Category Archives: Sweat-o-Rama

My Olympic Experience

It’s not something I speak of often, but I was in the Olympics once.

At Lithuanian camp.

The Olympiad was held every year on the last two days of camp. It was two days of schlepping from one event to another with a herd of teammates thrown together based on our varying degrees of athletic prowess. It was swatting away bugs on the soccer field and running in the opposite direction whenever the ball approached. It was scurrying from corner to corner of the dodge ball court trying to avoid a full frontal hit and puking in the bushes after running the camp marathon in 90 degree heat.

Yet there was one event I always looked forward to, something I could compete in without fear of getting trampled or striking out. Something for which my short legs and feet in their size two Keds sneakers were uniquely suited, a sport which requested nothing of me but to run forward in a straight line as fast as I possibly could.

I excelled in the 50 and 100 yard dash. And despite running against girls who were at least a full head taller than me, I regularly won first place. To this day I don’t understand why I was so fast. Something to do with survival of the fittest, perhaps, and wildebeests.

These days, I only run if I’m being chased. I tried to become fit again a couple years ago, but was forced to quit when my personal trainer ticked me off. I thought I was done with forced competition for good until last month at Lithuanian family camp, when My Friend V (who was a camp organizer), reinstated the Olympiad.

“Are you kidding me?” I asked her. “I thought we had put the past behind us.”

As a child, My Friend V was disqualified from the backstroke competition for veering so far off course that she swam ashore. Also, if I was going to have to play dodge ball again, what was the point in having become an adult? But V assured me that ours would be Gentle Games. We were going to do family oriented activities and take frequent popsicle breaks.

And if not for the final event, she would have been right.

The Lithuanian Camp Tough Mudder(ish) Challenge was for adults only. We had to do some pretty strenuous things, like jumping off the diving board and fetching a greased watermelon, crawling across floating rafts, pushing wheelbarrows with people in them, carrying jugs of water, and hauling truck tires up hills and around trees.

We had to crawl underneath picnic tables on the beach wearing wet bathing suits while gleeful children wielding buckets dumped water and silt on our heads.

The Tough Mudder Picnic Table Challenge

I did it for my country. And while the P-Dawg and I did not place in the Tough Mudder Challenge, I still took home gold in the 50 yard dash.

Watching the Olympic Torch Bearer Make His Way Across the Water

The Arrival of the Torch

The Lighting of the Olympic Flame

My Friend V. Look at those biceps!

Greased Watermelon Competition

*Photos courtesy of Ingrida Skarzauskaite-Knueppel

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There’s a Pose for That

The P-Dawg has been hounding me to give yoga a try ever since he became obsessed with it earlier this year.

He started out just following the Wii Fit regimen, but soon it wasn’t enough. The P-Dawg’s thirst for contorting himself into unnatural poses was insatiable. Advanced yoga books from Amazon dot com began piling up on our doorstep. The P-Dawg started devoting up to an hour a day to his practice. He stopped eating foods that didn’t “nourish his life force” and toyed with the idea of painting a red line down the middle of his forehead.

Sometimes I’d wake up to the sight of him meditating in lotus position by the light of his salt lamp. “Namaste,” he’d nod to me as I hauled myself into the shower. Before long, he’d lost seven pounds and no longer felt pain in his back.

I was all for the P-Dawg’s new healthy lifestyle, but it was starting to cramp my ability to lie on the couch eating cookies. You just can’t enjoy an Oreo when your husband is sitting two feet away from you with his feet wrapped around his neck, saying things like, “That Oreo will suck the life force right out of you, you know.”

I told him I would give it a try. I geared up for my yoga practice by setting my alarm clock a little earlier each morning. When it went off, I would think about doing yoga for fifteen minutes.

And I was still in this phase of my practice, the gearing up phase, when the P-Dawg casually mentioned that one world famous violinist was able to recover from a debilitating violin injury and improve on his playing through the practice of yoga.

Well, that got my attention. Because though I’ve progressed handsomely on the violin since making my recording, I’ve been struggling with tension when I play, as all great string players do. See, you’re supposed to let the violin just barely rest on your shoulder as your bow dances gently across the strings, not hook it under your chin and grip it like it’s the last banana on the island.

What if yoga practice could help take my music to the next level?, I thought. My original violin teacher was a yoga fanatic and she seemed pretty good.

It was worth a try.

I decided to attend a beginners yoga class the very next morning, at the gym where I haven’t been in three months. I was able to sucker my friend Pauline into going, too, when she tweeted something about putting on a pair of yoga pants and going to the gym. In retrospect, she may have just been planning to run on the treadmill, but I took it as a silent plea for somebody to ask her to do a yoga class with them.

I met Pauline at the yoga studio with my iPhone and she with with her Droid. She was planning on live Tweeting our yoga class and I was planning on taking pictures of her to post on the Internet.  But what we found was that there was no time for Tweeting or picture taking while flowing gracefully from pose to pose and trying to balance ourselves, for example, on one foot.

But it was a good class and afterward I felt limber and rejuvenated. I think yoga will really help me to sneak up on my kids when I need to bust them doing something wrong because already my joints aren’t cracking as loudly as they used to.

There’s just one thing that’s bothering me.

When I came home, I made a beeline for my violin. But when I started playing, it still sounded like somebody (me?) was trying to skin a cat.

Well. I guess you just can’t expect these things to happen overnight.

There is something weird going on in this picture. But what?

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How’s it going with those personal training sessions, Rima?

Much to my chagrin, J.B. was not my personal trainer, only the overlord who sold the sessions.  He assigned me to one of his minions, a genial young woman named Amy. Amy was great, but she made me do a lot of hard things I didn’t like and she had no pity. One time I fell down in the middle of a set of push-ups and refused to get back up, but she still made me complete the set. Another time I told her that if I had to do one more shoulder press, both my arms would fall right out of their sockets and roll across the floor. I had to complete that set, too. I am typing this with my nose.

Amy also liked to keep the conversation flowing during my sessions, where conversation equals Amy asking me a bunch of senseless questions about my life, like, “What did you do last weekend?” Which wouldn’t have been a problem if I hadn’t gone to a wedding in Southern Ohio where I ate two pieces of cake and a fried chicken leg, drank keg beer, and did Peanut Butter and Jelly shots. It was exhausting trying to make up healthy menu items to list when she’d ask me what I’d been eating all week.  She always wanted me to show her my food journal, but I kept forgetting it in my locker.

Amy also had a propensity to ask her questions at the height of my physical distress. Say I was doing football drills while holding a ten pound weight in each arm, sweating a river, gasping for air and feeling like my legs could give out any second.  Amy would be standing there with her little timer and say something like, “Tell me about when you lived in France.”

Luckily, I had a recurrence of vertigo after my session last week. (Yup. I started using Q-Tips again.) I’m not really sure if it was the vertigo or the workout, but I felt pretty sick afterward, kind of like the time in ninth grade when our Art Teacher turned track coach made me run the 800 meter when I had only ever trained for the 50 meter sprint and I puked in the bushes after the race.  It was the perfect opportunity to do the right thing and tell Amy my true feelings about personal training, womano y womano so naturally I went home and sent her an email under a cloak of invisibility.

Amy emailed me back to tell me that she would take me off her schedule, but she was pretty sure I had a contractual obligation to complete three months of sessions.  Reading between the lines of her message I was also able to decipher the following encrypted phrase: “Good luck trying to whittle down that booty by yourself, you chicken livered little wuss.”

But I don’t consider myself a quitter – unless you count piano, gymnastics, Lithuanian harp lessons, Jazzercise, and now this – because I still went to the gym today and did a hearty workout. I didn’t have to talk to a soul and when I started feeling a little dizzy, I took a break and watched Guiding Light.  I know how to use the weight equipment now and am finding that I really love it, so from here on out I’m going to be working out to my own personal fitness compass. Don’t be surprised if the next time you see me, I have rubbed myself down with coconut oil and have a size 22 neck.

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In Which I Pick a Fight with my Personal Trainer

I joined a new gym earlier this week and got suckered into a personalized fitness assessment.

“So, what are you going to make me do?” I asked the consultant after we made our introductions. “I better not puke.”

He led me to his office and we started with an interview.

“What are your fitness goals?”

“Goals? I guess I’d like to lose ten pounds and stop being afraid of the resistance training machines.”

Next he wanted to know what my current exercise regimen was.

“I don’t have one.”

“Are you sure? Bike riding? Swimming? Walking the dog?”


He made a few notes and then asked me to tell him what I eat in any given day from daybreak to sunset. I couldn’t believe my luck. There is nothing I love more than itemizing my food intake, but rarely do I come across anyone willing to listen with genuine interest. For example, when the P-Dawg comes home from work and I say, “Do you want to know what I ate today?” he always says, “No.”

I began to happily recount everything I’d put in my stomach since Monday. At first J.B. (that’s my fitness consultant) thought I might not be eating enough, but then I owned up to the occasional ice cream cone or glass of wine with dinner.

“How often do you have a glass of wine?”

“I don’t know, a couple times a week maybe? What is this, the Spanish Inquisition?””

“That’s bad” J.B. said. “Real bad. Did you know that a glass of wine is no better than a slice of cheesecake?”

“Are you kidding me? No it isn’t.”

“Yep, it is.”

“No it isn’t.”

“It’s true. I read it in a mens’ health magazine.”

“But how do you figure? Wine has no fat, and less calories per serving than a Coke!”

J.B. was relentless. “It’s converted into fat once it’s in your system. It’s like a sugar surge your body doesn’t know what to do with.”

“There is no way it can be as bad as cheesecake.”

“Well, it is.”

“That’s the most ridonkulous thing I’ve ever heard in my life and I refuse to accept it.”

There was an uncomfortable silence as J.B. and I stared each other down across the table, and then I said, “I’m just sayin.”

Next we walked over to the physical assessment area, where I had to stand on a scale.

“Can I take my shoes off?” I asked J.B.

“No,” he said, “I’ll subtract a pound.”

“I’m pretty sure my shoes weigh two pounds.”

J.B. gave me a stern sidelong glance, and I got on the scale, which showed a different reading from the one I’d gotten at home that morning.

“I know you probably hear this all the time, but I think your scale is slightly off” I said to J.B.

After that, he measured my BMI, strength, flexibility, and endurance.  I had to pull on some weights with all of my might and this is just between you and me, but they didn’t budge. I did pretty well on the treadmill, but I bombed the flexibility test, which was clearly rigged because I can do a cartwheel.

Afterwards, J.B. showed me a big fancy printout which said I was 39, and not 37 like I always thought. But if I signed up for more P.T. sessions, J.B. felt sure he could whittle me back down to 27 in three to five months. He also said I reminded him of his sixth grade teacher and he figures my kids will be taller than me in two to three years.

Depite all of that and the cheescake debacle, he was a pretty nice guy and I signed up for a month of sessions.  I start Friday, wish me luck!

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