The Stairs

There it was. The most intimidating piece of equipment the YMCA had to offer. In my mind it was an ascending tower of quadriceps-burning misery. A torture device so sinister, it made the treadmill look like a trip to Disney.

They call it…The ClimbMill.

Rising above the elliptical machines like a staircase to another realm of pain and suffering, it stared me down. Its watchful gaze permeated my trembling thighs and glutes, like the Eye of Sauron looking for Frodo. Sometimes, I wasn’t sure if it was beckoning to me, inviting me to a challenge, or scaring me off to a treadmill in the corner. Every workout, I would contemplate climbing its dark moving steps to nowhere, but then my lower half would talk me out of it.

“Why not do the elliptical tonight?” Query my calves.

“How about some strength training?” Beg my biceps.

“You still haven’t beaten your Expresso course time,” my glutes implore.

So once again, I would run, or spin, or Zumba my heart out, and avoid the Stairs of Death altogether. After all, I had given myself the same old excuses. “My quads were damaged beyond repair when I was paralyzed.” Or “ I’m too heavy to last that long.” The one time I had tried plyometric box jumping, I thought I had permanently torn my thigh. Plus, over the years, I’ve adapted to running up flights of stairs instead of walking slowly to avoid the terrible burn.

But yet, I asked myself why I was so afraid of this mini escalator. After all, it was only a machine… a machine that could grab my shoelace and inhale my foot in a heartbeat. Or I could lose my balance and fall off, only to be humiliated in front of the cute guy on the treadmill behind me. So, yeah, maybe my fears were valid. Or maybe I was just being a big wuss.

We all have fears, and I’m sure you’ve all read a thousand other books, blogs and calendar quotes that tell you why and how you should face them. Therefore, you probably don’t need my advice on the topic. However, I can attest that facing and conquering your fears is a great feeling. I had to get over my fear of deep water in order to swim laps and prepare for a triathlon. Now I look back, and I don’t know why I was so afraid before.

Last night, I decided it was time to put on my big girl spandex and attempt just 5 minutes on the ClimbMill. I figured, if I could do 5 minutes, I’d work up from there. Maybe my body was more capable than I thought. Maybe the notion of defeat was all in my head. Maybe my thighs wouldn’t burn like sizzling sirloins on a charcoal grill.

I climbed aboard and looked over the controls. It seemed innocent enough, with some of the same buttons as the other machines. But I wasn’t fooled. This was a trickier beast that wasn’t going down without a fight. I punched in my level, weight, and time, then braced myself as I pressed the start button. Slowly, the stairs started to move. Once I got adjusted, I started increasing speed. This wasn’t so bad. My fear melted away, and I completed the whole 5 minutes without pain, falling, or getting caught in the stairs. In fact, my legs felt fine!

Next time, I’ll shoot for 10 minutes.

Stair down your fears!

Jackie Joy