Eight Minutes.. (by Dana McMahan)

Squat with bar (no added weight ... yet)

How long is eight minutes? That depends on what you’re doing. I would have thought it sounded melodramatic to say my legs were buckling eight minutes after I was just fine, thank you, following my pull-ups (more on that in a minute). That was before I met the “prowler.”

This torture device is evidently designed to simulate running through rapidly drying concrete. I met it when Ben and I stepped outside the gym onto Campbell Street., Eye of the Tiger blasting through the open garage door. It was sunny and cool, a perfect morning. I had done three chin-ups with a thinner help-band than I used on Thursday and was feeling confident. Ben grabbed some weights like they were so many feathers and tossed them onto the prowler.

“What am I supposed to do with this?” I asked. “Run.” he answered. I started to laugh but realized he was serious. I was meant to push this thing and run up the street and back, followed by seven pushups on the bar and seven body rows. Three times. I haven’t really learned any tricks for steeling myself to the task at hand, so I just jumped into it. The thrill of really working out to Rocky music (yes I’m obsessed with Rocky music — my Grooveshark playlist will tell you so) got me the first 50 meters. I don’t know what it is about turning around to come back that makes the work so much harder, but it felt like running through water. I still had enough energy to run to the push up bar though, and on to the row.

On the second round with the prowler I tried to focus on my muscles, I thought about each muscle in my leg powering me through this. That got me up the street. Gritting my teeth and trying not to look like a wimp in front of Ben got me back, albeit a good deal slower. I went to the push up bar at a walk accompanied by gasps this time, and took as long as I thought I could get away with on the body row before going for my final run with the prowler. Thinking about my muscles getting stronger got me nowhere on this round. I gasped for air like a smoker atop Mt. Everest and focused on not letting out the tears that threatened to squeeze past my eyes. I turned the thing around and headed back for the final stretch. Ben looked a mile away. My legs quivered and my quads burned so that I couldn’t keep up a run. I slowed to a walk only to hear Ben yell to pick it up. No way was he letting me by with a walk. I don’t even know how I got my legs to pick it back up, and my world was going black around the edges. I finally reached the end, but wasn’t finished. I hobbled over to the push up bar where I paused between each of the seven to heave great, raggedy and desperate breaths. All that was left was the relatively easy body row but it was all the way on the other side of the gym. Walking over I felt like my legs belonged to someone else — I couldn’t get them to do what I told them to do. Still seeing black and hoping I wouldn’t embarrass myself by losing my grip on the handles and falling, I finished my workout. All I could think about was getting to my stretch mat. I crumpled slowly into a sweating, gasping, heap on the mat and focused on not getting sick.

I stretched out but my legs felt so very curious — it was a sensation I’ve never experienced. I didn’t know what to do with them. They didn’t want to be flat but I couldn’t muster anything like the energy needed to move them. Ben came to the rescue with a box and picked up my feet and propped my calves along the top. That was better. Once my breathing slowed to something approaching normal he asked how long I thought that workout was. “Forever,” I replied.

“Eight minutes,” he said. Amazing. I would have thought anything could be bearable for eight minutes. How little did I know. But I felt much better about my efforts when he told me the prowler weighed as much as I do. I don’t know enough about what’s considered tough by people who have lived this life for a while to know if that should seem like a big deal. But I didn’t care what anyone else thought — I was pretty damn impressed with myself right about then.

Two weeks ago before my first workout I wouldn’t have believed I could accomplish something like that. Yes, I barely made it, but I made it. And yes I felt nauseated and was still laboring to breathe, but I felt amazing. I can see how working out like this is addictive. I felt on top of the world after my workout Thursday night. I grinned ear to ear when I managed the pull-ups with less help than ever before today. I felt, for just a few minutes, like a bad-ass when I ran 100 meters with a 40-lb sandbag (four times) Thursday. I felt like I belonged in the gym today when I did six squats with a bar three times (granted, no weights, but that will come). Eye of the tiger!


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