This is my reality:
I am overweight, have arthritic knees, eat too much sugar, have never been athletic, and am old enough to compete in the Senior Olympics, but really, why would I?
This is my reality in my head: I can do anything I could do when I was 20.
Naturally, I signed up to compete in the Tucson Senior Olympics Festival.
My trainer, Gab Rico, with whom I’ve been working for more than three years, tells me I am good at squats, so I sign up for powerlifting. Gab has, after all, always had me work with weights. I can do this.
It wasn’t until after I registered that I realized that squats with weights doesn’t mean I squat; the weight is put on my shoulders, and then removed before I come out of that squat.
And that there are more than squats in powerlifting: I have to do a dead lift. And a bench press, too. I had to go to YouTube to see what those were.
And then there is this: something called the Wilks formula is used — my body weight and lift poundage are used to calculate my scores.
Get that? I have to tell someone how much I weigh.
If I had known that before I promised my editor I would do this and write about it, I would never have suggested the story. Or signed up.
I have until Jan. 29, when the event is, to get in good enough shape to powerlift.
I’m not looking for a gold medal (do they even give those out?). I’m just looking to not make a total fool of myself, though perhaps it’s too late for that.
Gab says I can do it. It’s one of the reasons I love her — she’s eternally optimistic.
Gab outlines a workout routine for me, and walks me through the exercises. First, warm-ups. I swing my arms, do against-the-door pushups, do more convoluted exercises with my arms. Squats.
Here’s hoping lifting weights isn’t so exhausting.
Deadlifts: Start with a portion of your foot under the bar. Place your hands about shoulder width apart; bend the knees until the shins touch the bar; raise the chest, straighten the back, and lift.
Bench presses: Lie on your back on a bench, keep the feet on the floor, have the bar about mid-chest and lift until arms are straight. Your rear end stays on the bench.
Squats: Stand with feet a bit wider than shoulders, hips over knees, knees over ankles, don’t round the shoulders, squat, stick the butt out, keep the shoulders and back straight. Oh yeah, breathe.
I start with 25 pounds. A breeze.
I see Gab twice a week. In between, I’m supposed to do the exercises every other day, allowing the body to recoup on off days. But hey, it’s the holidays. Staying on schedule — and eating right — aren’t in my mindset.
OK, OK, I’ll do the exercises. Jeesh.
Gab isn’t fooling around. She has me do an unholy number of reps. “We’re building endurance so you can concentrate on power,” she says. I don’t believe her. She is a sadist. But a cheerful, encouraging one.
It’s time to get serious about my diet. Lots of protein. No processed foods. Good fats (aren’t all fats good?). Carbs and fruits — bananas, blueberries, steel-cut oats — none of that instant oatmeal. I was disappointed to find there was no chocolate on the diet. This may be harder than lifting the weights.
I deadlift about 65 pounds with relative ease. But when Gab tries 100 pounds for the squat — well, let’s just say my body seems to repel the weights. But I was able to do 65-pound squats — barely. Chest press: 65 pounds was a no-go. I’ll do 30 or 40.
Gab won’t let me back out.
I want to know who left the pound cake where I could see it in the kitchen. I do not need such temptations. I have to get rid of it; eating it seems the only solution. It’s just one piece. Maybe two.
A workout day with Gab. She does an intense warm-up, then insists I can do squats with 77 pounds — so heavy that it took two people to put on my shoulders. There is something wrong here. Still, I do it. Also deadlifted that much. I have been in an altered state since. She says it’s the high that comes with exercise. I say it’s because my mind has left my body — which I believe is the only way I would continue with this crazy scheme.
It appears as though I will enter the new year with muscles that are not celebrating. In fact they are screaming at me: “Why are you doing this? What is wrong with you? Quit this nonsense.” They’ll be happier tomorrow, Gab promises. Another lie from my trainer.
The insanity continues: I deadlift 112 pounds. “Oh, I bet you’ll be able to lift 200,” Gab gushes. Yup, she’s insane.
I wake up with a sore belly. I am pretty sure I am dying. Gab says it’s abs — sore muscles from working out. Abs? What are those? And then, the worst part: she claims the only cure is to work out more. Of course she would say that.
I get some exciting news today: If nobody else enters my category I am the winner. Gold, I assume, but why not silver and copper too?