It was May 31st; I was just back from a two-night Girl Scout camping trip, sleep-deprived and saturated in fats. It was time to unload the car then shower off the bug spray, the sunblock, the sugary scent of melted marshmallows, the itch of tall grass, the squeak of water balloons, the dried sweat, and the repetitive ring of campfire songs.
I couldn’t have felt more out of shape. It’d been almost a year of gym-sampling; new to the area, I’d taken advantage of five-day-passes and free classes up and down the Main Line, but the jig was up, and frankly, all of this non-committing hadn’t loosened my shorts any.
I had signed up for the Summer Shred Challenge–a program offered by a local studio, Purenergy. I would take 20 classes in 21 days. The program offered discounted rates and a Facebook Group page, a nice, low-key vehicle for nutritional tips, recipes, commiserating and cheering on. It was time. I was ready. The Shredding would start the following day.
Nothing was going to stop me.
Then my dad broke his fibula. I made it to my first yoga class in the morning and took him to the orthopedic doctor in the afternoon. He was casted and told that he could not put any weight on his leg, that he would need plenty of rest. It would be difficult for him to navigate the stairs in his home, so after some deliberation, my dad agreed to move in with us for a while. We set him up downstairs in the guest room, across from his own bathroom, just a wheelchair spin down the hallway to our dining room.
Caroline said we were eating better now that Pop-Pop was living with us.
Dad was an easy house-mate. There were times when things got a little clubby (my husband works from home), when there were groceries to be bought or there was laundry to be folded. There were moments when I just couldn’t leave. I had responsibilities. There was too much to do. So with gentle voice and tender, daughterly care, I’d dutifully put cereal and fresh blueberries in a bowl for my Dad and say, “I gotta go Shred.”
Nothing was going to stop me.
Not even a particularly intense Bootcamp class with Brenda. I had just manipulated my body down in push-up position when I noticed that everyone else around me was already up jumping jacks. I repeatedly tossed a bulky medicine ball skyward praying I’d catch it with my hands not my forehead.
It all went surprisingly well, until afterwards, when I checked my phone. The text from my husband read: “made 11:30 appt. think I have a hernia.”
And he did. Surgery scheduled in a few-week’s time because his doctor was heading to China for vacation. Dave crouched around holding his stomach a lot, functioning at about 64%, talking about intestines. It was okay. We made it to bbq’s and block parties.
Thing is, Dave is one of those husbands who actually does stuff around the house. He often cleans the dishes; he takes out the trash and recycling. He’s the one who keeps the lawn trimmed. And well, when Fun Dad isn’t feeling so fun, it isn’t all that much fun for his two daughters, but I could be fun, too!? I could pick up 36% familial obligation and still make it to the gym, right? Sure, the kitchen floor wasn’t sweeping itself, but a girl’s gotta do what a girls’s gotta do: so, I continued to Shred.
I was unstoppable, trying all sorts of new classes. Zone-boxing I loved: at one point I was doing sit ups with my ankles wrapped around the punching bag feeling every bit of a female raw-eggs-in-a-blender Rocky. I was rowing, aligning, working tris and bis and thighs. With the help of a skateboard, I found myself in a movable plank in Body Shred. Regina in Power Yoga used the terms wringing and rinsing: I liked it. I was that hot, twisted towel, purging myself of toxins and all thoughts negative. Vinyasa with Lisa. Yin stillness with Dawn.
Vicky was suspiciously good-humored as she taught spin class, smilingly doubling my biking miles. She was entirely too happy to be a convincingly hard-core instructor until she convincingly set my abdomens on fire in her Mad Abs post-spin segment.
I’d check the Purenergy schedule the night before like it was my job then sign in electronically for the class d’jour. I was eating better. Feeling better. I was 16 classes in, two days behind, and there were four days left, so I took two classes in one day. Downward dog and flippin’ it. Tabata-notta-problem. I opted to rush out of there, rather than further stretch, because I had a picnic to attend at my girls’ school.
Nothing was going to stop me.
Until later that day, I took the girls to swim practice, sat and chatted with my new friend Ashley about living-room paint colors and bedside sconces, then after an hour, I couldn’t get out of my chair. A fierce pain shot down my back, so fierce, in fact, that I thought I might vomit right there on my new friend Ashley.
In that moment, I understood with other-worldly clarity how important it is to take enough time to stretch post-exercise.
At the start, all I could do comfortably was stand. Putting pants on was a bit of a challenge, but the rest of the day, I was okay, as long as I stood the whole time. Dave and I shuffled around like two Fred Sanfords–he, holding his front, and I, holding my back. On Father’s Day, at a family gathering, I told my brother that I finished the Shred, two-classes shy of the goal. Ever the support, he said, “So you failed.”
As I sit in the hospital, waiting for Dave to recover, I manage to cross my legs and see that the polish on my toes is fading. I know with confidence that I will soon be able to reach down to spruce up the color.
Dad, Dave and I, everyone here, trying our best, living the lives we’ve been given.
Things break and bust and wrench and bend, but a lot of times, things get better. Something is bound to stop us. But, with luck, with time, with work, with whatever it takes, we start again.
I’ve still yet to try Purenergy’s Aerial Yoga–they even offer a family class. It’ll happen. Soon, we’re all gonna fly.