Thursday, December 14, 2006

I Am Not Jack Bauer, Nor Was Meant to Be

I hated gym class when I was a kid. For most of my elementary-school career I had Ms. Sheilds as my gym and health teacher and she was a heinous bitch. I don't think I had quite the vocabulary then as I do now, but I certainly would have used that phrase if I knew it. She never failed to make me feel like a pain in her ass, whether it was yelling at me for taking the time to inform her that a dog had run into our classroom and that's why all the kids were hyped up, or gleefully calling "OUT! Against the wall, Amy D." when I was the first one hit in dodgeball. For the rest of my school career, I hated gym. (Unless it was walleyball in high school. That was fun.)

Now I shell out $73 a month to get the same exercise the state used to pay for. Generally, I avoid the group cardio classes. First of all, I'm monstrously uncoordinated and fear I will kick a little skinny person in the head. But the main reason is that I still have that horrible paranoia that the instructor will scream at me for skipping a kick or having poor form. Last night, however, I took a class at my gym that sounded too good to pass up.

I'd planned to go with a coworker, but she called me from an outside line yesterday morning to tell me that she'd "had a little too much fun" at the work party the night before and hadn't come into work, where all her gym clothes were, so she'd have to skip the class. I debated skipping it myself, but decided I can't let Ms. Sheilds, heinous bitch extrodinare, scare me from beyond the millennium. I walked to the gym, signed a paper that said I wouldn't sue if I hurt myself, and got on my knee and elbow pads for the Action Hero class.

An Action Hero class is pretty much what it sounds like. The twisted minds of personal trainers come up with fun ways for you to torture your old adult body. In the middle of the room there were steps raised up to waist-high. There was also a network of stings on pylons to replicate Catherine Zeta-Jones' slither under laser beams in whatever movie that was.

We started out with some relatively easy stretching, then got into the hard stuff. Bouncing on our feet, we started pretending to punch a bad guy. Then we used the other arm. Then we had to take a hit and kneel on one knee. Then we had to punch, take a hit, fall to one knee, then roll and get back up. It was fun, but it certainly wasn't easy. I was already bright pink and sweaty. Most of the kickboxing regulars looked unphased.

We then did squats with one of those weighted bars. I was not ready for that. Luckily, I didn't end up whacking somebody with the body bar, but I did feel every muscle in my thighs tear at once. I didn't think I'd be able to go on after the squats mercifully ended, but the instructors dragged out a crash pad, so I couldn't stop then. We had to crawl across some "rocks," crawl like Zeta-Jones under the string, then we got to run into a big rubber band and get snapped back into a padded wall. I could have done without the crawling, but the rubber band was fun.

Then we had to get a partner and "save" them from a burning building by pulling them along the floor on a cloth shower curtain. My partner pulled me so quickly across the floor that we both ended up slamming into a wall, and I practiced putting my sneaker on the floor to avoid another crash. My partner got a much slower ride as my thighs still hurt from the squats, but she was wee and skinny and easy to pull.

Then the instructor went over to a rope dangling from the ceiling.

"Oh no," said a woman next to me, "not the rope climb! I was horrible at that in school."

I was glad I wasn't the only one still reeling from the psychological horror of gym classes that happened nearly twenty years ago. Thankfully, we didn't need to climb the rope. We got to jump onto a platform, then grab the rope and swing over the crash pad. That was pretty awesome. We also pretended to have our legs bitten off by alligators, and pulled ourselves between risers by our arms. That was tricky. To end the class, we jumped off a small trampoline and onto the crash pad to do a shoulder roll.

We cooled down, and I went to the locker room to grab my bag. I foolishly started up the stairs to leave the gym, and felt my legs muscles preparing to separate from the bone due to overuse. I slowly limped down Newbury Street to find dinner, and limped quickly home afterward to sit the hell down. My career as an action hero is apparently over before it ever really began, because I'm still limping around today, even with the help of some Advil. I will never, ever make fun of Kiefer Sutherland again, because he is bad-ass. You can be a pirate all you want, Jack Bauer.

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