February 21, 2007

Body By Jell-o

Let's face the facts, I've been doing crunches non-stop for the better part of 10 years and I've never seen more than a one-pack, much less a 12-pack. I don't have abs - I have ab. Just one. One jiggly, squishy, Jello-like ab.

I wish I could have a flat, ripped stomach. I've been doing these damn crunches since Kurt Cobain was alive. Trust me, it ain't working. Catherine, on the other hand, has the good genes. She's got a naturally flat ripped stomach and I don't think she'd ever done a sit-up until last year when I showed her how.

I like patting and rubbing her flat stomach. It's neat.

So after a decade of these meaningless crunches, somewhere around last September I decided I had enough. I figured, if I don't have a washboard by now, it just ain't ever gonna happen.

Keep that little anecdote in the back of your mind, cause right now I'm going to completely change the subject on you.

Biking has never been my strong sport. Most of the time it's been my weak sport. As a matter of fact, it seems to be getting weaker. Now that I mention it, the word "weak" seems to be a great single word summary of my biking skills.

I fancy myself a runner - I've got strong calves and the thin runners body. On the other hand, I've got very weak, barely non-existent quads and a couple-a hamstrings that are tighter than Saddam's noose. Since quads and hamstrings are pretty crucial elements in cycling, it doesn't bode well for me at all.

But I'm thin and small. In fact, my physical stats are eerily similar to pro-cycling, blood-transfusing wunderkind, Tyler Hamilton (of course that includes his unborn twin). When cyclists see my physique they sometimes say things like "man, you've got a climbers body" and "wow, bro, you must fly up the hills."

I usually respond to these comments with some witty, highly intelligent retort such as, um.....uhhhh....... no.

Truth be told, I'm a much better cyclist on the flats (where I can use my lower legs) than on the hills (where I have to rely on my lack-of upper legs). So whenever I'm out for a long bike ride or climbing endless hills it places all sorts of strain on my quads and hamstrings. Inevitably I'm going to end up with loads of back pain. It's a given. Back pain and bike riding go together for me like ice cream and pretzels (which happen to be the perfect mixture of flavors).

It is expected that when I finish a ride, my back is going to hurt. If the back doesn't hurt, I really didn't go that far.

So if we're ever at a race together, you'll recognize me when I hit T2 - I'm the one that looks like a question mark.

Fortunately, the running part of the race usually helps to straighten me out and make the pain go away. After a few short minutes on the road, my back is back to normal.

That is, all would go back to normal until this past December. I went out on a short little three miler this past December. It was a nice run, as my recent runs go. My calf didn't hurt, achilles was fine... but when I finished, my back was in excruciating pain. I was confused. My back isn't supposed to hurt after a run. For a second I thought I had just gone for a bike ride and I wondered why I did that in running shoes and jogging shorts. Then I realized something had changed - and not for the better.

Since that time, my back has become increasingly pained after my runs - which sure sucks some of the joy out of the ole running straw, if you ask me.

So now I've got back pain when I bike AND when I run. Fortunately, swimming in the nice cool water is so soothing, it usually revives and refreshes my tired body. Until yesterday. (You can probably see where this one is going, can'tcha smarty-pants?)

I was doing a nice easy 2500 yard swim, really focusing on my stroke. Reach, extend, push. Reach, extend, push. When all of the sudden, somewhere in the middle of my second 600, smack dab in the midst of a mighty impressive extension, I felt a little tweak in my back. Uh-oh, I said, causing me to swallow quite a bit of water.

I continued on with my swimming a bit more cautiously. The back pain didn't go away. Did I pull something? Did I break something?

Finally, as I pried myself out of bed this morning, my hand on my back in my best geriatric pose, it all started making sense. Since I stopped doing my daily crunches, my core strength has plummeted six feet under. Not only do I have jelly belly, but all the support that was hidden down beyond the flab, is there no longer.

In a funny way it kinda made me proud to realize that my crunches actually did something good for me. Maybe the 1990s weren't so pointless after all. And I suppose this is as good enough reason as it gets to start crunching again.

Don't you love a happy ending?


Spokane Al said...

I am glad to hear that you are also a member of the ab club. I have been also doing my ab exercises faithfully for a number of years and on a good day I think I may see a faint outline of a muscle.

I trust that even though we cannot see progress, like your experience, we are keeping our core strong. Which, I guess, should be the primary purpose (although some visible evidence would be nice).

pb said...

Core strength is a very underestimated part of training. Ever thought of doing specific lower back exercises on top of your crunches? They might even cure you of your "bike ride" back pains...

j. said...

as a matter of fact, PB, i'm happy to say that i do practice other lower-back exercises on top of the crunches. and, in hindsight, they appear to have worked to help strengthen my core. unfortunately i lump all those exercises into a nice "core workout" package, so rarely do them separately. however, perhaps nows the time, eh?

IM Able said...

May I suggest a cane? It may get awkward on the swim, but since you're fine with cycling in your running clothes, it shouldn't be a stretch for you.

Ha! Look at that pun! Came outta nowhere. Love it I'm unintentionally witty.

Carry on...

Andra Sue said...

Oh my gosh...that was such a disappointing story. I've always told myself that crunches and core work were worthless (yeah, probably b/c I don't like to do them). Now you've fouled all that up for me! Curses! :(