Family Matters

Boot Camp, Part 2: Exercise, Shmexercise. Why Losing Just 1 Pound Seems So Unfair

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One pound. That’s it! After eight days of abs-defining crunches, too many push-ups to count, breathless sprints, painful planks, forward lunges, backward lunges, you name it, one measly pound is all I’ve kissed goodbye.

I’m wrapping up Week 2 of a month-long fitness boot camp, which I hastily registered for after realizing that the finger agility necessary to type an article a day does not really qualify as exercise. That, and my jeans felt snug.

The regimen is intense: 45-minute classes four days a week, two cardio workouts on my own and a severely restricted diet that considers carbs the enemy. With that trifecta, I’d expected — hoped! — that at least 3 to 4 lbs. would have melted away.

Maybe, my brother kindly suggested, I’m losing fat and replacing it with muscle. I like that explanation. There’s no question that my abdominal muscles are getting a workout the likes of which they have not experienced since childbirth. I can feel them firming up, the work of hundreds of crunches.

MORE: Study: Cutting Carbs Two Days a Week Is Better than Full-Time Dieting

For an anti-exerciser like me, the classes are actually pretty fun, although “fun” is a relative term in this case. What I mean is that they’re challenging and unpredictable: jumping jacks one day, push-ups another. Because the routines are different each morning, it keeps the class from getting boring. And the group dynamic is invaluable; there’s no way in hell I’d ever manage to “wall-sit” — sliding down a wall until my legs form a 90-degree angle, then extending one leg parallel to the floor as long as possible — if others weren’t there struggling with the same act of self-flagellation. Try it: it’s HARD.

Of course, that’s the point. Boot camp takes its name from the military versions, where — at least in the movies — drill sergeants scream at their hapless charges to move, move, move. My two instructors, Nate and Miles, are far more benevolent. They’re both unnervingly fit, but they don’t make me feel badly that I’m not. When they see I’m struggling, they’ll tactfully hand me a lighter dumbbell or suggest a way to modify a position to make an impossible exercise doable.

And yet, the power of the group persists. I don’t want the one man and half dozen women — many of them a good 10-plus years older than me — whom I met just last week thinking that I’m a wimp. So even when my muscles doth protest, I soldier on. Here’s hoping one pound is only the beginning. Stay tuned for next Friday’s installment.

Bonnie Rochman is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @brochman. You can also continue the discussion on TIME‘s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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