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Working out is hard. It’s even harder when you haven’t hit the gym in a while, and you sort of eye your clean, folded gym clothes and realize they haven’t been through the wash in about six months. I’ve been there, and it sucks. Not the not going to the gym part — the going back to the gym part. It’s tough as hell, and generally, it makes you feel like a beached whale bouncing up and down on various workout equipment until you start to gain some of that lost muscle back. For me, it took me realizing that the drinking and generally “not moving” had replaced much of my muscle with a combination of fat and beer for me to tug those gym shoes on.
I re-committed to the gym. It sucked, and then it sucked less, and I felt like I was making progress. But, as someone who is used to team workouts, I always felt like I was missing something. You can never kick your own ass as hard as a coach can, or a personal trainer, and as someone who had always been in shape due to the necessity of sports, that’s what I missed. I tried home workouts (shout out to you, Bob Harper), and I found regimens I liked, but it wasn’t quite enough. I started quietly eyeing my gym’s class list. Surprisingly, I’d never subscribed much to group workouts, probably because being part of a sports team is basically a constant group workout. So to voluntarily go to one was really hard.
There are few things more nerve-wracking than going to a group workout class by yourself for the first time. My palms were sweaty, and I awkwardly stood there as I waited for the instructor to announce whether we needed to grab a weight or load up a squat bar or just come onto the floor. Put simply, I didn’t know what to expect.
This was a HIIT class, which stands for High-Intensity Interval Training. I won’t pretend that I know shit about the benefits or anything like that, but the basic idea is that you move your heart rate up to “I might pass out” level and you keep it super high for the whole workout. The workouts are shorter, with more active time and less recovery time where your heart rate slows down again. The first time I went, I almost threw up on the gym floor. Literally, I was on my hands and knees, struggling to return to my feet after another burpee, and my jello legs were refusing to hold me. It was very hard, very intense, and I fucking loved it.
HIIT workouts aren’t boring, and they’re not long. The classes I take alternate between cardio, plyo, and strength, and they’re all equally challenging in very different ways. I’m just not a yoga person. It’s too slow, and too boring, and brings back the same feelings of frustration I felt in my brief period as a ballerina at age six. HIIT is way harder, but that’s what I like about it. If I’m going to drag my ass all the way to the gym, through traffic, despite all the other things I could be doing, then I want to get my ass beat. If I’m not gasping for air on my knees in a pool of my own sweat by the end, then I don’t feel I got my money’s worth.
And guess what? After one of these workouts, you feel awesome. You laid out all you had on the gym floor. You didn’t show up and half-ass it, you full-assed it, and now I’m addicted to that feeling. Sure, you can’t walk comfortably for a week afterward, but crawling up the stairs is a small price to pay for toned thighs, right? .