Monday, May 29, 2006

Lucie Meets the Fure-Cat

He popped up on the Internet at the oddest times - a broad-shouldered, bald man with a strong resemblance to the "Mr. Clean" icon (minus the thick white eyebrows) and abs that could have served as a Merriam-Webster entry under "six pack" - always bare-chested, the better to display his highly trained physique, and always in an advertisement for something called "Combat Abs" or "Combat Conditioning."

Military man, I thought. Must be. He keeps using the word "combat."

I decided that he was, at the least, a master of marketing, because his ads seemed to follow me. Then again, perhaps it was coincidence. Perhaps it was even fate. After all, I was lugging around a gut I call "Big Bertha"* and the word "abs" can usually get my attention faster than almost anything except a piece of chocolate.

Finally, out of sheer curiosity, I clicked on one of his ads. There he was, wearing what looked like a Speedo and crouching in a position I'd not only never seen before, but knew perfectly well I was incapable of reaching except in the realm of fantasy. It was called a Hindu Squat, and his name was Matt Furey.

If you've seen the movie "Jerry Maguire," you'll recall that Tom Cruise had Renee Zellweger at hello. Well, I had never heard of a Hindu Squat or Matt Furey, and furthermore, I didn't particularly care for men who were bald or wore Speedos, but Furey had me at the line "Five Second Abs Burn Fat From Your Waistline" that appeared on one of his ads.

I read. I was intrigued. I bought. Big Bertha would shortly be on her way to the history pile, I decided.

My copy of "Combat Abs" arrived quickly and I sat down to study it. I read the introduction and the opening comments, but I didn't actually start the exercises until the upcoming Monday, because, as I've previously noted, I always start a new diet or exercise program on a Monday. That way I can have the weekend, as well as any remaining days in the week, to have a good time. Last meal of the condemned man, you might say. I'm sure some of you have also done this. Don't worry, you don't have to admit it here. That's my job.

At any rate, "Combat Abs" begins with a set of exercises called "The Magnificent Seven." I looked them over and decided, yes, I can do those with little problem. If anything, they seemed almost too simplistic to work on something as challenging as Big Bertha. But what came afterwards? I started leafing through the book.


Even some of the "Basic Exercises" looked pretty challenging. I wasn't sure I could get into a few of those positions. I put the book down and tried.

I was right.

I kept leafing. There were several moves that I'd seen or done before in years past, and I was fairly sure I could still manage them, even in my present condition. But what in the heck was this thing called a "bridge"? It looked like a back bend. I had been able to do back bends when I was in grade school. Granted, that was a long time ago and I had lost a good deal of flexibility since then, but surely I could still manage one.


There was no other word for it. The first time I tried what is called a gymnastic bridge, using the technique that Matt himself described, I managed to lift my upper body perhaps two inches off the floor. Originally I thought it was about four inches, but I have since come to the conclusion that I was being generous. The attempt was such a dismal failure that I actually had to laugh out loud.

Okay, I thought. Let's just start with the Magnificent Seven.

So I did. I started getting up earlier in the morning just to do them, no little sacrifice since I have never been "a morning person" by any stretch of the imagination. And I discovered that those seemingly simple exercises were a bit of a challenge for someone like me, because they all involved something I wasn't used to - deep breathing.

I'm pretty sure I've read somewhere that Americans in general, or perhaps people in the West, tend to breathe more shallowly than their counterparts in the East. It was certainly true of me. All that deep breathing made me...dizzy! I'd have to pause for a moment. Do a couple more repetitions. Holy cow, was that nausea? What was that about? Why did my ears seem to close up when I did the "Trunk Rotators"? And why the heck did my forearms itch so much when I tried to do those "Hands Overhead Side Bends"?

I still don't have an explanation for the latter, which continues (to a milder extent) to this day, but the dizziness was not entirely unexpected. I knew I was a shallow breather, and now I was sucking in oxygen as far as I could suck it. My poor brain just wasn't used to that. Over time, it got better, as did the nausea, and the itch. It wasn't long at all before I could do the required number of repetitions without pausing. But Big Bertha, and her counterpart, Big Beatrice* (my protruding posterior) were both still a Big Challenge. After about a month I thought I could see some reduction in both, but it was clear that I had a long way to go. As Matt himself said, "Rome wasn't built in a day...but it was built."

And as it turned out, the Fure-Cat had a few more things to show me.

Next week: Tools of the Trade.

-Treader Lucie-

*No offense whatsoever is intended to any readers named Bertha or Beatrice.


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