In twenty minutes I did:
50 push ups
50 sit ups
50 tuck jumps
And then I went downstairs to my basement where my washer and dryer are to do as much laundry as possible because I know my legs are going to seize up tomorrow and I won't be able to get up and down those stairs for a few days.
I need to be practical. I've had experience with this.
I know I've talked about this a few times here already but I am still sort of shocked that I reached my mid-thirties before I managed to find something that I could do to help me be more fit. Coming from a non-athletic background, I was a little surprised that it turned out to be a sport (on wheels!) that became the workout I could stick to.
And then at some point, I started working out so I could play the sport.
Sneaky, roller derby, very sneaky.
I can't talk about how I rank against other athletes in sport. I still feel weird about thinking of myself as an athlete. There is a whole spectrum of bodies and fitness levels and I have found it to be quite self-destructive to get all judgey and compare myself to others. It's so easy to think that a person who is lapping you in burpees has some sort of natural burpee gift, comparable to super strength or long eyelashes, and was granted to her by the gods for good deeds done in a past life. Or for having a famous father.
But there is no such thing as a burpee gift. If it was true, it would be a good enough reason to just toss in the towel in this life, spending the rest of it making sacrifices to the gods to be granted the gift of easy burpees the next time around.
More likely than a gift from the gods, you are seeing a culmination of sweat, good eating habits, and dedication. I want to go on here about youth being a bit of a leg up as well as body composition and a childhood full of sports but I might end up convincing myself there actually is a gift of easy burpees and I'll end up all pissy about it and miss the point I wanted to make here.
The point, I think, is not to measure your fitness against others (except in tiny inspirational doses) but to measure your fitness improvements against yourself. Especially if you are coming into roller derby with adult onset athletics.
You really need to measure and track your own trajectory. This is vital to keeping yourself motivated while learning how to workout and, even harder, how to stick to it even when gods, genetics and time conspire to deny you the burpee-ready body.
I have a set of personal motivators that I use to keep me going whenever I don't feel like putting in the effort. For me, it's very specific memories of three years ago when certain parts of my body that did not look or feel like something that should be a part of me. Like how my stomach used to actually fold over onto itself after my second baby arrived. And my ass formed a gentle slope from my hip bones down to the tops of my legs without any discernible muscle tone.
Now I know, given how much I abused my body with neglect and cookies prior to roller derby, that I am not going to get into super shape. But despite how it looks - and it does look better - I feel ten thousand times better than I did three years ago when I couldn't stand up from the floor without using my hands to brace myself.
That feels so weird to me now, that I couldn't raise myself off the floor without using my hands. But yet, that is the fitness story of most of my life. Lacking that muscle left me with a sprained ankle on my third derby practice ever and many more injuries in my knees and back until I developed the strength to hold myself up. No small feat.
The other day I found a couple sheets of paper photocopied from a magazine of an interval workout I had tried three years ago. I remember getting to the fourth set of seven (three minute cardio, one minute strength and one minute core sets) and then having total muscle failure in my legs. Yesterday I did the whole seven sets and it wasn't really that hard.
Not travel team hard anyway.
Beyond burpees and how to get off the floor without using my hands, I did learn a few things about what it means to push myself beyond my perceived barriers. First of all, there is a point beyond 'I can't - my body won't do it.' If you push beyond there, it turns into 'I can - and holy fuck it hurts.' Also I get shaky and this sort of weird all over body cold feeling that probably isn't good, but it is completely possible to push myself far beyond the point where I thought I had stop.
I've learned I cannot dehydrate to the point of death in an hour workout, no matter how sweaty I get. So water breaks are good and necessary, getting a bit thirsty is not a good reason to break my concentration. Best to just maintain an overall good habit of daily hydration.
I've learned that when the burpee gifted are running circles around me and taunting me by being all good looking in Lycra, I need to tuck my focus inside myself and do what I need to do. Don't judge and don't quit. I'd rather beat myself up with push ups than with self defeating comparisons.
I've learned that getting light headed with lots of up and down movements means my blood pressure is low and I could very well pass right the fuck out. I improved my chronic low blood pressure with better eating habits and cutting down the stimulants (sugar and caffeine).
I've learned that cross training is my friend. I like yoga, running stairs and bike riding. If you go from sedentary to exclusive training with derby, you end up having a lot of sore joints and unnecessary injuries from overdeveloping certain muscles while others are left behind. Learning to be an athlete later in life is hard enough without developing all wonky. Even it up with cross training.
Getting out the door for a workout is the hardest part. It is so tempting to opt out and avoid the workout, especially knowing it will be tough. Even tough enough to make your legs and shoulders ache for days afterwards. But if you can make yourself start, it gets easier. Mentally, I mean, not physically. That workout shit is hard. Unless you have the burpee gift. Once you are there and moving and your only choice is to push through to the end, you will glad you did it. Eventually. When you're able to walk downstairs again not looking like a badly strung marionette.
I think that you could probably classify this as developing mental toughness but it is probably more a fear of slowly becoming ever more slumpy as I age and slipping so far down a slope of unhealthy habits that I will never be able to recover from. There is so much to be gained from improving one's fitness - more energy, physical play with the kids, kicking ass with greater efficiency at roller derby.
It is a case, for those of us who spent more time cultivating our baking skills rather than our bodies, as better late than never. We all must start from where we are at and realize that over time it never gets easier even though we do get better. My one hundredth workout felt as hard as my first one. But I am a different person. And hey, look! No hands!
And if you discover and that you do, indeed, find burpees to be oh so easy and suspect you have a god-granted gift for them, do me a favour and don't tell me.