“I spilled water into my shoe at the beginning of that” he confessed. Not the perfect way to start a circuit training bootcamp, but it certainly helped me take the attention off my own physical struggle. I wasn’t expecting to wake up at 8am, the morning after drinking one too many glasses of wine, to keep my guy company at an early morning ass-kicking. I woke up cursing the name of his good friend, who at the bar the night before, described the ‘torturous’ workout he would be doing and invited us to join. I know my guy. He’s competitive. All you have to say is that something is hard and he will try to best you.
The hardest thing to do after a night of drinking is convincing yourself not to sleep through a work out commitment. It’s so tempting to keep your tired muscles and throbbing head laid flat on your Tempur-Pedic mattress. This temptation is a lot easier to give in to when you don’t have a human alarm bell, loud and fully alert at 7:30am, poking and prodding you to wake up and get excited about the inevitably brutal workout.
Driving down College Avenue in Oakland, the gym is hard to miss. The bright orange sign hanging over the sidewalk reading ‘SWEAT’ is as hard to miss as a flashing neon sign on the Las Vegas strip, and as telling a reminder about the fate that awaits you. “But” I thought, “I workout. I’m sure it’ll be fine”.
Walking in, we were greeted by Carl, an Englishman dressed in his best old gym t-shirt and Adidas shorts. We told him we were there because we heard the first class was free, and he happily showed us to the cubbies where we placed our belongings in the black, numbered buckets. The gym consisted of one open room with a full length, wall-to-ceiling mirror positioned at the front, perfect for checking yourself out as you kicked your own butt.
This would be a circuit training workout, and the room was organized with different stations for you to crunch, row, plank, wall-sit, and TRX your way to hard-earned exhaustion. The weathered appearance of many of the weights, straps and mats served as evidence that people in these classes went hard.
It was time for class to begin and Carl walked to the front of the room, blasted Destiny’s Child’s “I’m a Survivor” and started the fifteen minute cardio-heavy warm-up. High-knees, burpees, and lunges just about brought me to my knees before the circuit even started. Carl told us to pick a station to begin, and work our way around to each station completing the full cycle a total of three times through. We were to spend fifty seconds at each station and spend a total of twenty-five seconds immediately after doing one of the five different cardio exercises we did in our warm up. Safe to say, I felt all the hateful feelings one could half-way through the first circuit. But, like my guy, my competitive nature kicks in during a group class. I had to act like I wasn’t tired because I refused to quit when the two pregnant women and senior citizen couples were pressing on. The first circuit is always the hardest because you have to convince yourself that you will not, in fact, die and that you have it in you to finish two more rounds. The funny thing is, by the time I get to the beginning of the final round, I see the finish line and my drive to get there allows me to pull strength from my reserves. By the time we finished our last station, I fell to the ground in utter humble, sweaty relief.
There is something about not shaming yourself in front of a group that makes you go just a little harder than you would working out on your own. The reward after such a hard-earned effort is compounded by the new-found comradery of this sweaty, worn-out, kick ass group of circuit warriors.