In Which The Jiu-Jitsu Wanderer Gets Slayed By An Atomic Athlete Coach, Then, Subsequently, Finds Himself Unable To Move A Single Part Of His Body Without Groaning.
Stephanie ran class that day. Before I detail the workout, and in the interest of full-disclosure, I should mention that one of the more prevalent stories circulating about her is that she is worshiped as a pagan goddess of exercise, and that her devotees easily number in the dozens. Rumor has it, furthermore, that said devotees have plans to erect a life-sized bronze statue of her – including the customary pagan adornments, like certain evident alignments with auspicious events on both the lunar and solar calendar. “Our Midnight Lady of Jackedness and Injurious Tribulation,” is what I suggested the jeweled placard should read. We’ll see.
To warm up, OMLOJAIT commanded that we start with ten push-ups, ten sit-ups, ten goblet squats, then a set of nine, nine, nine, then a set of eight, eight, eight, and continue to pyramid down to zero, accordingly.1 I actually managed to do all my push-ups, for the first time ever. New personal best: 55 push-ups. My arms were dead, but it didn’t matter!
I was really quite proud of myself, until I saw what she had in store for us next. Eight sets of three Front Squats. The first three sets were to warm-up your legs. Then the next five sets of three were supposed to be done with our three-rep max. “This is a very lofty goal. Do not be too disappointed if you guys are unable to do this.”
[I really wanted a photo of someone who had a grimace on, but was unable to successfully locate one.]
I knew if she, Our Midnight Lady of Jackedness and Injurious Tribulation, was preparing us for our presumed, eventual failure, then this workout was going to be awful. And while I did manage to increase my three-rep max in front squat ten pounds, doing so was fucking trench warfare. Two days later, and my legs still collapse under me when I bend my knees. This, unfortunately, is no exaggeration.
OMLOJAIT informed us, before my partner and I had finished, that we were moving on to the next series of exercises. Rope climbing, pull-ups, and some bizarre stretch. I can’t climb a goddamn rope to save my life. Seriously. It’s embarrassing. “Justin,” began She Who Doles Out Torture, “Look at how I grip the rope with my legs.” Lithe as a ballerina, she immediately climbs 15 feet up the rope in three or four magnificent pulls, elucidating detail after technical detail of foot positioning – not an ounce of strain in her voice, either. What. The. Hell.
Two can play at this game! I jumped on the rope, and tried to pinch the rope the way she did. It’s not working. My arms were slowly getting tired from holding my body weight up; they were straightening out. So I started flailing my legs around the rope, spasmodically, hoping that something would catch and secure me to the rope long enough for me to pull, teeth gritted and muttering the whole time “Must. Pinch. Rope.” I’m pulling. I’m pulling with my arms, flailing with my legs, nothing is happening; and I’m only getting more fatigued. Now I’m dangling, legs still trying. How the hell did she do it? ROTC class in college taught me. Why can’t I do it now?! Ten more seconds of the most embarrassing floundering I’ve done in recent memory later, then I surrendered.
“Next time while on the rope, I just want you to work on supporting your body weight with your legs, okay?” There is just no nice way of putting the phrase ‘total failure’ into words, but, to her credit, she did it like a professional. I mean, had the rope been soaked in kerosene then set on fire while I was climbing it, I would have walked away a burned failure.
Utterly exhausted now, I was entertaining the misapprehension that we were finished – having finished five sets of one rope climb (utterly failed), five pull-ups (mostly failed), and 25 reps of bizarre stretch (success!).3 Oh no, She Who Is Unnameable had one more piece of torture for us. And I can’t remember what it’s called. The exercise might as well be called “The Most God-Awful Exercise Ever” – except that my proposed nomenclature would soon become unwieldy, because the name I proposed is appropriate for 90% of the exercises at Atomic Athlete. And while my Spartan friends at the gym are certainly polite enough to listen to what I have to say, I suspect they care first-and-foremost whether an exercise works and not whether it has a pretty, catchy, or honest name.4
We did these for ten minutes. And now my entire body is broken. One hour of exercise brought me to the brink of destruction. Everything hurts – but my damn legs, especially. I’ve been walking around the past two days groaning “What am I gonna do about my legs, Eddie Murphy?” any time I’ve had to bend my knees.5
This is my story of how I was slayed at Atomic Athlete. The investments I make into exercise off the mats are guaranteed to pay on the mats. Thanks for reading.