Crazy Strength Training with Charlene

My friend Charlene is a powerhouse.  She’s pretty, petite, slender, and in excellent shape, able to do five pull-ups while barely breaking a sweat.  She’s the friend who took me to Body Combat.  She’s a friend who is really good at sharing, too.  She and her husband have been doing the P90X series for about a year, incorporating it into their regular workout schedules, along with down-hill and cross-country skiing, fitness classes and cycling.  They keep an extensive set of free weights at home; I asked if I might join her for strength training last week. I thought it would be fun to work out together, and I was itching to have the chance to use heavier free weights to see how I would do.  Not so itchy as to join a gym, maybe though, to see if I should invest in heavier free weights myself.  Giving me her biggest smile, she invited me to join her whenever I wanted.  We decided on Tuesday morning, after my run and after she dropped her daughter off at school.

We lifted free weights and combined that with low body strength, executing multiple sets of squats with rowing, then sets of lunges with curls.  I usually work out with 15 lb. weights, and do drop sets with 15s to 12s.  Standing in the bright sunshine of her husband’s office, looking out at the ocean with loud pop music pumping from his computer speakers, I used 25 lb. free weights for rowing squats, 20 lb. weights for curls, overhead press and lunges, 25s for triceps kickbacks, and 25 to 20 lb. drop sets for chest presses.  We did triceps push-ups.  (Charlene did about 20 full body tri-push-ups in a row.  I did about 15 “girl” ones.)  We did regular push-ups.  (Charlene did 30.  I did 20.  My last 5 were weak.)  She demonstrated a one-armed push-up!  We did front raises with the 20 lb. weights while doing an isometric Plié squat.  I had started off feeling cold, but by the time we had finished out sets, I was down to my capri pants and tank, dripping with sweat.  I looked at my pile of discarded fleece and sweats on the floor and grinned.  My friend turned to me.

“How about we go downstairs?  I usually do the Ab Ripper after this.”

I thought she meant a video she and I both shared.  It’s a Pilates video, not too bad, the Ab Ripper segment is about 10 minutes long and I can do it, no problem.

“Sure.  I need some more water first, though.”

We bounced down the stairs and into the kitchen, refilled our glasses, and went into the living room.  We laid out yoga mats on top of the rug, and Charlene fiddled with the television and X-Box until the video came up.

“Is this from the P90X series?”

“Yeah, but it’s only 20 minutes.  Plus, there’s a couple of things I skip, so it’s only about 15 minutes long.”

I stretched out on my mat and waited.

I am a trainer.  I know the upper quads are considered part of the core, but this was ridiculous!  The first three exercises just about wiped me out.  My quads were screaming as I tried to execute “Crunchy Frog” (you really don’t want to know) but then we moved onto a couple of exercises that focused more on the abs.  I was keeping up pretty well until the P90X guy, Tony, had us roll onto our hips.  It was a side sit-up, wherein you perch on the side of your glutes, raise your legs up to a low V, then, with your fingers linked behind your head, you crunch your elbow on the same side down to your knee.  I could feel my sit bones grinding into the floor right through the yoga mat and the rug beneath me.  We switched sides after 25 reps. (Okay.  Charlene did 25 reps.  I did about 8 before giving up.  I did try the other side but the pain was too much.  I stopped.)

I was able to do most of the rest of the video with some serious effort. My favorite was leg climbing, where you lie back, raise one leg straight in the air, keep the other flat on the floor, then use your hands to “climb” the raised leg all the way to the foot.  25 reps on one side, then 25 on the other.  Charlene finished it up like it was a piece of chocolate cake.  She popped up off the floor and offered me a cup of coffee.  I rolled over onto my side and groaned as I accepted her offer, asking if she was willing to repeat this with me next week.  She said yes, of course.

What I learned:

My fitness rule ‘challenge yourself’ is a really good rule.

I am a strong runner.

I could be stronger.

I need to buy heavier free weights!

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