It’s a lift


That’s my new name for Mike, the fitness trainer at the gym.

Yes, the gym. My gym. That sounds so weird to me: My gym. Why? Because I have never really been into exercise, particularly since passing my 45th birthday and facing the grim fact that cute little gym/workout clothes won’t work out on my unfit, queen-size body. So it’s sort of … odd. My gym.

But back to Killer. I mean, Mike. I’ve gone to the gym each day (except Saturday) since last Tuesday and have become, to my mild surprise, an expert at setting the recumbent bike to my legs and entering the program I want to pedal. Or is that spin? I spend 20 minutes on that thing, legs pumping out Level 2, keeping my heart rate around 135, and then move on to the weight machines. I can change the weights and seat settings on each of those, too. What’s cool: I’m now lifting twice as much weight as I was the first three days, and doing twice as many reps.

I’m doing this because Killer wants me to hurt. Not a lot, mind you, but he wants me to hurt a little doing the exercises. He wants me to walk out tired but strong, and within a day or so of doing all those exercises, feel each and every muscle in my body, the “good” hurt, as he calls it. Not too much. Just enough to know you worked out.

And until today, he wasn’t successful.  My muscles didn’t really hurt. I’d walk into the gym and he’d say, with a grin, “How’re you feeling?” And I’d say “Just fine” and he’d get this quizzical look on his face, a sort of surprise mixed with disbelief. I certainly don’t look like I’m in any sort of shape. I don’t look very strong.  But I was telling him the truth.

Yeah, I was surprised, too. In the past when I’ve started exercising suddenly, I paid for it with sore muscles a couple of days later. But riding the bike and working out on the machines wasn’t causing me any discomfort.

So what happened today? Why call “Mike” “Killer?”

Well, I’ll tell you. Tp my surprise, my legs started burning right away on the recumbent  bike this morning. I kept on, working through it, but was very relieved when the beeper said my twenty minutes were over. I trudged… yes, trudged—to the weight machine area and started my 20-repetition set, one for each machine.  Mike wandered over, studied me for a moment and gave me some tips on form as I was working my shoulders. When I finished, he suggested that I rest for 30 seconds and then try another 20.

He didn’t actually say “dare ya,” but I heard it anyway. “Sure,” I said. Now, I’d increased the amount of weight I was lifting way back on Sunday, and even that hadn’t really strained me. I started the next 20. Got to 10 and… um… ow. There’s that burny feeling again. Oh, well. Just 10 more… um… five more. Jeezly crow! I managed the last five but it was close.

Of course, I wasn’t going to let it show. I moved to the next machine. Mike gave me that gently wicked grin of his. “Do two sets of 20 on this one, too. Oh, hey. You know what? Just do two sets on all of them.”

So I did.

When I finished and was dragging myself over to the cubby where I’d stowed my purse, he called me over to a tall, steel frame thingy. He hung handgrips off a pulley connected to weights. “Time to add some new ones,” he said. “We gotta make you hurt.” He showed me how to pull the handgrips down to my hips, lifting the weights as I pulled. He showed me how the down, up, down, up should go and let the handgrips rise back to their original position well above my head.

“It’s all yours,” he grinned.

I looked at the dangling hand grips, reached up, grabbed them and pulled down, expecting serious resistance. But no, it was easy. I did five or six.

“How’s that?” Mike asked.

“Fine,” I said, my confidence flooding back. Down, up, down up. “Easy.”

“Let’s add a little more weight, then.”

Again, he didn’t say “dare ya.” But I heard it. So I let him add 10 more pounds to make a total of 30. By repetition No . 9 I wanted to crumble, but I didn’t. I kept on … and on … and finally I made it through the taffy-like down-up-down-up seconds to 20 reps. The last five I moaned through, but I did it.

Killer had the grace not to suggest a second set. Trying to remain dignified as my muscles trembled and with stumbly feet, I made it to my car and sort of flopped myself into it. Lifting my hands to the steering wheel worked muscles in my arms and shoulders I didn’t know I had. It took far more effort than I usually put into it. I drove back to mom’s place, braved the stairs to the bathroom and took a hot shower.

As I ate my breakast yogurt and toast and sipped my coffee, I marveled at how tired I felt. It took a week, but the gym finally got to me.

By three this afternoon, while preparing dinner for my aunt and uncle at their house, I started hurting. Not from RA. Not bursitis. No, it was that crazy, fine muscle pain you get from pushing your muscles to do a lot more than they’re accustomed to for longer than a few moments. I was hurting all over.

It’s late now. My body is still yelling at me. I feel weak as a kitten tonight but oddly good, too. There’s a part of me that’s groaning over my self-inflicted pain, and a much bigger part whooping over the fact that I can do this sort of exercise without triggering a bad flare of RA or hip bursitis. That’s not to say that it won’t ever happen. But until it does (if it does), I’ll just keep on counting to 20. Twice. And I’ll keep on doing it every day except Sunday. It’s worth it for the sake of my joints and my bones and my overall health, after all.

“Killer” will be pleased.

6 thoughts on “It’s a lift

  1. I have been so tempted to plunge into a workout routine but I have alot of permanent joint damage everywhere. How in the world did he assess what was OK for you to do with your particular problems? I am just curious as i worry that if I tear a tendon that is already messed up it will cost me thousands out of pocket for a surgery that I would much rather avoid. And I do exercise. I do walking and started yoga but have been wanting to add weight or resistance training to this regime. I do mine at home as you probably know by now, I am without car 😦 Hoping that won’t be forever as we miss little blue our vehicle and we are hoping she can rehab and return home.


    • Hi, Deb–I told Mike when I first inquired about the programs, prices etc at the gym that I have RA, bursitis and osteoporosis, and that I wanted to do resistance training as a way to strengthen my muscles and rebuild bone density. I also told him that because of the RA, in particular, I might not always be able to do all of the exercises. So he started me out at the bare minimum weights and resistance on the bike, and said that he could help me modify things as necessary. While “making me hurt” is a goal, he constantly stresses using caution and not overdoing to the point of injury. Nothing I’ve done so far has hurt me beyond sore muscles, and even that only ticked up on the pain scale a few points for the first time yesterday (and today).
      Believe me, I’m being cautious. Like you, I’d prefer NO injuries on my path to a stronger me. I did also discuss my plan to try this with my rheumatologist last time I saw him. He approved it, though he said to use care and that I shouldn’t work a joint that was flaring. I absolutely agree with that, and in fact, I can hardly imagine trying to, the pain of a flare is so intense. He also suggested I check into water exercise in a therapy pool, where the water is very warm to accomodate those of us with RA and other issues. I did look into it. The nearest therapy pool is more than 40 miles from Mom’s place and more than 60 from my own home. It just isn’t practical.
      Thanks for your concern. I share it. 🙂


  2. wendy at rusted runner had a post about why she runs…she was much more eloquent but the gist was that this was a hurt she could control. made perfect sense to me!! glad you are finding this fun and empowering! i firmly believe exercise and weight training have changed me and the course of my RA…my outlook especially. not that it’s not still bad some days, but when your muscles are strong, the joints are more protected.


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