I’m In Over My Head

on July 11, 2009 in Misc

My thighs won’t stop hurting.

Oh God, they just won’t stop hurting!

You know when you’ve done some really strenuous exercise or tough physical work that make your quads kind of burn?  Well, take that burn, ramp it up a thousand degrees, and make your calves as weak as watery jelly so that just walking hurts so freaking bad all you can do is lie on your sofa and whimper.

That’s me after my first parkour class.

I had it yesterday.  Two agonizing hours.  A hot July day.  The gym has no air-conditioning.  Contrary to my expectations, there are no other females in the class, but what really makes me stick out like a big red pimple is the fact that I am far and away the oldest person in the class.  Old as in I could be the mother of my fellow students and teacher.

Then there’s the nonexistent fat.  There are six guy students and me and I swear to God I’ve got more fat in one butt cheek than all of them put together.  The older ones (as in twenty-something) have lean bodies and sculpted muscles, while the teenagers seem more gangly than strong.  But looks can be deceiving. One kid was just standing there when he suddenly popped off a back flip.

Shit.  I am so in over my head.

But the amazing fact is — the glorious, fantastic, and to me truly inconceivable fact is:  I kept up with those guys!

Yes, I’m paying for it now.  I’m paying for it in buckets and spades and gobs of ibuprofen, but damn it all I hung in there and didn’t wimp out once.  And everyone treated me as if I were one of the gang.  I really am proud of myself.

Then again, it stung my pride to be slammed flat up against my limitations.  I thought I was slim and in reasonably good shape?  Reality bites.

For this first class, the instructor and gym co-founder Matt (perfect body, is available for stunt work in movies) began by measuring each student’s abilities.  My broad jump sucked.  Chin-ups were done with hands facing outwards because in the real world where parkour is done (and in thriller novels like The Compass Master) that’s the only way to pull yourself up over edges of buildings/walls/fences.  The guys knocked off multiple sets.  I couldn’t do a single blasted chin-up.

“Not one?” Matt’s assistant asked is surprise.  Ouch.  Layla can do a dozen.

But I made up for it with lots of sit-ups and push-ups, and Matt pronounced my squats as “perfect.”  Of course my swelling self-respect came crashing down during the two hundred million shoulder rolls we had to execute.  After one of my less successful efforts Matt muttered, “That was just silly.”

Anyway, it was the quadrupedal exercises that did in my quads.  That means butt down, chest and head up while moving around on flat hands and feet like a drunken chimp, whether in the quadrupedal/chimp gallop with a hands-feet-hands-feet swing or the more muscle-crunching walking.  You try doing that when proportionally your legs are twice as long as a chimp’s and your hips are built for you to walk upright like a normal human.

Hence there we were, trying to scamper about like Cheetah in an old Tarzan movie, alternately moving fast and slow, forward, backwards and sideways, then mixing it up with broad jumps, sprints and shoulder rolls.  Oh gosh darn, could I have more fun while suffering from screaming thigh pain and with sweat running down my body?

I was scrambling about on the floor, wheezing and panting, when a question popped into my increasingly dizzy brain:  why on earth would Layla Daltry do any of this crap?  Have I made a big mistake signing up for this wretchedly tough class?

Just as I was ready to throw in my sweat-drenched T-shirt, Matt casually remarked, “This is a great way to move in the dark across unknown terrain.”

Come again?

“This is also a great way to move down a steep slope,” he added, and later talked about how we must learn how to jump and land silently, and how we must move as if there were no barriers to stop us.

Well, in my novel I have Layla spidering down drainpipes and silently moving across roofs and climbing up buildings, always at night and usually across unknown spaces.  Hence — damn it all! — parkour is probably the kind of sport Layla can perform like a dream (except maybe not the flips).  And that means I’ve got to do it.

Nine more classes to go.

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