A wise woman once wrote, “It takes a village.” In the case of getting back in shape, all it really seems to take is a good friend.

I recently relocated back to Denver and apart from packing and storing, my body had seen little exercise. I teamed up with a friend and we pinky swore to do ten healthful activities in ten days.

Day One–Walking

Walking is supposed to be better for you than running (less injuries), so we decided to walk our first day out. We donned our running shoes and breathable cotton and water bottles and began walking.

The best thing about walking is you can do it from your front door. We started from my friend’s tree-lined street and made a beeline for a city park built around a man-made lake. We hadn’t seen each other or talked in months, so we took this opportunity to catch up on each other’s lives. This was not a leisure walk but it wasn’t a racewalk, either. It was a beautiful sun-filled Colorado day (one of 300 a year), and we passed families, rollerbladers, and cyclists on our trek. We clocked in five miles. Not bad for a first day out.

Except for the blisters. Funny how mere walking can rub against your skin until it creates these seemingly innocuous air bubbles that then hurt. My bike injury from last summer reared its ugly head as my hip registered those five miles and reminded me that scar tissue was still forming. We were both a little dehydrated at walk’s end.

Day Two–Tennis

I have played tennis a few dozen times in my life, most of those during PE in high school. With a borrowed racket and a recovering hip, I went in the early evening hours to whack a ball around.

Tennis courts are much bigger than they look on the television, 78 feet long by 27 feet wide. When playing singles, you cover half that, to the tune of 1,054 square feet, about the size of a starter home. It’s a lot. We didn’t bother to keep score and were more interested in hitting the ball to one another and maintaining a volley than nailing one down the sideline. At one point we got our exchange up to eight consecutive whacks until the net got in the way.

Tennis is short bursts of energy punctuated by skill-laden arm movements and footwork. I learned I have a mean but inaccurate backhand, as the ball sailed high up into the air (aka, a lob) and nearly cleared the high fencing around the courts. Reminding myself that we were out there to have fun, I began holding my hands up over my head like a football referee exclaiming, “It’s good!”

The forehand was much harder for me. Again, I’ve got strength but no skills or finesse. I’d forgotten that your body is supposed to be perpendicular, not parallel, to the net when using your forehand. I was hitting balls into adjoining games and the adjacent fence. Kids nearby were acting the occasional ballrunner, which cut down on the amount of walking and scooping.

We played tennis for just over an hour. Think about those marathon three- to five-hour matches you’ve seen on the ATP circuit. After an hour my legs (and hips) hurt from the hard surface, and my lungs needed a rest.

I slept hard that night.

Day Three–Golf and Yoga

We doubled up on day three possibly because we knew day four would be one of rest.

The subheadline reads “golf” but all we really did was go to the driving range and split a big bucket of balls. I’ve played golf less than a dozen times in my life but I’ve always enjoyed the driving range. I played field hockey in high school and the arm motion of a long drive is the same for the two sports. When golfing with a friend of mine years ago he reminded me, “Concentrate on one thing.” Today that one thing was “eye on the ball” after a few swings and misses. I got up to over 100 yards with my seven iron, my favorite club.

My friend fared much better, sailing over the 200-yard mark with her five iron. She corrected my stance (bend your knees, even though it’s awkward) and keep your lead arm (in this case left) straight.

We dashed from the driving range to the free yoga class at Metro State College of Denver (MSCD). MSCD offers free yoga, pilates, and other classes as part of its Healthy Moves program. They’re great.

This class was entitled Gentle Yoga, which was just what we needed after a punishing couple of days walking and playing tennis (I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence and meant it). At this point my hamstrings were tight and the muscles in my right arm felt heavy and strained from first whacking a tennis ball then a golf ball for over two hours in less than a day.

Yoga is all about breathing. I’m apologizing to the purists right now for not mentioning the spiritual side of yoga, but I just haven’t gotten to that point yet. What yoga taught me was how to breathe properly and to move my body ONLY on directed inhales and exhales.

The coolest thing about yoga for me is feeling my muscles and outer regions getting much-needed oxygen. When your oxygen-deprived muscles get oxygen, they can actually stretch further. This was a slow yoga class with about five poses in it: downward dog, cobra, triangle, mountain pose, and slight backbend. That’s it. We held positions for interminable lengths of time (30 seconds) until my tired arms began to feel like bricks.

I hadn’t eaten much (tsk, tsk) and my hypoglycemia was kicking in, rendering me lightheaded by the time we settled into child’s pose at the end of the class. I was shaking a bit and needed food. Pronto. Some of my friends can actually eat right before a yoga class but I tend to cramp up if I do. I usually try to eat an hour and a half beforehand.

We grabbed a quick picnic lunch in the city’s center then drove home where I showered and sleep grabbed me by my tired arms and legs for an hour and a half.

Day Four–Day of Rest

Stay tuned for Day Five–Salsa Dancing.

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