Boy, Was My Face Red

Wednesday my cheeks were the color of Rudolph’s nose in the middle of a blizzard. Maybe not that red, but they felt like they were. OK they didn’t actually feel that red, they actually felt pasty and clammy, but they should have been burning. Oh please, read on…

As I mentioned in the last post I’m using the first couple of months in 2007 to visit as many downtown Chicago gyms as possible so I can help others select a facility that’s right for them. (Since I’m also trying to lose weight, and I’m visiting friends in Florida at the end of the month, I’ll be making periodic posts about my progress. Lucky you, eh?)

First stop: David Barton Gym, located in the old Montgomery Ward building at 600 W Chicago and the river.

I arrived Wednesday, somewhat apprehensive for a few reasons. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a gym. Roller blading and running are my activities of choice, and I haven’t gotten a whole lot of those in. My workout wardrobe is limited to a few sports bras, a few biker shorts, and decent running shoes. I was feeling F-A-T. (It’s one of the great mysteries: why do you feel like you have to be in shape to go to a place that will get you in shape?) Regardless, I had work to do.

I parked across Larrabee and a security guard pointed me down the stairs and to the right. The lobby seemed almost like an extension of Kitsch’n River North, which was upstairs, but honestly I was a bit nervous so I’ll go into the details of the decor later in the week.

I was given a quick tour and then introduced to Andrea, my personal trainer. I have never had a personal trainer. I’m a loner when it comes to exercise. My old roommate in Indianapolis used to get upset because she didn’t understand why I wanted to run by myself. Add that to my discomfiture due to my weight and my fairly sedentary lifestyle as of late (spending an obsessive amount of time on the site means many hours in a computer chair) and I was a disaster waiting to happen.

The first step was warm-up. And here’s where I went wrong. At the end of 10 minutes on a Precor my pulse was up to 160. My target heart rate zone is 92 – 138. But, see, I didn’t tell Andrea. Instead I followed her to the mat area where I worked on my obliques and learned how to do bridges with a stability ball. Then we went to the free weights area.

David Barton, who is an actual person (as I was told in my initial tour), founded his gyms on the idea that building muscle through personal training is the fastest and best way to “look better naked”. This concept is one I know is true, but since the last time I was a member of a gym was when step classes were new and exciting, it’s a bit difficult to wrap my mind around. It just doesn’t feel like I’m doing as much.

Still, I was starting to warm up to having a personal trainer and she was going to show me the mysteries of getting in shape. I wanted to learn exercises beyond what were featured in Fitness magazine. The first free weight exercise was supposed to be squats with dumbbells, then hammer curls for my biceps as I came back up. Working several muscles at once – I liked that.

I tried doing a couple but couldn’t get the form correct. Probably because my heart was still racing and I felt like I was going to faint. Finally I told her I needed to sit down. What I hoped would just be a momentary pause ended up lasting the rest of my session. Andrea sat with me and gave me some guidelines: drink lots of water, eat frequent meals, focus on building muscle. Too much cardio is actually detrimental (I still need to get the details on that one).

Most of what she said is a blur. I was embarrassed to no end. For heaven’s sake, I was running 3 miles just a few months ago! And here I was, prostrate on a weight bench because I’d warmed up on a stupid machine for ten minutes. Warmed up. I’d gone beyond warm to boiling to cold sweats.

I wanted to slink out of there, but I’d checked my coat and Andrea said that she was going to make sure I was OK before driving home. Dagnabbit.

So here’s the good news: today I walked/ran for 45 minutes along the lakefront (mostly walked) and when I returned home was able to complete the squats Andrea showed me. I also added some lunges and crunches with the stability ball. Additionally, my obliques ache. My obliques have never ached. So the mat work on Wednesday actually worked.

If you don’t hear from me for a few days, don’t worry. I might be supine on a treadmill or the lakefront path, but hey, I’m just doing this for my health.






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