December 30, 2007

Ups and Downwards...

I had planned on writing this celebratory post about how awesome my day of skiing was - and in particular how well I did physically - but first let me tell you about how I much pain I'm in just now. An ass-full. Because so damn proud of myself and my fitness, brimming with confidence, I decided to take a yoga class today...

Big mistake.

I fucking hate yoga.

When I was in college and training karate regularly I was very flexible, at least relative to Dan. I've never been particularly limber even at my best, being built much more like a pack animal than a cheetah, but karate helped me to achieve whatever levels of flexibility were available to me and I'm constantly amazed these years later at the ways I was once able to bend and stretch which are now completely inaccessible to me. So every year or so I get this idea to take up yoga, sucked into their marketing on the whole "strong and healthy and limber" angle.

And it doesn't help that a whole slew of friends of mine love yoga, swear by it, and many are instructors. Since many of them are also women, I'm inclined to listen to whatever they say I should do, in the way that a child sitting on Santa's lap eagerly agrees to comply with whatever is said which may result in them getting what they want for Christmas. "You're pretty and think I should take yoga? OK!"

Though what I really want is a stretching and flexibility class, since those don't seem to exist anywhere for public consumption, this morning I packed up my yoga mat (2 years old yet never used) and headed to a local studio. I'm still an absolute beginner despite this being my fifth or sixth yoga class over the past five or six years, because they just never seem to take. This time I committed right from the start - I signed up for the beginner's 3 classes in 3 weeks dealie, and jumped right into my first session this afternoon.

The instructor was quite good I'm sure, and she was patient and pleasant and all, (and limber and totally cute - which helps) but I still couldn't find myself getting into it. When I'm in the gym, and feeling good, warmed up, and in that workout zone - I like it. Really like it. I revel in my own strength, in the movement of my body, in the weights I can press and the engineering involved, the physics of the physical. So I wonder if my lack of enjoyment of yoga comes from my inexperience, beginner's inflexibility, or really just hating yoga - in theory not just in practice. It's a good workout, no doubt, and it takes a lot of poise, strength, and effort, but my body just doesn't seem to like it. When I was heavier I assumed I needed a yoga for fat people class, but even now a thinner Dan still has trouble breathing in the poses, the room is uncomfortably warm, my body doesn't want any part of it. And I don't want to bow to you and say "Namaste" for the same reason I don't suddenly forgo a fork and eat with chopsticks when I'm in a Chinese restaurant. And frankly, as much as I love dogs, that downward dog pisses me off too.

There's no doubt it's effective; here it is several hours later and I'm watching football, wiping crumbs off my chin, and hurting. My legs are sore, my back tight...ow. Fucking ow. Fucking yoga and fucking downward dog. Believe me I'm not averse to exercise pain. I like a good sore, I crave that feeling of accomplishment that comes from pushing your body. But the practice itself - and the fact that it's a practice, and not merely a workout - is what turns me off. So, two more classes to go, if I don't like it more by then, I'll call it quits (until next January, I suppose...)

Yet on the other end of the spectrum, Christmas Day I went skiing as I am wont to do each year. It's a tradition for me that began in 1997, and I've only missed one or two since then. This year I was up and at 'em early, my alarm ringing at 5:00am and my chosen butt out the door and on my way by 5:20. In the wee smalls I met up with Adam, Eric, and Jay for our three hour drive up to Okemo and our first tracks of the year; just four more Jews amongst the thousands of dentists and accountants who enjoy a Joyous Noelle of skiing.

The first run of the season is often tough as your legs are out of ski-shape and it's challenging to prep for downhill skiing as the kind of resistance training that you need to do isn't easy to recreate in a gym. Generally you just hope for the best, and accept that it's gonna hurt. Additionally, skiing for me for the past few years has been difficult because my body just didn't want to hold up for a whole day of effort. My quads would give out sometimes as early as 1:00pm, never making it to the 4:00pm last run down the mountain. I'd spend much of the afternoon doing short hops with frequent breaks to rest, and even at my best my legs were often burning by lunchtime. This year, as we drove up through Massachusetts and Vermont, I was eager to see how I'd do having not only lost the weight, but also having spent so much time in the gym over the past year.

First pleasant surprise of the morning: my gear fit better. First unpleasant surprise: I now need a belt for my ski pants. Which, truth be told, was initially a pleasant surprise until I had trouble keeping my pants up as we walked to the lift. Jay was the best skier of the group, and Okemo was a familiar mountain for him, so he planned the runs all day and Adam, Eric, and I followed. After an initial intermediate blue trail or two to warm up, we started moving into the more advanced terrain, which not only provided more challenge but also removed us from so many of the undesirables on the mountain; those newbie skiers and snowboarders who are always much more dangerous to others than they are to themselves.

By our third run, I was feeling great. My legs weren't tiring at all, we were keeping to a good pace, and were all able to stay together. Lunch, which from habit I knew came just about the time I was beginning to feel the pinch of leg muscle pain, surprised me because I was feeling so good when Jay called a break. We had been skiing black diamonds and high blues for nearly three hours, and I was still raring to go.

My favorite moment of the day came around 2:00pm when I came around a bend to find Jay paused, waiting for us, leaning over his skis and resting his weight on his poles. From long experience I knew that stance - taking the weight off your legs to rest them. Me, I hadn't yet even felt a glimmer of muscle fatigue, and here our best skier was starting to wind down. By 3:30, Eric was also feeling spent, and Adam was taking shorter hops between rests as well.

It was such an extraordinary experience to be the person in the best shape for some activity. I was feeling so good that though we were finishing up, when Adam spontaneously burst out with "one more run" I joined him. Now, you should know, a cardinal rule of skiing is that you never, ever, under any circumstances, succumb to the siren-song of "one more run." It is always that last run, the greedy run, that does you in. Always. It's expected on the mountain that doubtless someone will shout for one more run, and it's the duty of everyone nearby - even strangers - to remind them that under no circumstances do you ever, ever, take one last run.

Of course it wasn't until Adam and I were back on the lift that I realized the extreme danger that my over-zealousness had just placed me in, and I began to wonder what it would be - a broken leg? Torn ACL? Hitting a tree? I was doomed, I just didn't yet know how. I couldn't believe I was so stupid! What a rookie mistake. One more run indeed... Well, I'll have plenty of time to regret my impulsiveness from the hospital bed, no doubt... Jay and Eric were on their way down to base, and Adam and I would never be seen again.

Due to my diligence, caution, and I'll assume an easily distracted fate who was looking another way that afternoon, Adam and I did indeed both make it down without incident. I took it slow and steady, and we reached base at 4:00pm on the dot, where it occurred to me that not only had I skied the whole day but I did so without pain and muscle fatigue and more importantly - with a smile on my face and plenty of gas left in my tank for more. The weather was so-so, the mountain wasn't my favorite, the snow was mediocre at best, but it was my best day of skiing in years.

Going again this week, if anyone wants to come (and you can keep up!)

Happy New Year everyone -


At 10:37 PM, Blogger ad7am said...

Damn right I wanna go again this week! Let me just ask the boss.
Awright, gimme a couple days to convince her. She'll come around.
And hey, I thought the mountain and the snow -- for New England -- wasn't half bad.
PS- Newsflash: Eric thinks he cracked a rib. Musta been from snowplowing Jay. Idjit.

At 3:56 PM, Anonymous Elise said...

Glad you're having fun. Happy New year.


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