Every Saturday morning around 8:15 I roll out of bed like a greasy, hot sausage. My body don’t give no damn if it’s hung over. It don’t give no damn if it’s ragged from a long work week either.
My vision is still foggy while I snap on a sports bra, a pair of spandex, and a long time broken in t-shirt with pit stains or a neon orange razor back that’s eternal brightness covers up the would-be pit stains. I tend to rotate the same workout clothes, because let’s face it, they’re expensive. I lace up the sneakers that were made for me, the ones I researched for a week to find – light and designed for quick shifts and lateral movement. I brush my teeth and wipe off yesterday’s makeup so I don’t walk out of the house looking like The Grudge. Maybe I shove a handful of nuts in a bag so I can wolf down some protein on my ride to the fitness center not even 10 miles away from my home. Oh yeah, water. Can’t forget water. I do this all on tip-toe; I’m careful not to disturb my boyfriend who sleeps with his mouth wide open. When his snore cracks in his throat, this is an indication that he has been disturbed.
Saturday morning is a sacred time reserved for TRX, a weekly ritual I’ve been performing for close to two years. TRX, or Suspension Training, is a fitness tool that uses gravity and a person’s body weight to exercise. Think of a swing set with two long, dangling straps that can be adjusted according to specific exercises.
Before you continue reading, let me clarify: this is not a marketing piece on behalf of TRX. I don’t care if you purchase a TRX pass from your gym or not. In the end, it’s not the specific exercise that counts. It is whatever you like that does.
I’m writing about my exercise routine because it makes ME happy. It satisfies the parts of me that want to be pushed to their limits and explored. It’s the part of my day where I ask, hey there body, what can you do today?
This is also not a before and after picture depicting a triumphant, life-altering tale of weight loss. Actually, the last I checked I’m still carting around the holiday ham.
Let me clarify that I struggle with cultural body norms just as much as the next person. For one, I don’t have a perfect body. I’m pretty average sized, and my body does normal body things without clothes. My boobs frown when they’re out of a bra. I have ripples on the back of my thighs – the same thighs that rub each other raw in the summer after walking for 30 minutes. Stretch marks that look like bear claw tracks up and down my hips. Pretty standard things. I wish I was above noticing them.
Yes, I pay attention to numbers, and I wish I was above that, too. I’m 5’3, and I totter anywhere between 125 and 132 all year round. Some days I like what I look like, many days I scoff at my kangaroo pouch stomach in the mirror. I like food, and large portions of it. Let’s be honest, I come from an Italian, bread-eating family. And yes, like many women think, I think I could always be a little smaller. But I try to remind myself on a daily basis that I do actually enjoy exercise (because I do), and taking up the smallest amount of physical space possible as a living, breathing human being is kind of a weird goal to have in my opinion.
I’m no titanium woman by even the most modest means, but the second I hold my body up by a mere two straps, I feel so deliciously strong and in control. The beauty of TRX is that it’s entirely customizable; you choose the pressure you put on your body. Apparently, it was designed for Navy Seals, which is pretty cool to be able to say.
I know I said this isn’t a before and after photo of a fitness story, but let me provide you with some relevant background. I’ve been going to the same gym in the town I graduated high school for seven years. I got a work out pass on my 18th birthday. On that very day I was the heaviest I’ve ever been. 180 pounds at 5’3, which was 10 pounds more than my 6’1 boyfriend. It irked me, even though I was in love with someone who saw past my fleshy layers and loved me back.
Here was the problem: up until this point, I was the girl who walked. ONLY WALKED. And since P.E. wasn’t weighted into my precious grade point average, I pretty much cackled at my gym teachers whenever they told me to hustle. Finally, since I have never been on any sports teams in my entire life, the concepts of teamwork, dedication, commitment, etc were sometimes beyond my stubby reach and concern.
So, when I scored my new work out pass, I made a deal with myself. The elliptical. Just go on the elliptical four days a week, 1 hour at time. Listen to the tunes. Hell, bring a book. Yeah, a book. Now that was an idea. Since I had never read the Harry Potter series (I know what the fuck was wrong with me?), I decided to read them. And I did. Book by book, I pumped my stretch marked arms along to the tune of the boy who lived. Yes, folks, I lost 40 pounds reading Harry Potter.
It took at least two years for me to put down the books and gather the courage to pop my head into a group classroom.
Zumba was one of the first classes I tried on for size. It’s basically cardio that combines various Latino dances, hip-hop, etc. It involves a lot of hips and shoulders, which can feel uncomfortable at first. But bodies remember dance. They’re made for it. This is where I first truly learned how to harness the secrets of my body. I was like a heavy-footed Eve biting into the goddamn juicy apple of knowledge on that dance floor. I’ve been going to the same Zumba class twice a week for five years.
This is also where I met Cheryl and Kevin, the power couple who even coordinate matching clothing. Cheryl and Kevin are married big kids who have worked together alongside sweaty people for a great chunk of their lives. Needless to say, Cheryl and Kevin have become an emblem of positivity in my life. It doesn’t matter what kind of day I’m having, all I have to do is watch Cheryl’s magic feet light up in the mirrors. Cheryl has charisma, and she laughs at her own jokes a lot. I like this about her. Kevin wears t-shirts that say things along the lines of “my wife is hot and strong.” I like this about him. He also doesn’t have any cartilage in his knees, which I hear makes exercise painful sometimes, but giving up coaching people, his passion, is not an option for him. I really like this about him.
Last summer, I did the Tough Mudder with Kevin and Cheryl. It was one of the most invigorating experiences of my life. I’m thankful for them. I don’t forget what these two continue do to help me discover about my body and its abilities that I never knew I had.
Since joining Zumba I’ve attended some of Cheryl’s and Kevin’s others classes. Weight training. R.I.P.P.E.D. Kevin usually barks orders at me. “Sarah, what are you doing? I know you can handle another ten pounds.” “Sarah, make that squat deeper.”
Kevin is the one who convinced me to join TRX. His classes usually include four rounds of various movements – combination exercises and cardio bursts. He usually includes dumbbells, risers, BOSU balls, ropes – all and any devices of torture he can squeeze into an hour long class. Each exercise is generally 30 seconds to 45 seconds long. We rotate station by station, and you have to keep up. Sometimes I space out, and have to ask what’s next. Each exercise entails a combination of movement. Lunge, dumb bell press. Throw ball down, then complete burpee. Jumping jacks while lifting heavy battle ropes overhead. The bursts of cardio include the rowing machine, the skiing machine, shuffling across the floor while throwing a weighted ball against a wall, etc. Basically it’s like an obstacle course, which I’m realizing is my kind of workout.
Usually, there are four rounds in total. If you’re busting your ass, you tend to be out of breath and dripping by round two.
Something came over me one class. Maybe it was the adrenaline, I’m not sure. All I know is belched out that I was deciding to blog about TRX and asked if I could take pictures. There was no turning back. Most of the photos I took turned out blurry. This is my fault for trying complete the exercises while taking photos. Silly Sarah. Here are two better ones.
I guess I woke up that morning and realized that this Saturday morning class is one of the highlights of my week because I’m a part of a cohesive team. I know people on a first name basis, and I don’t feel weird leaving sweaty handprints on the floor right next to their faces. This is good news.
It’s a good mix of people. Brandon and Semra, the TRX king and queen, compete with each other, and it’s quite entertaining. They trash talk each other, and everyone seems to enjoy it. Brandon really admires his own biceps, a tendency I used to scoff at, but realize, that many bros are self-aware of their own self-worship and know how to poke fun at themselves. Ashlee and Brigitte are mother and daughter duo, both runners, who look small, but move at rabbit speed. Speaking of rabbits, I learned that like myself, 3 other women who attend the same TRX class own rabbits. Maybe it was meant to be. Nancy, is also a writer like myself… another interesting similarity. Bryan, who is the oldest of our group, is definitely the youngest in spirit. He knows how to throw around a good workout pun.
There are others of course. Overall, everyone who comes back for another ass kicking, tends take on the mentality, that in TRX, we carry our own weight, and we acknowledge each other for that accomplishment.