Considered a woman of “advanced maternal age” when I became pregnant, you might think I’d be at a disadvantage when it comes to keeping up with an active child. You might think that my daughter will one day view me as her geezery old “hag mom” who can’t remember what it’s like to hop a rock or even break a sweat. (I actually have a friend who referred to her older mom by that name. I weep for her.)
Well, I am fighting Hag Momdom with everything I’ve got, and that includes being fit enough to do all the fun things kids want to do in daily life and on vacation. But I know that skiing, hiking, biking, scootering, climbing, camping and swimming take a certain level of fitness, and I’ve been doing a boot camp for the past few years in an effort to achieve it. This essay is about that very humbling experience. It’s a little hokey and, hopefully, a little funny and maybe even a little inspiring. Here’s to fending off Hag Mom status, and to keeping up with our rock hoppers.
I could live with the fact that I was not Spartacus.
After all, most of us lack the skill, strength, endurance and intensity to wrestle wild beasts and lead a Roman uprising. But I did mind lacking what it took to keep up with my fellow boot campers sprinting, shuffling, push-upping and lunging around an inner-city park version of the Coliseum.
It was my first Camp Gladiator session, and I knew I was in trouble after 15 minutes when the trainer encouragingly barked that the warm-up was almost over. I actually almost cried. That gigantic, painful bundle of squats, high knees, butt kicks and a quarter mile run was the warm-up? I thought a warm-up was supposed to dangle gently on the front end of a workout, stretching and easing you languidly into the more strenuous activity to come.
Which, inevitably, it did.
The actual workout consisted of numerous exercises I’d never heard of, interspersed with sprint shuttle runs just to keep things completely demoralizing. Mountain climbers, star jumps, spiders, bear crawls… who the heck makes up this stuff? Whoever did had a cruel streak, for the child-friendly names are designed to fool the uninitiated into thinking, “I can do anything for an hour.”
Well, I’m here to tell you there are things you can’t do for 45 seconds, and at the end of that longest hour of my athletic life, I lay prone on the grass, sucking wind and plotting a slanderous campaign against the jerk who invented the burpee. As I ruefully surveyed the pride left scattered around that grassy playing field of despair, I thought to myself, “This is not what I signed up for!”
I joined the one-month camp thinking it would be a fun way to tone up quickly and give me the strappy sandaled foot to the backside I needed to invigorate my fitness routine. It’s not that I was completely out of shape—I’d done several mini triathlons and one very, very slow half marathon for Pete’s sake. But I’d let it slide the past few years, running (okay—usually walking fast) a few times a week and hitting the occasional Pilates class.
As a result of my half-hearted exercise regimen and “Don’t mind if I do” attitude toward cake balls and triple cream Brie, I’d morphed into a thirty-something cliché. It was time to admit I could no longer blame my new curves on the birth of my no-longer-a-toddler daughter, and I figured with a little extra effort three times a week, the boot camp would help me shave off the unwanted pudge.
It was a grand delusion, of course, believing 12 workouts would have me looking much different than I did four weeks earlier. And while it was definitely a misnomer to call it “fun,” it was the mindset that got me out the door. Now, a year into this gladiatorial madness, I’ve seen glimpses of the Spartacus in myself, and can hardly imagine life without this love/hate relationship. My fickle feelings go something like this:
Hate: The third set of cross body chops, reverse crunches and side-to-side sit-ups followed by a three-minute plank hold (attempt).
Love: Being confident enough to wear a bikini, even if it’s only in my back yard.
Hate: Removing my booty from the seat warmer in my car in order to join the group gathering on the frosty grass.
Love: Putting my nearly-muffintopless booty back on the seat warmer knowing I don’t have to remove it again for this purpose for approximately 47 hours.
Hate: Feeling guilty when I skip a workout.
Love: Having a new group of friends who notice when I don’t show up and motivate me to get back on track.
Hate: Being the “rabbit” in a chase game—which means I’m the slowest in the group that day and everyone else’s target to pass.
Love: Being the “rabbit” in a chase game, and not getting caught. Ah, the sweetness of small victories.
Hate: Towing a sled of weights across a sun-scorched field knowing the boot camper at Station Three can’t stop doing tuck jumps until I finish my lap.
Love: Being able to tow my child several miles on a sled while snowshoeing to a yurt in the mountains.
Truly, the loves far outweigh the hates in this unfolding epic drama of my physical health. And while I may never be Spartacus, I am Jillicus—a gladiatrix in training and leader of my own fitness rebellion!
As for the guy who invented the burpee, no one can say for sure who gets the credit. But it’s pretty certain that his last name actually was Burpee, which at least partially explains the legacy of torment he left to his fellow man. -30-
I dare you: www.campgladiator.com