Last night’s workout was not posted on the whiteboard. Dave told us to get two kettlebells each and follow him out onto the astroturf, where kids play indoor soccer sometimes. (The gym is in a separate room and takes up only a tiny part of the huge hangar.) Not knowing what was in store made me a little nervous.
We did three sets of 10 thrusters with the kettlebells, mixed in with lots of equipment-free calisthenics. I used a lighter pair of kettlebells than I will when my shoulder is completely back to normal—I think these were 8 KG. In between sets of thrusters, we went back and forth with a lunge-walk (which got incredibly difficult after the first 40 feet or so), with a high skipping step (a sprint warm-up), and with a high-stepping run. Also mixed in were a few sets of burpees and a flexibility drill that went like this: lie down on your stomach, reach backwards, and grab your ankles. Pull them toward your shoulders, trying to bow your body into a rocking position, and rock back and forth. This was almost impossible for me to do, let alone get any kind of a rocking motion going. I remember doing that as a kid, though. I wish I could regain the back flexibility I had when I was 10 or so—it wasn’t extraordinary, but it was better than it is now.
After all these calisthenics, each of which was a surprise—Dave was coming up with them as we went along, I think—he had us do some sprints. We all raced each other across the astroturf and back. It was only 40 or 50 yards each way. The first sprint was fun. The second through sixth or eighth or however many we did seemed unbearable. Strangely, the awfulness wasn’t the sprinting itself, it was the 15 or so seconds of recovery in between, when I felt so spent that I didn’t think I could possibly do it again. Each time I was in total disbelief that he was going to tell us to sprint again, and then he did, and I wanted to find an excuse to quit. It seemed like just too much. I was breathing so hard that I felt like I couldn’t breathe fast enough, would never recover, and I had this tightness in my throat that made me wonder if I was going to throw up. And then it was time to sprint again.
After we finally stopped, though, and I’d fully recovered, I realized that the sprints had actually been really fun. It’s way more fun to just let loose and run as fast as I can—when I’m all warmed up—and really fly for a short distance, than it is to run around the building or the track. And it was fun to informally race with the other people. I felt fast and competent, and super-competitive, unlike when I run 400 yards and feel like I’ve been beaten with a meat tenderizer. I wonder why I coped with the sprints better than with the recovery moments in between. I didn’t feel the breathless misery while I was running, but when I stopped, especially knowing I’d have to start again so soon. Now, with 24 hours of hindsight, I feel I’d rather do that many sprints any time than do two or three runs around the building.
After the workout, I spent some time working on headstands. Someone suggested practicing those as an easier way to practice tightening the stomach, back, and legs to hold the balanced position for the handstand. When practicing a handstand, I can’t stay up long enough to fine-tune my posture and legs, so I was wondering how to make progress there. I think I’ll work on holding a long headstand and pay close attention to what works or doesn’t work with respect to the legs and core, and will wait a while to try to apply it to a handstand.
I experimented with jumping to grasp the pull-up bar and doing just a couple of slow pull-ups. I’m going really slow with trying dynamic shoulder movements like pull-ups or thrusters, or jumping to grasp the bar, because that’s the one remaining thing that causes the shoulder twinge.
A friend and I worked on our ring dips for a few minutes (because that was all we could manage). The rings are at chest height. To do a dip, I stand directly between the rings, grasp them, jump, press my shoulders down, and lock my arms, to support myself on the rings and hold them steady. Just being able to do that has taken several weeks of practice. When I jump, I have to feel a total sense of commitment to locking my arms and staying up there, or I’ll collapse down. I can now do that reliably. So then I slowly, shakily let myself down—not very deep at this point—keeping my shoulders pressed (not shrugging) while bending my elbows. When I feel I can’t go any deeper without collapsing, I try to push all the way back up and lock my arms again. If I’m doing well, I can do that three times, usually with the second one being the deepest. It feels great to be able to do that. I think that so far, it reflects a skill I’ve learned (holding the rings steady enough to control my own movement), not a great increase in strength.

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