balance was even harder. I compensated for this by holding on to one of the many weight room appliances. I wondered idly what I would have held onto had we actually been outside. This would be the last idle thing I would do for the next 20 minutes.

Just before we started, the professor gave us another break: if we could no longer do either the burpees or the pushups, we could replace them with ten situps. Although that sounded a lot like being told I could choose to be punched in the throat rather than kicked in the groin, I could see how a few knees in the nuts might get me to appreciate having another option.

So we started. I went smoothly into my burpees, making sure my calf didn’t hurt on the jump up. It didn’t. The pushups were good, too, and I stood to do the squats.

I heard a voice call “How ya doin’ Brian?” It was the female member of my PT pals. She was just about to start her pushups.  Wow, I thought, I’m ahead of her! Then I realized, as she burned through the pushups, that she was already on her second cycle. At least. As were all of the rest of them. I felt like the coyote expecting to snack on a roadrunner, but instead getting a mouthful of dust.

So I did the squats. And then back to the burpees. And the pushups…and the squats…and…the burpees…and…the…push…ups… and…and…ohmygod…the…squats…

When I exercise, I tend to sweat. A lot. Under the best of circumstances I sweat. Doing these exercises indoors in my outside clothes wasn’t helping anything. By the time I started my second set of pushups, I was sweating heavily. By the time I got to the squats, there was a puddle underneath me.

“I’m about to say something you don’t want to hear,” called the professor. “You still have ten minutes to go!”

Ten minutes?!?! Ten minutes more of this? Are you sure you’re measuring minutes correctly?

The professor came over to me, and my waistline became a sixteenth of an inch slimmer. “How ya doing Brian?”

“Any better and I’d think I was at Disneyworld,” I replied between gasps.

“Haha! That’s the spirit! Good form!” he said, and bounced off to encourage someone else.

Where’s a punch in the throat when I need one? The only reason I’m getting up from the pushups is because I don’t want to drown the newly formed Lake Briansweat!

After the second cycle, I did pushups from my knees. After the fourth, I exchanged them for situps.

At the end of fifteen minutes, I was five squats shy of 8 cycles. They generously rounded it up to 8 for me. That’s nice of them, I thought. I should do those last five squats, just to be honest.

Then I thought, fuck it.

So, in fifteen minutes I did 40 six-count burpees, 40 pushups, 40 situps, and 115 squats. That’s an accomplishment. I felt pretty good about myself.

Until I realized that the next thing on my schedule that day was an 8 hour shoot.

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