As a trained physical fitness professional, certified a year-and-a-half ago by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, I consider myself fully qualified to make the following statement:
Losing a bunch of weight does not necessarily mean a person is "in shape."
Thinner maybe. Healthier, for sure.
But, in shape? As in fighting trim, ready to rumble?
Take me, for example.
I just got back from my second round of Shawn Francis' three-month conditioning program for pole vaulters, and I tell you what -- Shawn is a beast. Hell, all these incredible athletes I get to rub elbows with once in a while are beasts. They don't just look good, all lean and muscular, fit and trim. washboard abs, and all that, but my goodness, their physical conditioning is incredible.
Since I started learning to pole vault two-and-a-half years ago, I've lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-35 pounds, re-shaped my body somewhat, dropped a few pant sizes, been complimented many times on my appearance. But doing the workouts in this program -- I should say attempting to do the workouts in this program -- is a whole new ballgame.
Today was gymnastics and general strength day.
My sore left knee felt a lot better than it did after yesterday's workout, which involved a lot of sprinting and jumping around, so I slipped on the ol' compression sleeve and headed down to the gym to knock out day two. For gymnastics (core training to help improve the invert part of the vault, where you go upside down after take-off), Shawn recommends starting off with a total of 140 reps from a selection of things like knee raises while hanging from a high bar, raising your toes to the bar, shins to the bar, quads (thighs) to the bar, and Bubkas (going completely upside down).
How many reps? 140? Ahem ... well, let's see ...
Since I can't accomplish a majority of those exercises, I decided to stick with knee raises and hanging leg raises. I also threw in some farmer's carries to work on my grip strength. This is where you grip a pair of heavy dumbbells and walk back and forth with your arms down by your sides. Might sound a little simple, but it ain't easy.
So ... 140 reps? Not even close. I did four sets of eight knee raises, and one set of four. Three sets of farmer's carry, and one set of five hanging leg raises. By that time, my shoulders were screaming from hanging off that high bar, and I was swinging back and forth (which you're not supposed to do) as much as lifting my knees and legs. But, hey, it's a start.
Then, I grabbed an exercise mat, went and unlocked one of the empty group fitness rooms so there would be no witnesses to the next display, and attempted the group strength circuit. This involves push-ups, bodyweight squats, core bicycles, v-ups, Russian twist, jump squats, alternating lunges, skydivers, burpees, and alternating lunge jumps. Don't ask me to describe all of those. Twenty seconds of each, followed by 40 seconds rest. Pretty much non-stop.
I did pretty well on everything, except for V-ups, where you lay flat on your back, legs extended, and lift your upper body and lower body off the ground to form a 'V.' Ouch. That wasn't happening. Maybe next time.
Burpees? Oh, geez ... I've watched my fellow personal trainer at the gym, a young dude named Jason, lead boot camps that always include burpees, and I vowed never to do those. I haven't done anything like that since what they used to call "tweet tweets" at teenage football practice. But I did it. Two sets of five burpees, with a nice little break in between to catch my breath.
Alternate lunge jumps? I managed 10 of those, five for each leg, and that was it. I was drenched in sweat, and I normally don't sweat very much.
Sitting here writing about it, I feel pretty good. Tomorrow is supposed to be either a vault day, or acceleration workout, but I'm not going to be able to vault, and not sure if I'll have time to go to the park for a sprint workout before an important freelance writing assignment, so I may get up early in the morning and go lift weights and ride the stationary bike instead. I can already see that in the beginning, probably for at least the first month or so, this program is going to require some modification.
I'm sure Mondo Duplantis or Sandi Lynn Morris could easily knock it out of the park, but like I said, I may be in better shape than I used to be, but I ain't "in shape."
This is going to be good, y'all.
Oh, yeah, CLICK HERE for a copy of my book, "Finally Fit," the story of my journey from overweight, out-of-shape couch potato to Masters pole vaulter competing at the National Senior Games in Albuquerque.
Stay tuned ...