Wednesday, February 1, 2012

G.I. Jane: Plank Master of the World

It’s been a while since I’ve updated and I’ve probably lost all of my followers. Alas, my shin has continued to act like a sine wave so I haven’t really felt like talking about running. After several weeks of thinking intensely about how I could avoid the conundrum of wanting to blog but not wanting to address Little Focker (the new name of my weak limb), I finally found the answer: I just won’t talk about it! Genius! So, here I am.

I’ve been spending quite a bit of time at the gym lately, getting my buff on and training to break the world record for longest plank hold. I figure since I won’t be running any PBs anytime soon, I had better seek my competitive fix somewhere else. And since I demolish everyone at circuits with my flawless form and unwaivering plank hold, I clearly have a legit shot to take it a step further and go for the world record. Ok, maybe 33 minutes and 40s is a few steps further than my current five minutes of fame, but I have no doubt I can reach it by the time my shin heals...which may I have plenty of time! Importantly though, if you throw in the whole rotating plank set, I can easily achieve twelve minutes, so I basically I am a third of the way there. What is perhaps more motivating, however, is that the world record holder is a 68-year-old man. This fact in and of itself is going to catapult me into the world of plank domination. Common! How could I not hold the plank position for longer than a 70-year-old? I refuse to accept this and am thus determined to end 2012 with a new title of ‘Plank Master of the World.’ It is a way better name than ‘G.I. Jane’ or ‘Shoeless Coolis.’ What have I been thinking all these years, claiming to be hardcore and then failing to give myself a name that includes the words ‘Master of the World’?! Becoming a plank master will also serve to comfort me for never being awarded an official Masters degree. By bypassing the Masters, I am now set to graduate with the flimsy label of Doctor of Philosophy. What kind of obscure, wishy-washy title is that? It makes me sound like I frolicked through the gardens of science for six years, pondering abstract theories and concepts, ultimately never achieving any kind of concrete conclusions. But if I had stopped at a Masters?! I would be called a Master of something. A MASTER of Medical Biophysics. Now that sounds much more impressive! So basically, by becoming G.I. Jane: Plank Master of the World, I will have achieved something athletically this year AND will finally be able to call myself a Master. I’m not sure why I didn’t think of this fantastic plan months ago!

So getting back to the gym scene, I think I’d be getting pretty big right now if I wasn’t countering my extremely heavy weight-lifting and plank holding with hours of aerobic cross-training. As a result, my newly ripped arms are still the puniest in the room – at any given time - by FAR. But they look so good when I flex them in front of the mirror in the solitude of my own home! I can’t be that delusional, can I?! Apparently I am, because as soon as I go back to the weight room and see one dude’s arm that’s bigger than my thigh I am reduced to shrimpiness once again. That’s usually the point where I realize that I actually don’t want to get huge as it would probably not make me any faster, especially if my muscle was all concentrated in my arms. Not only would that look pretty peculiar, but it would impede my speed over long distances (and perhaps mess with my balance). That being said, I am definitely getting intrinsically stronger, as I am moving up in weight every two weeks. So it’s not ALL in my head!

Working out at the gym can be quite boring, but it also has its entertaining perks. And where I go, there are an unusual proportion of quirky people. I won’t give specifics on my workout whereabouts, but the fact that I am smack in the middle of downtown TO at 5:30am every morning should give you a general idea of the varied clientele I meet. First, there’s the dude that wears sweats and sunglasses every day. Need I remind you that it is 5:30am in the middle of the winter and the sun doesn’t rise until 8am? And that we are in a brightly-light room? And that no, I am not so ignorant and insensitive as to miss some obvious fact like that he is actually blind? Because he is most certainly not! First, because he runs on the treadmill to warm up, and I’d be pretty impressed to see a blind man run on the treadmill unaided and not fall off. Enough people have issues doing this with perfect vision and years of yoga training. Second, because he accosts just about everyone who enters the gym as soon as he sees them – which is usually before they even get through the door. He could be across the room and promptly yell ‘Heyyyyy [insert friendly nickname here], what is UP dude?! Working on your guns eh?’ and then rush over and give them a big pat on the back, before wandering off looking for more people to impart his funny one-liners onto. Surprisingly, he has yet to confront me and my biceps. I have questioned why...until I realized that he is probably confused by my mere presence. Shouldn’t I be on the treadmill or the elliptical rather than sitting in a testosterone-infused, dumbbell-clanking, sweaty, smelly weight room? I suspect he is waiting it out a few more weeks until he knows whether I will be a true regular there, at which point he will shower me with nicknames and back-pats. This is the day I live for!

Then there’s the old dude who rocks the elliptical every morning. He is there like clockwork and never changes a single step of his routine, yet I am in constant fear that he is about to fall over and die. Once he starts his workout, he lets out a surprisingly ferocious and laboured grunt every two or three minutes. These grunts get increasingly stressful for me - probably why I am convinced they get louder as his workout goes on – even though that probably isn’t the case. It doesn’t help that he is as pale as a ghost, weighs about ninety pounds and achieves a cadence on the elliptical that is about one hundred times faster than he can walk. I am plagued as to whether I should avoid being near him or remain by his side at all times while he is working out should something actually happen. So far I've chosen the latter option, but it's starting to drive me crazy.

It’s not just the patrons that are a little off, but a few of the trainers as well. One guy is known for approaching everyone and correcting them on their form in the weight room. I have heard other people complain about him. So I wasn’t surprised when I was doing plank one day (obviously) and he approached me with a quizzical look on his face. I challenged him with a confident glare to DARE critique my plank form. He stood over me in silence for a minute, then (obviously seeing nothing wrong with my beauteous plank) belted out: ‘You train way too much. You run marathons or something?’ ‘Here we go,’ I thought to myself. The old ‘you are doing too much’ lecture....from a weight lifter! Oh man this was going to be funny. ‘Yes, I run marathons, but I am partially injured right now so I’m supplementing a lot of cardio on the elliptical.’ ‘I see, well you need muscle to run marathons, and you have no muscle. You are very weak.’ What the hell? What kind of person goes up to a complete stranger and says something like that? I was pretty pissed off at this point, so I retorted ‘actually, I may be thin, but that does not mean that I have no muscle. In fact, I am pretty strong, and I am currently going for the world record for longest plank hold’ (OK maybe that last part didn’t quite come out that way...) ‘Oh really?’ he challenged me, ‘I don’t see any muscle on you. I’ve been doing weight training for 55 years and I KNOW you need muscle to run marathons. If you want to be fast you’ve got to do weights, I actually have a great program if you’re interested...’ ‘Thanks but no thanks,’ I continued, ‘I have a coach who was one of the best marathoners Canada has ever had and I am pretty sure she knows what she’s doing. I do circuits and strength work and I am not weak. But thank you for judging me and then proceeding to impart your wisdom onto me, you are a great dude.’ Once again, I didn’t quite say that last sentence, but wow did I ever want to dig into him on his knowledge of endurance training. Since then he has seen me doing weights several times with raised eyebrows. That’s right! G.I. Jane plank master of the world is on her way to domination!

I suppose that is a big enough recap for the time being. I’m getting lots of treatment on my shin so am backing off the running for a bit, gotta get it back to 100%. It is pretty frustrating to say the least but I just hope that I will be completely healed eventually. *Sigh*


  1. I'm sure someone somewhere has blogged or even written an entire who's who about some of the gym personalities. My personal favourite are the ones who grunt. For every, single, rep. Like seriously? Are you clean and jerking a freight train? (That's definitely what she said)

    Another classic are the ones who tend to listen to their music a wee bit too loud, by which you're essentially partaking in their hip hop party along with them. I've even had ones who play their music from their phones, without headphones! Thanks, Tarzan Dan!

    Keep up the good gym work, good luck on your everlasting shin saga, and I back you 100% in your plank quest!

  2. Hey Olivier! Yep, you know it! I'm sure I am just another of the personalities that others find obscure...I should incorporate grunting into my routine to make myself fit in better, eh? The music thing would definitely annoy me though. Who are these people?!

    1. I figure I should have clarified who Tarzan Dan is, considering you're originally from that place with all the mountains and water, right?

      This should sum it up nicely:

      You should show that weird gym dude a picture of Paula Radcliffe and have him point out her huge marathon muscles.

  3. Trainers are often the least informed people at the gym. That guy's a turd. Anyone who thinks criticizing strangers is a good way to drum up business is a tool.

    Also, regardless of the prestige and acclaim being Plank Master of The World would bring (obviously), a 33 minute plank just seems boring. Is that even exercise? Next time you're doing a plank, ask the grunting old man to sit on your back. THAT would be impressive.

  4. Lol Olivier, Tarzan Dan is messed up! He has a pretty good sense of style though, I have to admit I've always been looking for a shirt like that.
    And yeah, don't see too much bulkiness on marathon world record holders, I would have to agree!

    Johnson, thanks for stoppin' by! You are right, I get bored after about 5min...but you know, you can also get bored after running for 2hrs and have to keep going for 45min in a desolate stretch of road, and can you stop? NO! So really, challenging myself to 35min of plank is fantastic training for the marathon. And I'll have a pretty strong core at the end of it (especially if I am able to carry ninety pounds, don't think I'll go there though...).

  5. Oh Jane you are one of a kind! I think you should take on the 100 push up challenge through all this. You can do as many sets as you want, but the goal is to hit 100 push ups in a day - with perfect form of course! Can't wait till you're out of the gym and back on the roads regularly. Nic