Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Oh sprints, how I loathe thee. Let me count the ways.

Here's a surefire way to have your personal trainer make you do something you hate: tell her beforehand that you hate doing it.

This was the conversation I was having with Lynne, my trainer and friend who sufficiently kicks my butt every Monday at 6am. I'm not sure who brought it up first, but when she said very matter-of-factly a few weeks ago, "Cindy, sprints will absolutely improve your running," I remember a brow-furrowing shake of the head, followed by a "yeah, right!" and a "no way!" followed by a gagging sound while I fake-put my finger down my throat.

Why I did this, I am not sure. Because I was still in the brow-furrowing part of this display when I realized Lynne would use the revelation (and I am usually such a poker face, dammit!) for evil, not good.

Alas, halfway into my session last Monday, when I thought perhaps she had forgotten my mini-tantrum a week earlier, she cheerily skipped over to the treadmills, throwing over her shoulder, "OK! It's time! Let's do this!"

Who skips at 6:30 in the morning?

Let me just say, I am game for anything Lynne throws at me. I love a challenge and have been known to show my mean competitive streak from time to time. So when she looked at me sympathetically and said "now, you can hold on to the handles at any time if it gets to be too much," I knew there would be no holding on. Even if I rolled off the back of that puppy, slammed my head into the wall behind me and took down three other Equinox members in the process, it would not be due to me holding on. Because there would be no holding on. That would be embarrassing.

Not more embarrassing, however, than grunting and shrieking at the top of your lungs while you try to keep up at 9MPH. Didn't expect that.

I became "that person" at the gym for the last 15 seconds of my 2-minute interval. Lungs couldn't quite keep the pace, so I grasped for air and screamed like a chick in the process. People stared. People who had their IPods on. I was that loud.

But I made it through three sets that first day and when Lynne looked at me excitedly this past Monday and said, "OK! You know what time it is!" I didn't vomit right in front of both of us in a show of anxious anticipation. It was - surprisingly - easier than the week before. And no shrieking, which the dude hauling ass next to me totally owes me props for. He would have silently cursed me as my outburst threw him way off off his pace.

Now, I bring up the sprints for good reason. As much as I dread them, I have just witnessed what they can do. At last night's TNT group practice, we were tested on a one mile run. One mile, as fast as we can without totally dropping. Recover for a half-mile, then do it again. Three times. Then average our pace. It's a test because for the next seven weeks we're doing hill work for strengthening, and then we'll do the one mile thing again to see the improvement in our time.

I ran with my running buddy, Elkin, and Barbara, another TNTer. The three of us confidently put ourselves into the 8 minute mile group. I talked myself down, saying if I could come in between 8:30 and 9:00 each time, I'd be happy. Much to my surprise, the three of us really pushed each other and the times were impressive: 7:15, 7:35 and 7:22. I was tired after those miles and probably couldn't have gone much more at that pace ... but we all finished strong and actually improved on the last one. Analyzing each quarter mile, I can honestly say that the sprints helped me consistently maintain speed and pay attention to my breathing.

So my trainer was 100 percent right.

But for the record, Lynne, I totally do NOT hate walking lunges.

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