Around the beginning of December, I started going to the little gym down the street. I had just come off a month of daily running. I hadn't decided to do the marathon yet, but I was hopeful about how the getting-into-shape-again thing was going, and I wanted to do something to keep it from slipping away. On my first visit to the gym on December 3, I did, among other things, twenty sit-ups on an incline board. My abs didn't stop hurting for a week. The next time I tried it, and the time after that, I could only do ten.
But then twenty the next time. And the next time, and the next time. And then it was January and I started going to the gym twice a week as part of the marathon training schedule. On January 2, I wrote on my calendar, "25 angle board situps, which is about as many as I can do."
On January 8, when I was in San Diego: "30 angle-board sit-ups (although less angled of a board than the one I use in Portland!)" Back in Portland, over the next few gym visits: 25, 30, 35, 30. January 23: 45. "Wow!" I wrote. Then: 65 on January 30; 70 on February 1; 80 on February 4.
Today, I did a hundred of the damn things. A hundred! And at the end I could still sit up without using my arms!
Now. These aren't like regular, floor sit-ups. I could barely do ten of those, I think, much less a hundred. Also, this exercise doesn't really isolate the abs -- far from it. (My iliacuses are sore.) So, you know, it's not like I have Really Ripped Abs or something. Indeed, in the mirror I can't see any difference at all. Still. Still. I'm proud of myself.
But the real reason I keep doing this exercise, the real reason these numbers keep getting higher? It's not so I can be healthy, or so I can "look good". It's for one reason, and it's really very selfish, and it's the only thing that keeps me coming back to the gym: I fucking love the way this exercise makes me feel. I know I look ridiculous when I do this. I get red-faced and I fart and my hair gets messed up and my breath is ragged and I start groaning, and people edge away, and from time to time I have to just lie there like a dead fish for a few seconds until I'm ready to go again. But, sometimes, sometimes, when I'm in the middle of doing this, I feel a satisfaction I can't describe, way deep down in my core, nothing quite like it, and I can't get it anywhere else.