The Weight is Over: If You Give a Trainer a Push-up …

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Yesterday, as I worked on accomplishing my task – the second to the last independent assignment of the day – of slamming down and picking up 1,000 warrior ropes, I let my mind wander to take my mind off the discomfort.

89, 90, 91, 92 …

One of the things that flitted through my brain as I huffed and puffed and kept counting silently, is I wished I’d kept a workout baby-book of sort, something that would have tracked my progress from the first day I set foot in Align Private to where I am today.

My recollection is that when Matthew R. Lister first had me start doing the ropes, he assigned me something like 50, which was a major push. Within a few months I was doing 200, and that felt like a big deal. Now I’m doing 1,000 (my method is 200 at a time, then rest, then repeat that process four more times).

Doni doing the battle or warrier ropes Septemer of 2016 at the old Align building. Doni has lost more weight and inches since then, and Matthew has increased the number of prescribed rope slams since then.

Doni doing the battle (or warrior) ropes September of 2016 at the old Align building. Doni has lost more weight and inches since then, and Matthew has also increased the number of prescribed rope slams since then, too.

I’m a creature of habit. For example, if I go to La Cabana Mexican Restaurant or Woody’s Brew Pub, I don’t look at the menu. I get the same thing every time: A fish taco salad and Cobb salad, respectively. If I go to Starbucks, it’s either a flat white or a non-fat chai latte. If I’m getting a cocktail (though it’s been since last year), a Sidecar is my go-to drink of choice. Meat, rare. Tea, Earl Gray. Coffee, Peet’s French roast. Eggs, scrambled. Flower, Stargazer lilies. See’s candy (a mere memory), butterscotch squares.

If I were left to my own devices at a gym, I’d settle into a comfy routine where I did the same thing every time. I probably wouldn’t push myself much beyond my comfort zone. Why would I intentionally make myself physically uncomfortable, such as by doing 1,00o warrior ropes?

I know. We push ourselves it because it’s good for us. And although I’m aware there are high-functioning folks who walk among us who possess the kind of self-discipline to push themselves to more difficult workouts without adult supervision, I’m not one of those people. I need backup. I need prodding. I need workout buddies.

Two days a week Doni and her workout buddies tackle the independent workout orders.

Two days a week Doni and her workout buddies tackle the independent workout assignments. Matthew’s writing on this dry-erase board gives the illusion that clients have a choice between workout A or workout B. Not so. It says Independent – but it means mandatory.

Most of all, I need a trainer to actually make me do things that I would be convinced were impossible.

At least a few times a month Matthew comes up with something that, when he first describes it, or demonstrates it, I am screaming in my head, “No freaking way!”

Case in point, this week there was a move he asked me and my buddy Laura to do: Lie on our back, one leg out straight on the floor, the other bent with the foot flat on the floor. Hands overhead. Now shoot up into a bold-upright sitting position, pointing your straight arms to the ceiling for a full extension. Now lie back down and quickly do it again. Make that 10 more times, or 12, or 15.

My mind protested, and showed me an image of me struggling to sit up even once, and failing.

But that’s the weird thing about our brain: sometimes our body is smarter than our brain.

I tried it. I did it. And it wasn’t terrible (at least the first 5 or so were OK). If I’d have put money on my inability to do those weird sit-ups, I would have bet against myself.

Then came the TRX straps, which super-planker trainer/client Andrea Charroin was doing in a face-up table plank position, feet on the floor, directly under the contraption, as she grasped the TRX handles and pulled herself up, then touched her butt quickly to the floor, then pulled herself up and did it again, and again. Wow. I couldn’t believe it.

She suggested I try it.

“I don’t think I can do that,” I said.

“Sure you can,” she said.

So I tried.  I did it. I was shocked. I did 10 reps, with my team yelling encouragement to me as I struggled with the last few.

“Come on, Doni! You can do it!”

I did do it. I felt so proud of myself; just as proud as that day I began doing 100-pound dead-lifts, and 10 consecutive military push-ups.

Another thought that occurred to me during my 1,000 battle ropes is that the best trainers – whether it’s Matthew, Tina or Andrea at Align, or a good trainer anywhere – they know when to nudge, when to push, when to let you hold steady, and when to make you give it all you have. And then bump you up again.

It’s like that children’s book, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”.

Nearly one-and-a-half years into my Align Private Training what I’ve finally realized is that once a trainer knows you’ve mastered one thing, you’ll be asked to do more, and more, and more.

If you give a trainer a sit-up, he’ll want two more this week, and two more the next week. By the time a year has rolled around, who knows, you may be doing 1,000 ropes.

997, 998, 999, and 1,000!

I should have been celebrating, except I’d just received some disheartening news, an alert of sorts.

“You know those TRX floor pull-ups Andrea showed you how to do? She wanted me to warn you: Matthew is having her do those with only one foot on the floor now.”

I trust that by the time Matthew asks me to do those TRX contraptions with just one foot, I’ll be ready. Or not.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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19 Responses

  1. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    I know what a regular plank is, but what’s a face-up table plank position?  Sounds waaaay difficult.  But Doin’ Doni did it!  Thanks for the Thursday AM uplift.

  2. Pretty amazing to find out what you’re capable of, isn’t it? For me,  that applies to creative endeavors, too — I push myself and am delightedly surprised by where I end up.  Congratulations! I look forward to these Thursday pep talks – thanks.

  3. A. Jacoby A. Jacoby says:

    Struggling here . . . . but I think I wrote somewhere the if all you can do is move your eye-lids, exercise the heck out of your eye-lids  . . . . at least you’ll end up with a heck of a wink!! So I keep that in mind as I back off some of my benchmarks . . . as per Matthew’s instruction.  It’ll get back to heading the right direction sooner or later.   . . . I think!  Making peace with the fact that the body will do what it can and will do is the crux of the struggle. Beating one’s self up is of no value . . . after all, no one else can see the bruises!!

    • Uh, AJ, I sense some disappointment that you think perhaps you’ve not progressed as far as you wished (hoped, thought, assumed …).

      May I remind you where you started, and how far your fitness has come?

      Also, forgive me for mentioning this, but you are 80-years young. You inspire me, Ms. AJ!

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      AJ, please know that a bunch of us recognize what you’re feeling.  I’d give a whole lot if Matthew, that selfish pup, would clone himself and start an Align here in Eastern County.  But that’s not to be; so I have to join you vicariously.  Setbacks are gonna happen.  It’s darned hard what you and all your workout buddies have undertaken.  That soft warm bed and those bon-bons call louder than the alarm clock, but like the clock, you CAN ignore them and get yourself psyched again.  What was it in last week’s column:  defend the weight you’ve lost.  Make your peace, but keep on keepin’ on.  I believe it was one of your posts where you said, when “friends” pointed out that the weight was returning, and your response was, “Don’t you think I KNOW that?!”  I look forward to another column from you even if it’s about how you’re feeling right now.  Sunny Doni and Erin might not have these down days, but most of the rest of us do.

      • A. Jacoby A. Jacoby says:

        The setbacks here are something over which I have little or no control . . . at the moment! The heart meds the doctor doubled two weeks ago affect my lungs and I can’t breath. It seems like such a simple choice! Breathe??? Heartbeat???? Hmmmmm, which ever should I choose?? But the situation does limit the stress I can put on my body and not pass out. I guess Matthew doesn’t like the idea of the paramedics coming to visit!! How inhospitable of him!!

        • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

          Oh, that is daunting.  No pun intended, but your doc has your best interests at heart – as does Matthew.  One baby step at a time as your body adjusts to your meds.  Thinking of you . . .

        • Well, now I see that you aren’t talking about mere weight-loss and fitness setbacks, but some serious medical issues. Dearest AJ, we are all here for you, sending thoughts of speedy healing. You have a significant birthday on the horizon. Take care of yourself, and know that you have so many people here at the ready for whatever we can do to help.

          I love you, and am so sorry you are going through this.  xodoni

    • Matthew R Lister Matthew R Lister says:

      You’re such a rock star AJ…even when your body betrays you. This too shall pass, bud. You will back impressing everyone with your 2,000 rope slams and 500 meter skier sprints.

      There’s a fire in you dear that a few health challenges can’t extinguish. You and I both know that’s true.

      Never let a speed bump turn into a cliff. Never stop doing your best every day. And every day your best will look differently.


      Love ya bud!

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      My Mother’s Day wish for you is that your meds have stabilized your heart and that your breathing has returned to normal.

  4. Steve Steve says:

    I’m amazed you’re doing all that.  Impressive.

  5. Avatar Ginny says:

    You are doing wonderful, my friend. Just keep up the good work so you continue to only feel better, but love yourself as you are. That is the most important……….