Locked Out

We need these for class.

I want the Hello Kitty one.

This morning I went to kettlebells class, like usual.  I stepped up to the security door.  Beep!  The red light flashed.  I pulled on the door.  It moved but held fast.  That’s funny, I thought.  I swiped the fob again.  Beep!  Red light blinked again.  The door stayed shut. Now what?

Bill, a classmate regular, walked up beside me.

“Bill, I’ve been doing kettlebells for 4 years now, and I can’t seem to open the door,” I said.

He laughed.  Bending down from his considerable height, he performed the requisite wave. His little gray key worked just fine.  Man.

He stepped inside and waited on the other side of the door.  See, the rule states we don’t let anyone in, or risk a hefty fine. Everyone must use their own key. Great.  Now I felt like a complete moron.

I fanned the plastic piece of sweaty entry over the sensor and gained…nothing.

Dave kindly opened the door for me.

“Thanks,” I said, trying not to seem ungrateful.  I mean, the lousy system used to beep at me all the time, because I had to jerk the door open. Every single time I yanked on it, it stuck. It yelled at me on a regular basis. That was bad enough.

One of the other gym members saw my grand entrance.

“You know, my fob stopped working when my membership expired,” he offered.

Oh, that must be it!  As of June 4, I officially reached 4 years of gym membership.  Hard to believe. Long ago, a good friend of mine from church invited me to come to a class.  I pooh-poohed the idea for a long time.  I thought, How hard could it be?  I’m already running more than 20 miles a week and lifting weights at home. I’m training for a half marathon, for goodness’ sakes!

Boy, did I have a lot to learn.

I look forward to class now. I’ve taught it myself a few times.  Kettlebells built up the strength in my shoulder and helped me rehab after my running injury.  Kettlebells strengthened my lower back. It’s not just vanity muscles, but functional fitness.  I can do my daily tasks with less effort now.  I can lift 2-ton-sized boxes of cat litter all by myself now.  Stuff like that.

I learned how important form is.  Hard to concentrate on form while you’re running.  Kettlebells is a stationary exercise, for the most part.  You stand and move the bell around.  You keep your shoulders locked down and your abs tight.  Well, those who have 6-packs, I guess.  And, even after all this time, there are still some exercises I haven’t quite mastered.  My snatch lacks one element.  I found that out only today.  Back to the drawing board.

I’ve made good friends. We’re a motley congregation of folks.  We all have different goals and fitness levels, not to mention different ages. Some members have inspired me and some I have inspired in return.  We push each other toward excellence.  Barring that, we give each other a hard time.  Like the back row heckler who told our instructor that I was finishing the challenge too early today and needed to go up in weight on the squat presses.  So I did.  And almost revisited breakfast.  Thanks, buddy!

Lastly, I now know the words to every popular AC/DC, Poison or Ozzy song from the 80s.  I would rock on “Name That Tune”.

I’m grateful to my friend who invited me to class and helped get me hooked. I’m happy to have a gym a mile from my house. I can go anytime (ha!) and get my glow on.


 This post, based on true events, was powered by Taylor Swift songs.  Don’t judge.

Friday Fundamentals

For reals.

For reals.

There’s a gal in my neighborhood who walks every day, rain or shine, down Olympic Highway.  Olympic Highway isn’t really a highway in town; just a main thoroughfare.  It has a pedestrian walk on one side of the concrete median.  She trudges along in raingear.  She hikes with purpose through the damp, foggy mornings.  Sometimes she’s in a purple fleece coat.  Other times she’s wearing  a bright neon raincoat, hood up.

She used to come to kettlebells.  She and I had the same silver, purple and gold Asics (GT-2170, if you’re wondering.  Still my favorite running shoes).  Mine I used for running, hers for urban hiking.  We struck up a slight, shoe-based acquaintance. Then she quit.

“Susan, I couldn’t take the music!” she whispered to me one time, shaking her blonde-gray curls in consternation.  Well, it is an acquired taste.  Ozzy and ACDC and Poison and such.  But I can’t imagine swinging a huge metal object to Bach or Mozart.  Not happening.

Sometimes I pass her and her husband as they traverse the way, me running up and them striding down. We smile and say hello, waving through the Shelton dew.

“Don’t you get tired of the same route all the time?” I asked her once.  “I lose motivation running the same route over and over.  Gets incredibly boring.” True story.

“Oh no,” she told me.  “I just get on autopilot and go.  I don’t have to think about it,” she smiled.  “Besides, my husband buys me a coffee every morning at Starbucks and it’s waiting for me when I arrive.”

Pretty good gig.  Pretty great husband, I think.

I saw her this morning after class, heading down the hill. Rain, then hail, poured down on her.  Now it was my turn to smile as I drove past . She carried a bunch of pink rhododendron blossoms in her hand. They bobbed along in time with her steps. Her walk has become a meditation to her, a daily habit of movement and thought and processing.  I understood.



Penguin Power

See?!  Menacing, right?  (Photo by endlessocean.wikia.com)

See?! Menacing, right? (Photo by endlessocean.wikia.com)

A certain creature keeps popping up a lot lately.  Penguins.  Many moons ago, when I was but a teenage whippersnapper, I liked penguins.  Not a lot, mind you, but enough.  So much so that I got them on birthday cards.  One year, a penguin even appeared on my birthday cake.  I got stuffed penguins (not the taxidermy kind) as presents. An impromptu collection ensued. I enjoyed thinking about them. They had a comical quality, perpetually dressed for a formal occasion in such an  inhospitable setting as the South Pole. It made them seem sort of glamorous in the animal world.  I liked that they mated for life and that the male penguin took care of incubating the egg while the female trekked off to the sea to score some grub for the family.

But I discovered something.

Some penguins are very large.

I always thought they were small, around 24 inches tall.  No.  When I taught the school-aged class at church on Wednesday night, a life-size picture of a penguin decorated the far wall. Emperor penguins can reach 4 feet tall – 48 inches.   I had no idea.   It freaked me out.   I  don’t think I can watch the “Happy Feet” movies again. Eek!  I am only 61 inches (ish) tall.  I think it would be bizarre to suddenly come upon a large, flightless bird who could practically look you in the eye.  Probably my first instinct would be to drop-kick one in self-defense, thereby establishing the precedent of “I’m the boss”.  Please don’t sic PETA on me.  The likelihood of me encountering a penguin without a plexiglass shield between us is next to nil.

On to day 24 of Janathon.  I taught the kettlebells class today. I followed a routine I created last year called “What Can You Do in 40 Seconds?”  It’s a set of stationary circuits, 40 seconds on and 20 seconds of rest.  The first set is mostly arm exercises.  The second is body weight exercises – mountain climbers, crunches, even the dreaded jump squat.  The third is mostly leg stuff like lunges and more squats.  Since I have so much adrenalin from leading the class, I never know if the workout is too hard or too easy.  Seemed to be about right, from the feedback I got.  I’ve led the class a couple of times before.  This time I wasn’t so nervous, despite skipping an entire exercise in one of the circuits.

Alright, kiddos.  Enjoy the weekend, but behave yourselves.  Otherwise Guido ( see mugshot above) will have to give you a swirly.

First Day Blues

This morning, I awoke to thunder.  I had planned to do a run with some kettlebells thrown in.  Running outside suddenly seemed like a death wish.  I managed a short kettlebell workout at the gym.  At home, I don’t have the heaviest weight I use in the kettlebells class.  I did eke out one mile outside, after my workout.  The rain had mostly disappeared by then and the sky lightened. Thunder growled once and the rain started up again in earnest, but it wasn’t too bad.

It’s the first day of school!  Yay!  Or not, if you’re Zac, who is still sleeping.  Jonathon made bacon and cinnamon rolls this morning.  You’d think the aroma of bacon wafting up the stairs would be enough to rouse any zombie-like teenage boy.

It doesn’t feel like the first day.  I’ve got Ruby’s stuff together, all the communal school supplies that make up public school these days.  She’s got a new backpack since the old one our neighbor gave us finally bit the dust.  Don’t worry, I got the new one at a deep discount.  We met Ruby’s teachers last night, the English-speaking side and the Spanish-speaking side.  They seem nice enough.  Both are new to the school this year.

The good part about all of this is that Ruby’s best friends – at least the kids she’s known since kindergarten – are in class with her.  She’s got James and Angel and Misael, formerly an arch enemy, and a couple of others.  Her locker-cubby is next to James’s locker-cubby.  Ruby put on a brave face but I know she still misses her kindergarten teacher.  So do I.  I’m afraid I’ve compared all her teachers to the fabulous Mrs. K. They all come up short.

Last night, I asked Ruby if she wanted one of us to walk her to class or to be dropped off for her first day of second grade.  She waffled.  At first, she just wanted to be dropped off.  She looked resigned.  Then she changed her mind.

I walked her to 2nd grade this morning.  She tightened her new backpack and we lugged the bulky bags of kleenex, hand sanitizer, pencils, binders and spiral-bound notebooks to her new classroom.  We stuffed her things in her cubby and searched for her seat.

“Hey, Ruby!” James called.  “Your seat is there.”  He pointed to a seat kitty-corner from him, at the same table.  Ruby sank down, the seriousness of the situation hit.  Her eyes reflected her sadness.  Summer is over.  School is back in session.  I hugged her neck and walked out.

I spoke to a placement counselor this morning about what classes Zac will take for his 9th grade year.  His elective?  Computer programming.  Nothing will be operational (uploaded) until tomorrow.  He gets one more day of freedom.  He’s heartbroken.

I’m waiting for the feelings to catch up to the day.  Right now, I’m a little down.  I have plenty to do today but summer, at least for schoolagers, took its last bow yesterday.   I know Ruby will have great stories to share with us about her first day of second grade. And slowly but surely, the kids are becoming more independent. I’m not sure I like it.

Children’s Day

Ruby got to school late.  We had yet another doctor’s appointment to meet with the ENT to decide, yes, she would need an operation to put tubes in her ears.  Met with the surgeon.  He removed a miniscule amount of wax from her ears to confirm the fluid in there.  I had a very distinct deja-vu feeling.  We did this before, right?  At least we didn’t have to endure another hearing test.  And does nobody read the charts?!  I had to recount everything to the nurse.

“Why are you here?” she asked.


I wondered that myself.

Today, at Ruby’s school, it was Le Dios de Los Ninos.  Children’s Day.  And I’m sure I butchered that Spanish.  Can’t I just say it in French?!  I suppose that defeats the purpose.  Every April 30, contrary to Wikipedianism, it’s Children’s Day at Evergreen. It has nothing to do with children working long hours getting guaranteed an education.  I thought it was an Hispanic holiday.  Now I’m not so sure.

All day, they celebrated children.  It seems appropriate for an elementary school.  Streamers line the hallways. Parents are allowed to come and go.  I heard rumors of cupcakes and pinatas.  Oh, and outdoor games.

I told Ruby I would drop by in the afternoon.  I went to her classroom where they were starting to work on a craft.  The teacher barely noticed me, frazzled by glitter duty.  The kids sat, talking amongst themselves, at their tables.  They were supposed to write a wish on a cutout of a star or a chili pepper.  Guess whose this is?

When you wish upon a chili...

When you wish upon a chili…

Other kids were writing things like “I want to be a ballerina” or “I want to be a policeman”, phonetically.  The teacher had me work with that boy, a non-native English speaker.  The whole “i” in Spanish sounding like an “e” threw him.  Good thing he read it to me.

“Ruby,” I said to her, “I thought you wanted to be an artist.”

“I do!” she said with a smile.  “I am going to be an artist.”

Then I told her she already was.  She smiled a Cheshire cat smile.

So why wish for it?  Why indeed.  Wish for something more important, like dogs.

Beautiful Creatures

Today I taught my last kettlebells class.  Our trainer is back from Hawaii.  She will resume teaching on Friday.

It’s a little bittersweet.  I mean, I finally figured out how to work the stereo.

I enjoyed it, I stressed about it, and I hurt myself.  Twice.  But I think it was worth it. I am honored to have had the opportunity to encourage people on this journey to fitness.

As I looked around the class today, everyone was at a different fitness level.  There were men and women of different ages.  Nobody looked like anyone else.  Everyone had unique strengths and weaknesses.  But they all stayed.  They worked the entire class, slowing down at certain points if necessary (jump squats and get-ups caught most off-guard), but they didn’t quit.

I told them they were all amazing and how we’d seen kids in their 20s stand up and stalk out of class, defeated.  Several of us have invited friends and family to class.  Most of them almost threw up and had to stop. They simply couldn’t finish.  The class was too stinking hard.  It also requires a certain amount of coordination to master the compound movements.  But these folks, the regulars, they have staying power.  They are overcomers.  I wanted them to know that they were exceptional, even if they thought of themselves as out of shape and possibly unattractive, too old or anything else exclusionary.  They should be proud of themselves for coming back, class after class, and working hard.  It’s like putting money in your health-bank.

I recently received an iPad.  It’s not my birthday, nor is it Christmas.  This person just had an extra one and out of the generosity of their heart said, “Hey, do you have one of these?  No?  Okay.  Now you do.”  It blessed me.  I really have no idea what it can do.  I managed to create an Apple id and download a free Agatha Christie novel.  That’s about it.  But the capabilities residing in that gadget between my hot little hands gets me excited.  Zac is thrilled…and a little jealous.  He gets around on it like a pro, since he already has an iPod and an iPhone.  Just out of curiosity, why not an iPud?  Or an iPed?  Maybe a Mac-compatible pedometer.  We shouldn’t leave any vowels behind.

Back to class.  I know people join a gym to get in shape and lose weight.  It certainly was my motivation.  But we simply can’t forget all the things our bodies can do.  We have been gifted a phenomenal piece of equipment.  What can it do?  It heals itself!  How far can we push ourselves? What are we capable of as we capitalize on our strengths?  We have no idea how strong we truly are until we try to go somewhere we haven’t been before. Yes, lose weight.  Eat thoughtfully – so you feel better and improve your mood and mindset as well as your health.  And yet, don’t lose sight of the beautiful creation that you are.

Kettlebell Kindergarten


I taught my first ever kettlebells class today.  I’m not looking to get certified any time soon.  Our instructor is going on vacation and she’d like someone to teach while she’s gone.  This was my practice, a sort of dry run. I wanted her to see what I did and offer any constructive criticism.  I was excited about it but also a little nervous. Will I do a good job?  Did I create a workout that’s too hard for even me to complete?  That’s the biggest one.  I wrote it all down and tried it at home, modifying as I went along.  I had one section that’s kind intense.  I couldn’t finish it all.  I figured I’d wing it and push myself. I axed the 40 seconds of pushups.  What was I thinking?! I hate pushups.  Working at at home with only your cats for company is not particularly motivating.

I’m definitely not at the same level of cardio fitness I had before I stopped running.  I did walk regularly, and stretch a ton.  I figured out I have a backlog of stretching as far back as 1982.  I started playing organized sports (volleyball) that year.  Don’t think I’ve stretched much since then.

And, I reminded myself to eat less breakfast.  Lately, it’s been trying to reappear during the House of Pain workouts put on by our sensei.

The class went well, overall.  We espouse the Russian kettlebell technique, for those who wonder about such things. I did not get queasy. The regulars and some newer people were teachable, if rather quiet. The usual moaning and groaning didn’t surface. Our regular instructor stood in the front row.  I think she liked having someone else be in charge for a change.  She wanted to get a good workout.  I did circuits, 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off, with about a minute rest between circuits.  I felt a little like I was test-driving a car.  I wanted to see what this baby (the class) could do!  I typed it all up because my handwriting, as you know, could pass for chicken scratch.  The 40 seconds of jump squats was a little much, but we only did it once.  Hopefully nobody hates me forever for that.

Our teacher was pleased.  She said I need to be louder in calling out exercises and general instruction, but she seemed to like it.  She’s gone to Hawaii the beginning of next month and I will take her morning classes.  It encouraged me to be entrusted with helping people on their fitness journey, even for a short span. I know I have a lot to learn.  I did enjoy making up a brand new workout.  I’ll have to research a little and figure out something new to try while she’s enjoying the beautiful Hawaiian scenery.  It’s going to be fun.  Look out!