Have you ever felt a deep burn in your muscles, in your glutes and hamstrings, and felt the unnatural urge to come back for more?
This is one of Karen Williams’ specialties.
“Exercise is like breathing,” she said. “It’s something we should be doing every day.”
Williams has recently started a training business called Fitness for Life in Marion. She instructs fitness classes at USD 408 Sports and Aquatics Center from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays and 6:15 to 7:15 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
She is also certified as a personal trainer. I thought, when I learned of this information, the best way to learn Williams’ style was to put my overweight, out-of-shape body through a workout.
Recently I’ve been playing basketball two times a week for at least an hour at a time. The workout I did Friday with Williams was as tiring as basketball. It also worked muscles I scarcely knew I had.
Williams started the session by obtaining information, asking me my height, weight, and if I have a heart condition. When she started inquiring to find out if the workout would kill me, I should have known I was in for something strenuous.
Williams has two main exercising philosophies. First, she wants to work the whole body. Second, she wants to string together exercises to keep up the cardiovascular intensity.
After a one-lap jog around the gym track and short stretching, we started in earnest with jumping jacks where one hand touches the ground, jump squats, and plank flies for three sets.
Let me tell you about jump squats. In the exercise, you squat all the way down then simultaneously jump and turn at 45-degree angle repeatedly. I could do about five consecutively before my quads felt like they bunched up like tangled batch of Christmas lights. Plank flies, excuse me for making up names for some of these as I go, are arm raises, perpendicular to your torso from a push-up position. They are also difficult but even more so when someone is there to deter you from cheating by telling you to get your butt down.
For the next group of exercises we did medicine ball pivots — you turn your torso while holding a medicine ball while our legs are extended, knees bent, floating out in front of you. Then it was dumbbell lunges, except I was bad at them so Williams switched it to high step-ups onto a plastic chair. After three sets of this group, I was sweating profusely. This is also where Williams was good to encourage me as I started to tire.
Mercifully, we changed gears and worked upper body with resistance bands. It was two sets of laying shoulder raises, squatting rows, and standing butterfly presses.
Through this point, we had worked glutes, hamstrings, obliques, abdominals, quadriceps, calves, pectorals, lats, and shoulders.
Williams then pumped the cardio back up. I did a clean jerk to an overhead press with a 10-pound weight five times, emphasizing the squatting action, then ran to the other end of the track, did five pushups, and ran back to repeat. The first time I did this I sprinted down the floor because I was determined to work hard. The next two times, I ran at a glacial pace. Elderly women walking were passing me.
With the compounding nature of these exercises, the next group was very difficult — three sets of squat hammer thrusts and plank jacks.
Squat hammer thrusts are when you raise a dumbbell from between your legs over your head; it works back, shoulders, and those leg muscles that were starting to feel it. It was the fifth exercise involving a squatting motion. When Williams told me to get my butt down to do the squat correctly, I called her the devil.
I had never done anything like plank jacks before — you get into a push-up position and then quickly spread your legs back and forth like a jumping jack. If my muscles were toned it would have been exhausting, but it also worked the inner thigh part of my legs, which never gets worked.
I thought that was as hard as it was going to get. I was wrong. Wrong.
We then did a shuffling medicine ball tosses. As a former basketball player, I thought of playing defense. You get into that stance and go down the entire length of the track tossing a medicine ball. When you get to one side, you do five jumps, then you shuffle back, at the end of the rainbow is 10 situps.
When I figured out what Williams wanted to do, I had to take a step back and mentally prepare myself. It was as hard as I thought.
After this we did some leisurely stretching and the workout was complete.
Throughout the workout, Williams was encouraging and did all of the exercises with me. It was nice to see that she is human, even though she is in great shape, because she would tire with some of the more difficult exercises.
However, the workouts definitely get more difficult from here, including flipping tires and other boot camp style activities. My workout Friday was not for a beginner, but it was not even middle-of-the-road difficult, Williams said.
I enjoyed it because I could feel it working. I’m also going to incorporate some of these things into my own routine.