Staying with my daughter means attending her boot camp. Three nights a week she and her friend conduct an hour of aerobics and weight training at alternating local parks. It is southern California, but it is not warm. The weather has been in the upper 40’s to very low 60’s over the past few weeks. It is dark by 7pm when class begins.
I have a lot of excuses I could use. My knees are sore, and my left shoulder is still weak from the injury last winter. The way I struggle down to the ground and back up is not a pretty sight. I have an IT band injury. I also have at least 20 years on everyone in the class, close to double that on many,
I refuse to use those excuses. However, I have learned over the past decade that i must honor my body, and possibly not push as much as I could. Maybe. The better part of valor is being able to get up in the morning and walk.
When I was here last spring, I could hardly run back and forth to the playground at the far end of the side of the road that marks one boundary of the park. I never made it all around the perimeter, although sometimes I could get almost half-way. This fall they had begun using a second park that has a quarter-mile track. Almost half of that is a dirt path, the other half is paved. The paved area is lit.
We start the evening with a warmup lap. In September I could not run more than half of it. There came a breakthrough night when I made it all the way. Then another when I could run the second lap as well. Some people opt for an alternative of three times around the basketball court, which is near the lights, instead of through the park in the dark.
We also use the court for different aerobic work. Shuffle, karaoke (grapevine if you are a Greek dancer), skip around the perimeter. Do suicides on the court. Dispersed among the assaults on our heart and lungs there are a variety of strengthening routines using free weights, kettle bells, fire hoses. There are a lot of lunges and squats and push ups, jump ropes, and squats. Lots of squats. Situps. Burpies. Did I mention squats?
Well over 20 people are registered through the Recreation Department. Attendance varies but least a dozen are there every night. If it rains, there is a room at the Rec. Center that can be used. Boot camp is rarely cancelled, and there are always diehards that come no matter what.
It is a diverse group. Many of the participants work together; some are related.There are more women than men, several couples, one proverbial family of father, mother, two kids, mothers and grown off-spring, young teenagers sent by their parents. Lots more children accompany their parents and hang out on the playground that is visible from our workout area. They know to stay together.
Occasionally, we work at our own pace through a list of drills, although most often we are directed as a unit. During some classes attendees are divided into two groups that do alternate activities during timed intervals. As music blares from the portable sound system, the gentle drill-instructor voices encourage movement.
There is something very special about working out outside. Nighttime makes it even more special. The air is crisp, and the intense exercise makes you breathe deeply. You feel cleansed inside. (Outside you can’t wait to get home and take a shower after lying on the ground or cement picnic tables.)
I don’t try to keep up with or judge myself against others. I do the best that I can do each time. Bodies change, and there are things that I cannot do as well as i did two years ago, but many that I can do better than I could when I first arrived. Last night, lying on my back on the ground, looking at myriad stars and a couple of planets as I drew the alphabet with my raised legs, I once again silently gave thanks that I am able to spend my time in this way. Life is good.