A few months ago, a group of us booked a cruise with a shore excursion to the Lamanai ruins in Belize. “And you’re allowed to climb the High Temple!” we were told enthusiastically. No way, I thought. And then I thought some more. Had I decided I didn’t want to climb the Mayan pyramid because I was concerned about the steep descent and the high, narrow, slippery steps–or was I afraid that I couldn’t climb to the top? Surely not. We’ve got stairs in our house and I go up and down them all the time. But they aren’t Mayan stairs, which are twice as high. I tried going up the stairs two at a time without using the banister. Try it. Now imagine doing it seventy something times. Uh huh.
I decided I was going to climb that pyramid. I’ve been exercising, but clearly I needed to step it up, so to speak. The Curves workout wasn’t going to do it. But in January, they brought in Jillian Michaels of Biggest Loser fame to create a more intense workout. Good old-fashioned squats, lunges, and jumping jacks. Jumping jacks? I hadn’t done those since eighth grade. And push ups. I’d never been able to do a real push up. Now planks were something new to me–you support yourself on your elbows and toes and hold your body in a straight line. After a month of this, just when I thought I might try an actual push up, the exercises changed. Now it wasn’t just a push up, it was a traveling push up. And there was something called a table sit. For this one, you sit on the floor, hands on the floor by your hips, fingers pointed forward. First you raise your torso until your body looks like a table and then the tricky part–you lower and swing your hips back by your hands without touching the ground. And repeat. Too bad my arms weren’t long enough. Except they must have grown because after a few days, I could actually do this. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself until disaster struck. The curtsey squat got me. It’s just what it sounds like–deep curtseys. I wasn’t having any problems with them until something around my hip joint slipped or stretched more than it should. I tried to walk it out, but I could feel whatever got hurt telling all the other muscles and tendons about it and they were swelling with sympathy.
It was two and a half weeks until I was supposed to be climbing the Lamanai High Temple. So instead of toughing it out, I got smart, went home, and called the doctor, babbling about curtsey squats and Mayan pyramids. After she stopped laughing, I had a prescription for an anti-inflammatory and a warning to come in if my hip didn’t get better. But it did, and after a week, I cautiously resumed my workout, but without the curtsey squats. I even did my first real push up ever.
Once on the ship, I skipped the elevators and climbed up and down the stairs. My hip complained, but it was more of a “Why are we climbing stairs when we could be sipping fruity drinks in a lounge chair on the deck?” than “I ain’t doin’ this.”
Last Wednesday, we arrived in Belize. Getting to the Lamanai ruins requires an hour bus drive, an hour in a speed boat on the river, and a hike in the jungle while being serenaded by howler monkeys. And then I was standing at the base of the Lamanai High Temple. My college roomie and her husband were with us on the tour. We posed for pictures and then our husbands started climbing. “Are you going to climb it?” she asked. Was I? I stared up at all those steps and said, “Yes. Yes, I am.”
The steps are about knee high and narrow. There is a rope in the middle, but it’s mostly for something to grab if you feel yourself slipping. Otherwise, it’s not much of a help. About mid-way up, I started crawling rather than trying to remain upright. The last step was taller than the others and it was a struggle to hoist myself up to the platform. Only guess what? There were more steps, and no rope, but I’d made it that far; I was going up the rest of the way.
Standing up on the top of the pyramid, the surprisingly small top, and knowing I’d accomplished my goal was a great feeling. My college roomie took that picture of me waving in triumph with my husband standing next to me.
I reveled in the great feeling of accomplishment for about two minutes before it was time to come back down. I didn’t want to. Those steps are steep! My mom, who’s climbed a pyramid or two, had told me to sit on the steps and climb down that way. I figured my shorts would be ruined after sliding over rocks, but as I positioned my hands next to my hips, I easily raised and lowered myself to the next step. Table sits! This was just like doing table sits! Who would have thought it? As I table sat my way down the pyramid, I kept waiting for my arms to give out. They never did. They weren’t even sore and my shorts live to climb another day. But not any time soon.
I’m not an athletic person, so setting a physical goal was different for me. How about you? Any similar goals? Other goals? Pyramids to be climbed?