The Jidori chicken was tasty, bathed in adobo sauce with rapini, caramelized red onion, and potato panadera. When we were seated, she moved her chair from the opposing side of the table to my adjacent side. I liked that. She ordered the sea bass. “Tell me about yourself,” she said. (She stole my line.) Simona is the kind of woman who gets noticed when she walks into a room. Her looks are striking. She has a thick accent. She grew up in the dictatorship of Romania, which gives her a different perspective than most. She’s grateful for a life and a freedom that most people take for granted. She talks about how coming to America was the best thing that ever happened to her.
A half hour before looking into Simona’s hazel eyes and enjoying the Jidori chicken, I was in a pool of sweat at CorePower Yoga in Yoga Sculpt class. Wow. I was not expecting that. It was hard. It was hot. Nearly 100 degrees in the room hot. And the instructor was all business. He talked so fast I could hardly understand what he was saying. It was obviously choreographed. I tried to follow the moves as best I could.
I’ve never been much into yoga. Nearly all the yoga classes I’ve taken in my life have been on the invitation of a girl. Girls seem to like yoga. Like really like yoga. Really. I’ve never seen what the fascination with yoga is. But this class, on this day, in this very hot room, was not yoga. This was yoga meets cardio and muscle sculpting with dumbbells. And it didn’t stop for 60 minutes. Within five minutes, I was completely drenched. Throughout the class, I had to stop every couple of minutes to towel the sweat off my face and body. The last time I sweated this profusely was during a half marathon in Tel Aviv in July when I competed in the Maccabiah Games.
I could sit here after midnight, writing this blog post a few hours after the class, still thirsty from all the water I lost through sweat, and say it was easy for this lifelong athlete. But I would be lying. It wasn’t easy. And it taught me something about exercise and about myself. First, about exercise: Specificity of training cannot be underestimated. Just because you’re good at one thing doesn’t mean you’ll be good at something else. Being a newbie at Yoga Sculpt is very difficult, no matter how fit a person is. For crying out loud, there were girls in the class who did a better job keeping up than me. Although I’m 99.9% sure I would kick their ass on the track, they have something on me: Experience. Specificity of training. Even the best Kenyan distance runners in the world would have had trouble in this class. Second, about myself: 33 years of running 6 days per week has enabled me to master something. My body knows how to run. It is as natural a movement for me as walking is for everyone else. I often expect that running is my savior, that no matter what the challenge is in my life, running will save me and protect me. But today I was humbled. I’m a long way from the 8th grader who did 24 chin-ups to break the school district record. I don’t have that kind of specific fitness anymore. It made me feel sad that I lost it somewhere. And it hurt my confidence.
“Want to take a yoga class with me?” Simona texted me about a week ago. I didn’t want to tell her that I don’t like yoga. “Sure, sounds like fun,” I replied. “It’s cardio and light weights,” she said.