I was at the gym earlier this week with my trainer (who is excellent and skilled and kind and lovely). We were in the midst of some squats with the bar and some (light — don’t be too impressed) weights and she asked me if I thought the workout was harder than the previous week. Immediately I thought I was slacking and that’s why she had asked me. But she said that she had increased the weights and wanted to know if I had noticed. I hadn’t.
Hot damn, I thought. I’m getting stronger and I didn’t even know it. It’s amazing how fast it’s happening. Two months ago I remember doing a workout with her. I looked in the mirror. I was bald and wearing nothing on my head because it got hot in the gym and by that time I really didn’t give a shit. That I had no eyebrows or eyelashes didn’t enhance my look, although I had drawn some eyebrows on with pencil. Anyhow, I spotted my reflection and the person (or should I say freak? — read my last post if you don’t get it) looking back at me was somebody else. Somebody pale and skinny who didn’t look strong. Ew, I thought. No like. Naturally, owing to my honey badger tendencies, I ignored the weak-ass spectre in the mirror and kept working out. It’s only temporary, babe, as my friend Susan Plum always put it.
I looked at myself during my workout this Monday. Night and day. I may have extremely short and ashy hair but it’s thick and it’s mine. The eyebrows and eyelashes have completely grown in. Sometimes I even leave the house without any make-up on, which is something I didn’t do for months. Although admittedly most days I lavish every single top eyelash with mascara because I am so damn happy to have lashes again that this ritual has taken on new significance.
Back to the gym. It’s Wednesday. Time for another training session. I spot a man doing suspended leg raises, you know the kind where you hang from a thing with your arms on pads and bring your legs up at a 90 degree angle to get a really good ab crunch. “Good Lord,” I thought. No way I could do that. About thirty minutes later, however, that’s exactly what I was doing, but only because I am a good soldier who follows orders. It made me feel pretty badass.
The best thing was when my trainer told me that some gym buddy of hers had said “you know that lady you were training? She is really strong.” And then she told him about all the bull shit I had been through and his response was “you’re fucking kidding me.” She promises me that she didn’t make this story up but even if she did it totally worked because I felt very motivated. And did I mention badass? She told another one of her clients about me, a doctor, whose response was “poor girl.” She just looked at him and said “she is not a poor girl.”
I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t mind peeling off my long-sleeved shirt once it starts getting too hot because then I can watch my muscles. It’s just so damn nice to have some again because the chemo makes you atrophy like the deuce. Nasty shit that it is.
The curve is steeper than I figured it would be, which is a nice surprise. I’m literally stronger every week. I can open heavy doors that I struggled with a month ago. Fold down those jump seats on the tube without that telltale twinge in my pecks. Lift each of my children up above my head until my arms are straight.
So do me a favour won’t you? Don’t tell me to be careful or to take it easy. And don’t ask if my trainer is specially qualified to train “someone like me.” I know what I’m doing and I am not going to hurt myself. I am not, however, going to take it easy. I am going to do workouts that are hard and that make me feel tired by the end of the day. I am going to do the last repetition because she is standing there telling me to do it even when I start to shake. I’m going to get my ass kicked at the gym and then the next day I am going to enjoy the burn of that lactic acid build-up. Because that’s how I like it.
I don’t want to feel special and I don’t want a special assessment. I don’t want to be strong “for a person who just went through surgery, chemo and radiation.” I just want to be strong, period.
No more weak-ass shit.