by Jacqueline Judge, Athleta Copywriter
When Michelle, our social media expert, arrived at my desk to ask if I’d be interested in taking a TRX class and writing an article about it for our chi blog, I immediately said, “I’m beyond down,” or some other silly exclamation that, in hindsight, was a very transparent indication of my naïveté surrounding the sheer difficulty of the TRX Suspension Trainer. But, in my defense, my gung-ho bravado was not completely without merit: I was classically-trained in ballet until age 16, I’m an avid runner with two marathons under my belt, I regularly practice Ashtanga yoga, and recently I’ve been playing around with Budokon, and Insanity workout DVDs, the latter of which is definitely not for the faint of heart. So to me, the TRX did appear challenging, but not overly daunting. How little I knew.
With all the nuts and bolts for our experiment in place, five TRX first-timers arrived at Club One in Petaluma, eager for the opportunity to try something new. Charlene, our powerful-looking trainer, greeted us with a firm, almost jarring handshake (honed from hours on the TRX, I couldn’t help thinking). Her plan was simple: rock us until our bodies dropped. Or at least that’s the way I viewed it after watching Charlene whip out a few rounds of highly impressive moves that involved flexing her obliques to curl and twist her legs from side to side, extending them straight, at one point, for icing on the impressive cake. In any regard, it was like dangling bait, because after that we were raring to go.
Given there were five of us, and only three TRX units, Charlene set up three other stations in a circuit training format so we could all participate at once: a jump rope, Bosu, and kettleball station were added. For the first round, I had to perform a basic row with the TRX; to do so, I held onto the strap handles and leaned back with arms outstretched, contracting my muscles to lift into a row position.
To increase the difficulty, all I had to do was step my feet further forward, making the angle at which I was leaning more severe. I was fresh and feeling strong, so I completed my rows without a hitch.
To my left, I could see Tracy’s triceps contracting as she lifted and lowered into a string of pushups, a look of discombobulated surprise dawning on her face. She looked as if she and the pushup had just been formally introduced, with awkward handshaking and everything. After Charlene yelled “Switch!” I understood why.
My muscles quivered and my hands shook at odd angles, shooting forward and to the sides as I concentrated on leaning into the straps and lowering into a pushup as smoothly as possible. Tracy had let out a few surprised exhales during her round, but I was unprepared for a pushup harder than… well… a pushup. By the end of the first round, though, we were feeling good and full of adrenaline. That’s when Charlene broke the news: “Did you like that? Good, because you have seven more rounds.” Our faces fell.
For the next rounds, Charlene introduced increasingly challenging moves while Michelle acted as photojournalist, snapping shots all around. The second round included a deep, one-legged squat from side to side that made me feel like Jackie Chan, while the next rounds involved pike…
And my personal hell favorite, the chest fly. An Athleta model is featured in our Spring catalog showing off a dramatic TRX chest fly where she hovers nearly parallel to the ground.
I brought this up to Tracy, a buff triathlete herself, and she said, “I knew it was a hero shot, for sure, but now I have a whole new level of appreciation for that image.” No kidding. We all managed something that at the time felt feeble, shaky — a move that deteriorated any shred of ego we had left, but the photos indicate otherwise. Hey, photos can lie – we were dying in those pictures.
It was around the time we started doing mountain climbers that everyone was exercising in complete silence — probably screaming on the inside, from frustration or pain I don’t know, but silent regardless. In between rounds of one-armed rows and exhausting squats on the Bosu, we were all running to the fountain, jostling limbs and stumbling along the way. Our hair was frizzy and undone and our eyes clouded over, but we were so immersed in the workout that stopping wasn’t an option. Our dedication must have been apparent, because Charlene enjoyed watching us, calling us “a strong group.”
The last round was celebrated with a jock’s version of uncorking champagne: we coiled up our last reserves, pushed out a final rep, and then with an almighty flop we fell to the ground, bubbling out a sigh of relief, our heart pulses slowly returning to normal. We each received a high-five from Charlene, the slap reverberating in our Jell-O muscles much more keenly than it did in the morning. Sweat still freshly beaded on our skin, we looked at each other, taking in all the pain, the shaking, the feeling that despite our individual athleticism, we may not finish.
What was the general consensus?
We’d do it again.
In a heartbeat.