The Enlightened Torture Chamber-I've been involved with a running club now for three years. I joined the club after I just started running and my primary purpose in being involved with the club is to keep me running. It's paramount in my life and so vital to my sanity and keeping me on top of the parenting game. That and I just love the endorphin buzz. So, this is primary..keep running for mental stability. Secondary is winning age group awards, looking decent in a pair of jeans and being able to eat like a pig. So, over the years I've heard about this Sean guy that some of the club notable runners have been going to deal with their injuries. At first I thought he was some kind of sports doctor, but actually...turns out he is a personal trainer with a background in exercise physiology and he devises personalized plans for his clients to reach their fitness goals. I imagined some really big lug of a guy in a gym full of treadmills, elliptical trainers, and dumb bells--shouting out encouragement to his grunting and straining clients.
I've always marveled at the runnings' simplicity. I put on a pair of shorts and head out my door. I can carve out a run almost any day. In my middle-aged efforts to keep all the plates spinning...running was a godsend for time management. Also, I consider myself a bit shy and I prefer to workout alone. One year into my running career and having finished my first marathon with an overuse injury, I realized an exercise regime based only on running was going to lead to continued injuries. I needed some serious cross-training and muscle-strengthening to balance out my running muscles with everything else. So, on the advise of a sport's physician..I started doing Pilates on a regular basis. I've been up to that now for two years and I must say it has done wonders for my core. I ran two marathons that year with not a twinge of developing injuries and thought this would be enough cross-training to complement my running.
Then, I met this crazy ass lawyer who wanted me to review an article he had written for the club newspaper. I was the club secretary at the time, and started corresponding with him about his genesis into a runner. Somehow or another he invited me out to swim with him and his co-worker. He's Jedi-Jawa in BloggerLand and she's Inca Princess. Anyway, to make a very long story short--this smooth talking lawyer talked me into training for a sprint triathlon as a way of making myself an even stronger runner. So, I did. God, I loved the swimming, but the biking really sucked. Every long bike ride made my right knee hurt. Plus, all the crap you need to be a good cyclist was just bumming me out. I really wanted to make due with what I had and that was an old clunky mountain bike. Remember...keep the plates spinning and keep them spinning cheaply.
I ended up doing pretty good on the triathlon, but I had my fourth marathon to run in a few weeks. I ran a real crappy marathon cause my I-T band started acting up on mile 20. So, after running on it for another 6 miles...I injured the crap out of it again. I finished 20 minutes past my projected time and was so discouraged I was still getting injuries. The worse thing about an injury is that I usually have to drastically reduce my running or not run at all and this puts me in a panic mode imagining the impending funks and irritability and the swirling cloud of depression that starts to envelope when I'm not exercising at a certain intensity.
Now, Inca Princess was also having some running difficulties. She did a 5k leg of the marathon relay and really strained her hamstring. One of the proprietors of our local running shop recommended that the Princess try the Infamous Sean. What is it with this dude? Is he magic? I was curious as all heck about this guy and jumped at the opportunity to accompany the Princess on one of her workouts with the Infamous Sean. Physically, I heard he was large man that in his collegiate days spent his days juggling cheerleaders. Not that way! He was a cheerleader, too, in essence, but was the big dude that caught the smiling female projectile cheerleaders as they hurled back toward earth twisted in some crowd pleasing pose. I figured that would require a good deal of physical strength. That's all I knew about Sean and his lab.
The night before I was to accompany the Princess I went out with the girlfriends for my birthday and stayed out semi-late. I don't think the princess thought I would show for the appointment so early the next morning, but I wasn't going to let this slip by. I'm a tough girl anyway. I can party a little, stay out obnoxiously late and still get up and workout for 2 hours at 5 AM!! I'm a middle aged athletic specimen of perseverance!!!
After the Princess wiped off the look of shock at my timely arrival to the Lab...we headed in to the chamber. I was shocked at the austerity of the place. Pathetic beige carpet....a few Chinese proverbs embellished the plain walls. Where the hell were the elliptical and treadmills and the weight machines??? The most notable piece of equipment was this abdominal rack thing. Along the back wall were a series of 3 of the biggest rubber bands I have ever seen in my life. Later, I was to learn that you climb into the rubber bands and try to run outward until you can stretch the mega rubber band no further and then you try to run backwards against resistance in a controlled fashion--so not to hurl yourself back in the wall! It looked kind of fun.
The rules stated that anyone visiting on a guest pass can only do 50% of the workout the client is doing. Hmmmmph! Now, Inca Princess is a tall gorgeous and in great shape, but I had a little experience on her and was feeling a little cocky. 50% !!! Ha! I am a serious middle-aged athlete here. I can do the whole workout and add 50%!! Ha! Delusions of grandeur...I know.
Sean himself was indeed a very large man. He had a cool measured way of speaking. Not one to smile constantly, but when he does it's great. He had some very intricate graphic tattoos on his legs. He was barefoot and busied himself going from client to client answering their questions about the torturous routines he'd devised for them. Geez, he reminded me of some warrior class native trying to show his wimpy underlings the secrets to strength and vitality. I gathered from my idle chit-chat with his clients that they are afraid, yet grateful for what he plans for them- for each week they feel stronger and able to do more than they did the last. It's highly personalized and no two persons plans are going to be the same. Sean incorporates lots of active-isolated stretching to initially warm up the muscles. Most of the equipment is simple yet effective; large exercise balls, good old traditional lunge type exercises, lots of rubber band running, ab exercises using the ab rack thing. I went along with the rules and only did half of Suzanne's routine. It seemed enough. I wasn't going to complain. Oh, yeah....it was really getting hot in here!!
I'm fairly body aware and I know where my weaknesses are. My knees couldn't handle the biking this summer with the triathlon. Biking is very quadriceps dependant, while running is more dependant on calves and hamstrings. I knew I had weak quads and I think lots of people shy away from the things or exercises that are difficult. I've hated lunges because they've always been a bitch and it seemed like Sean knew every lunge variation in the book!!! By the end of the workout--I was exhausted! Sean talked to me a bit about my fitness routine. He thought the Pilates was great, but since it is core-based, wasn't really addressing the issues in my quads. Probably needed to focus here. He was very smooth and wise...and that lab of his with all the rubber bands and Chinese sayings just screamed, "Enlightened Torture Chamber!"
The next morning my quads were so sore that I could barely walk. I kid you not. I've felt better after running full marathons. I couldn't walk up or down stairs for 3 days. I thought I was in shape!! I've been running, swimming, biking, doing yoga, and Pilates for three years and the doing just 50% of the Princess's workout creamed me. I was both humbled and depressed at this experience. Sean and the Enlightened Torture Chamber have my utmost respect and I assure that if you walk in you will walk out at first very sore....but eventually you will be stronger. I would give anything to join the Chamber on a regular basis, but the plate spinning prohibits it right now. I'm afraid it would add another plate that I couldn't keep in the air with all the other things I do. I have, however, incorporated a series of lunge exercises into my routine and already I feel stronger. I will sing high praises for his business and send anyone I can to his Chamber. It's nice to have demystified the mystery to this man. Some of it anyway...Who knows what he's got hidden in that little back room. Check him out at http://www.humanpotential-labs.com