I've been hearing about Bikini Boot Camp at my local gym for almost two years. It's tough enough that some people enroll in a conditioning class just to work their way up to this one. It's run by a petite blond dynamo who just returned from maternity leave and can still bounce a quarter on her stomach. My best friend is one of her recruits.
Just to clarify - you don't wear a bikini to this class; it's supposed to whip you into bikini shape. My current shape is somewhere between pear and starfruit, and I knew one class wasn't going to do the trick. But if I don't challenge myself, who will? So I put on my big-girl pants (the ones with the built in sports diaper, just in case jumping was involved - I am fifty, after all) and headed to the gym.
We warmed up on the elliptical for about fifteen minutes before going to meet our instructor, Jessica. [Note: Jessica is actually a friendly, soft-spoken professional who took time to explain each move and correct our form, all while giving us useful tips like how to avoid stressful eating and how to reduce water retention bloat. But in the interest of artistic license, I will refer to her as the Drill Sergeant (Sarge) for the rest of this post.]
Sarge handed us tonight's program, a full page of exercises focusing on upper body and core moves. Most of the moves would be done on something called the Tower, a tall, sleek torture rack with adjustable straps attached to a vertical sliding mechanism. Our training was broken into four sections. Each section had two different exercises that targeted opposing muscle groups. I can never remember the names of the muscles, so I just related each section to my problem areas:
Group 1 - Back Fat/Armpit Bulge
Group 2 - Batwings/Popeye Arms
Group 3 - Droopy Shoulders/Humpback
Group 4 - Beer Belly/Plank Butt
For the first group, Sarge said to move the slide up to the top of the Tower and put the weight between 15 and 25 pounds. Naturally I set mine at 12. We did fifteen reps of Back Fat with each arm, then segued immediately into fifteen reps of Armpit Bulge with each arm. I finished and was feeling pretty good until Sarge told us that we were repeating the entire set three more times. And get this, the last set didn't stop at fifteen reps - after you finished those, you rested for a few seconds then repeated reps until you reached the point of muscle failure. May I say, this was not the most motivating instruction I've ever received.
I made it through the whole routine, using the counting technique I learned as a kid. "1, 2, skip a few, 44, skip some more, 99, 100." When I finished, I looked at Sarge like a happy puppy. She pointed to the door and said "Laps!" Two of them around the track; a mix of jogging and sprinting. By the end of the second lap I was composing my last will and testament in my head.
We were expected to repeat this whole routine for all four muscle groups. All the other Brunhildas quickly lowered the slide on their Tower to chest level and got to work on their Batwings. I gamely reached up to release the lever on my Tower, but since my arms were now jelly I couldn't get it to budge. I ended up standing on the base of the Tower, pulling with both arms in short, jerky motions accompanied by short, jerky grunts, until I finally wiggled the lever out far enough to set the slide into the correct position. After this everything became kind of a blur. We moved on through endless sets of Batwings and Popeye Arms, around the track twice more, then endless sets of Droopy Shoulders and Humpback. At this point I hit the figurative wall. Light headed and nauseous, I sipped water and took wobbly walking laps around the track until I felt better. I did return and try a set of Beer Belly/Plank Butts, but only made it through one before common sense took over and I headed down to the locker room.
I took Sarge's advice and stretched out my throbbing muscles, then grabbed my gym bag and headed to my car. I had to use my knees during the drive home because I couldn't get my arms to move the steering wheel. I was sore the next day (week), but not as bad as I had feared. I even heard a tiny voice deep inside me that said I should go back and keep trying until I make it through the whole class without skimping on any moves. But I was able to drown it out with a nice glass of red wine from the comfort of my couch.