Do What’s Necessary…


Good morning, sunshine!

Last week, I don’t know what in hell’s name possessed me but I decided to sign up for my first session of morning bootcamp here in Guangzhou.
What on earth is bootcamp, sensible folks like you, my dear Stiletto-istas, may ask? Well, in short, it’s hell on earth. Basically a circuit training programme, where a physical fitness trainer has the cushy job of barking orders at masochists like myself who have volunteered for an hour – 60 doggone long minutes! – to wake up at the crack of dawn when no decent human being should be awake, be subjected to instruments of hardcore physical torture and absolutely dire lessons in humiliation. Twice a week, every week.

As if this doesn’t sound agonizing enough, in Guangzhou, our bootcamp classes are held not in a comfy, climate-controlled gym but outdoors at a park (a lovely, lush green one, admittedly) outside the compound where I live.  Bear in mind that we’re in the sub-tropics here, mates…by 7am, it’s already boiling outside, believe you me. Like I said, I don’t know what in hell’s name possessed me…

Admittedly, I’d done bootcamps before. Most recently, in Shanghai, where a bunch of us showed up for 90 minutes of punishment every morning for 10 days in the winter. We were in a gym most of the time but a couple of times, we were outdoors, where I tell you, all your jiggly bits get so frozen, they almost don’t jiggle! Almost…I have to say, when we completed our 10 days (especially after hitting what feels like a roadblock on the 3rd or 4th day), we’d bonded so well, the feeling of collective accomplishment was amazingly overwhelming.

I remember doing outdoor bootcamps too, during summers in New York City, at Central Park – where we really got yelled at by extremely bossy, musclebound gym rats, military-style: “You call that sprinting? My GRANDMOTHER can run faster than that!!!” But I was in my twenties then. And as we duckies of a certain age out there know all too well, our bodies’ amazing capacities for strength, endurance and resilience are all at its peak during our twenties. Even when we are also totally abusing it at the same time, with excess partying, drinking and well…anything excessively fun when you’re young, reckless and utterly foolish 🙂

So last week, I showed up on time for my first bootcamp session like the good little girl scout that I was and watched apprehensively as the other women came trickling in. All were outfitted in Lycra with zero to very little body fat and all of them, including our trainer, were blonde, tanned, lean and muscular. In stark contrast, I was in a ratty old t-shirt, had zero muscle tone, more jiggly bits than I cared for and the closest I’ve come to being blonde are my highlights courtesy of L’Oreal;  I can boast, however, of having a year-round tan, with no need for touch-ups.

Anyhooz, I was super-intimidated. Even though everyone was really nice and friendly, it was obvious I was the only newbie and I was thinking I’d be totally screwed for the next 60 minutes or so when along came , huffing and puffing in the morning sun, a cheery Australian lady, who wasn’t blonde nor tanned nor lean and, shall we say, looked like she could belong to MY fitness level. I mean, I was huffing and puffing myself just getting to the bloody park! (which is right outside our compound gates).

Aussie Lady glances over at my (probably panic-stricken) face and bellows heartily:“No worries, luv! You can’ t be any slower than me!” I cheered up at that and thought: “Why, she’s my new BFF!” and immediately stood next to her.

What was I thinking? Aussie Lady and, needless to say, all the Lycra Ladies kicked my ass. In the dirt. Boom. I mean, seriously, these people were like Lycra-clad Energizer bunnies!

A couple of times,  black spots started dancing before my eyes and I couldn’t even complete a circuit, instead hanging my head between my knees, gasping for oxygen and praying desperately that I wouldn’t retch, keel over and collapse, or both. It was embarassing – and frightening – how out of shape I had allowed myself to become, without my realizing it. I had never felt so slow, so clumsy, so heavy…and so old.(even though some of these women were at least a few years older than me).

When that session finally, mercifully, came to an end, everyone made soothing noises about how the first day is always the toughest day, that it was completely understandable for me not to complete a circuit and that, with time, sessions may still be tough but that my body would be able to handle it.

I found that difficult to swallow as, for the next three days, I couldn’t even walk, bend over, crouch or basically even sit, without yelping in pain. My body was so sore that when I went for a much-needed massage, it felt like another hour of torture instead of providing me with relaxation and relief.

I was all set to throw in the towel, I tell you. After all, I rationalized to myself, I’m already playing tennis twice a week and doing yoga twice a week…what do I need this misery for?

And yet…something stubborn inside me refused to give up, just like that. Yes, my body was sore afterwards, but it felt sore in all the right places. If you know what I mean. It meant that my body was getting what it badly needed…that by going back to bootcamp, I was actually doing myself a favour and doing something right.

Sighing, I texted my trainer and confirmed that I’d be back for more punishment in the coming week. She replied: “Yay! I know that you don’t feel like it now but seriously, your body will be thanking for you for it.” Geez, I certainly hope so!

So, determined to at least improve upon my pitiful show of endurance last week, early this morning, I laced up my running shoes and went for a brisk walk/jog around Ersha Island. And guess what? It was such a beautiful morning. It felt so amazingly good to be outdoors, to be alive, healthy and free, to be breathing, my heart beating, my feet pounding the pavement, that I was looking at everything around me with newfound appreciation.

Apart from the neighborhood Starbucks, its driveway bustling with the the bicycles of gweilo (foreign) teachers from the American International school next door and the airconditioned BMWs and Benzes of affluent Chinese yuppies on their way to the skyscrapers acoss the river, the island was quiet and still. The parks and running trails were almost deserted, with only a few old geezers doing their tai-chi or also walking and running, like me. I’d completely forgotten that at this time of day, the world is absolutely enchanting.

My body was indeed thanking me, so were my eyes….and, most importantly, so were my heart and soul:

Ersha Island’s lovely riverside running path…totally deserted in early morning except for an old geezer or two 🙂

The trail leads me past the tennis club with these gorgeous blue, tournament-class courts & a breathtaking view of the central business district’s skyscrapers across the river. This is my favourite spot to play tennis on the island.

Apart from the tai-chi geezers and the occasional runner, the only people hanging about the riverside are a couple of hopeful fishermen, angling for a bite.

The island’s gated residential communities are populated by an army of security guards, gardeners, ayis (maids), who all report to work very early, usually on their bicycles.

You can see that I’ve navigated around the island, from the distance of the IFC tower across the river, which was much closer to me in the earlier shot at the tennis court. The parks on Ersha Island are incredibly lovely, more so early in the morning.

The Guangzhou Tower winks at me in the distance as, with body, mind heart & soul at peace, I finally head back to a place where I belong: HOME 🙂

Have a beautiful week ahead, everyone!

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