‘Your ass has definitely perked up,’ commented my delightful young trainer–from now on I will call her DYT–as she aimed a camera at my backside. I was standing against the wall of the small consultation room at the gym. It was a little cold in my bare feet and pink 1950s rhinestone incrusted bikini. You know the one. I am wearing it as I relax on the beach…just look to the right. Today, however, I was standing up and trying to flare my lats instead of lying down and sucking in my gut. By the way, if you have tips for learning how to expand one’s lats without hunching forward like quasimodo, I would be pleased to hear them. I cannot yet perform this motion, necessary for the figure stage. Everytime I try it I look like I am going to clamber up a bell tower and start swinging around while rubbing the giant warts on my chin.
I was very pleased to hear that my ass had perked up. Sometimes I crane my neck and try to see what is going on back there but it is difficult to view the full monty. Luckily I can consult the photos that DYT is taking every six weeks or so. When we compared my initial pictures with the new ones, we noticed improvement. Though I have gained 10 pounds, it must mostly be muscle because I look a little leaner and my back is definitely bigger. My legs are better too, especially my quads. I cannot discern these changes when I look down at my legs or scrutinize myself in the full-length mirror in my office. The transformations become visible only in photographs. My new body exists primarily in pictures, so it is other, not me. It also emerges temporarily in the eyes of other people. For example, today a lovely and highly intelligent young man at the gym guessed that I was about 31 years old. I was pretty pleased about that. I know that I am supposed to embrace ageing and the eye bags that come with it, quoting Judith Butler while denouncing the exploitative beauty industry or some such thing, but all I can say is ‘fuck that!’
Oh yes, I am back and I am swearing more than ever. I have to blame DYT for that. She kindly replaced the tired 1990s Nirvana, Pixies, and P J Harvey songs on my ipod with selections from her own digital collection. Now I mostly listen to heavy metal tunes with such titles as ‘stink finger,’ ‘pussy lunch,’ and ‘kneel before my monkey balls you man-whore!’ While doing hack squats on Sunday–really heavy ass to ankles–DYT selected a song to inspire me. The lyrics accompanying the chunky guitar riffs went something like this ‘fuck fuck fuck you fucking mother fucker!’ Happily, the song worked wonders, getting me really pissed off so that I could complete two more sets of 15 squats.
Warning: a time lapse of approximately 18 hours has occurred and I am going to stop musing about my perky ass and write about the water torture I have just endured. It all started when I decided to have my BMI tested accurately at the lab on campus. After booking the appointment about a month ago, I received e-mail instructions telling me to bring both a bathing suit and work out gear. Oh, I thought, they are going to weigh me in a bath tub or some such thing. In hindsight, that was rather naive of me. When I arrived at the lab today, the young lady consultant took me down into the bowels of the dated gymnasium area. That is when I first saw the small, narrow and deep pool, equipped with a metal chair held up with a pulley mechanism. Oh shit! I almost started to panic right then. In an earlier blog I claimed that standing on transparent surfaces was my one and only phobia (see ‘What Happened in Las Vegas #4: Facing Fears’). I lied. I am also somewhat claustrophobic. Well, maybe more than somewhat. I watched the television with horror, for example, when I saw the narrow pods used to enclose those Chilean miners being pulled out of the earth. They would have had to knock me unconscious before putting me in that thing, even if I had just spent months underground eating protein bars with smelly men.
After sitting myself in the chair, the consultant put a weight belt of about fifty pounds on my lap. Flashes of the Sopranos ran through my mind. ‘Not in the face, Tony. Not in the face.’ Then I was told to blow out all of my breath, every last bit of it, and give the thumbs up to the small woman holding the rope. She would then lower me into the water until I was entirely submerged, where I would remain for about 10 seconds without moving, while she measured the displaced water. Sounds easy right? Fucking wrong! The first two times I freaked out as soon as the water covered my nose and she had to yank me back out. The third time I made it all the way under, but then started waving my arms madly and trying to jump out of the chair, despite the Dexter body bag weights that were holding me down.
I was terrified. I was shaking. I was not going to give up. So she submerged me two more times but said the readings were too high because I was taking a small breath right before going under. That was true. Unfortunately, my body had some kind of uncontrollable will to live. How annoying for science. Finally, the consultant suggested an alternative method, which was for me to take a small breath before being submerged while counting slowly to 15, and then to blow all my breath into a measuring instrument–kind of like a breathalyser–immediately upon surfacing. So we did that about five more times. I was terrified. I was shaking. But it was finally over. The computer was utilized; the calculator was punched. The announcement was made: I officially had 16.2% body fat. I was ecstatic.
Then we went even further beneath the old gym, into a room called ‘the dungeon,’ to test my strength while doing bench and leg presses. I was much more comfortable in that setting, loading up the machines, heavier and heavier. I pressed 115 pounds three times on my fifth set of chest, and leg pressed 320. To summarize: I am in the 95th percentile in terms of body fat for my age, and in the 100th for strength. I think that means that I am stronger than every single other 43-year-old woman in the world. I am also stronger than the average 20-year-old man. Fucking fuck yeah mother fucker! DYT will be so proud.