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OPINION | LET'S TALK: Exercising a milestone in virus time

by Helaine Williams | January 17, 2021 at 2:18 a.m.

My last fitness update — wow, way back on March 29 of last year! — I was awash in the joys of early-morning-gym-visits-turned-early-morning-Zoom-fitness classes.

Now it's 10 months later, the middle of Back to the Gym month. I'm happy to report that I'm still at it.

And my husband is still laughing at me as he lies comfortably in our warm bed and listens to my struggles ... every grunt, every groan, every, well, unladylike word.

Classes that were about half an hour when they began in March now last 50 minutes ... and come with homework, usually a prescribed bout of cardio and a few additional anaerobics.

As covid-19 rules loosened, some of the clients of my gym, WOW Fitness, returned to in-person gym visits. Being a downtowner and WOW being in southwest Little Rock, I'm among those who got quite comfortable with simply shuffling into the next room and propping my iPhone up on the two-person dining table to "get it in." And, no doubt like many trainers, WOW Fitness owner/trainer Kameelah Harris discovered to her delight that she could get a lot more folks interested and involved in virtual fitness classes. She continues to lead classes at 5 a.m. Monday-Thursday. Members of her instructional team lead additional virtual classes at 6 p.m. those days, as well as from 8-11 a.m. Saturdays. (Because the homework for me adds another 40 minutes or so to a day's workout schedule, and because my joints have their limitations, I tune in to three of Kameelah's four classes per week; on Saturdays I do Krunkfit, a "boot camp to a beat" class led on Zoom by Wendy Bryant, a former WOW Fitness associate.)

I realize it's not supposed to get any easier with fitness trainers; their job is to take clients to the brink, whether that client is in a fully equipped gym or at home with cans of corn substituting as weights. I have groused about being middle-aged, substantial-sized, and trying to execute (with modification, in some cases) such moves as jumping jacks, burpees, pushups, tricep extensions, planks, squats, around-the-world kicks, lawnmowers ... and inchworms, during which you're dang-sure moving more than an inch. Now it wouldn't be so bad if these exercises stayed in their original form. But every once in a while, Kameelah will throw a monkey wrench into things by introducing some sinister mutation. Tricep-extension mutation: Clutch one heavy dumbbell and raise and lower it down the side of your head. Plank mutation: dip your hips, do side planks, do plank jacks. Pushups: Do 'em one-fingered and click your heels together in the air during each one! Squats: Fold those arms and break out in the Russian Squat-Leg-Kick dance!

Just as in the beginning, Kameelah is all about our leaving our cameras on so she can make sure we're actually doing the exercises, period, let alone doing them correctly.

But I've found that there are ways to get around this rule. Take, for instance, the times we are ordered to prepare for floor exercises. If I have any inkling that floor work is going to be tough, I might leave that phone propped up on the table instead of lowering it to the floor along with my person. So Kameelah won't see that I'm doing one pair of toe touches (I hate these with a passion) for every five. Or that I've collapsed in the midst of a 45- or 60-second plank. Or that during that peculiar type of pushup she recently introduced — push body up into plank position, go completely down to the ground, splay arms/hands outward, bring them back close to the body, push back up into plank position — I'm just lying there, gasping. And there have also been times when I have left my camera on, but stepped out of its view because I was doing the particular exercise so badly/slowly, I didn't want her to see. And when I'm not flaking? Luckily, Kameelah prefers that we mute our microphones during the workout, so she and everyone else is spared my occasional exclamations that are not exactly words that should be coming out of a Child of God.

Good thing I've reached an age of full realization that it's much better to suffer for a few minutes while exercising than suffer a while lot worse from the health-related results of a sedentary lifestyle ... a lifestyle that's all too tempting to sink into while lockdown/work-from-home life continues. A lifestyle that can lead to chronic conditions, and their consequences.

Usually, January can be downright eye-roll-worthy what with the fitness commercials battering the airwaves like Billy Blanks putting his fist to an invisible opponent during a Tae-bo session. But we could all stand to remember the importance of pushing the pursuit of exercise — and pushing past any bad-word-inducing moments that may come with it.

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