GROWN UP: Talk about working up a sweat…

GROWN UP: Talk about working up a sweat…

The transition from fall to winter is a special time in Maine.

You’re blessed with days warm enough to appreciate the foliage with just a light coat. There’s apple picking and apple cider doughnuts, and the unspeakable horror that is the transition from forgiving, comfortable summer dresses to pants.

And then there’s the darkness. Is that one extra hour of sleeping in you get for daylight savings worth it being dark at 4 p.m.?

What’s a lady to do with all this time? The easy answer would be to take off those pants and Netflix oneself into oblivion.

Or, make it the time of year to renew your passion for finding something to burn off those apple cider doughnuts and enjoy a healthy way to occupy all the time.

Filled with motivation (and fed up being uncomfortable in pants that I didn’t remember being this tight in the spring), I’ve been going to the gym, hitting up a weekly Zumba class and spinning with my gal pals on Saturday morning. All have been tough but rewarding.

So when a coworker suggested we check out hot yoga, I casually agreed and thought, “Why not?”

One Monday night, I tried hot yoga. Or more accurately, I survived hot yoga.

Sure, I’ve done downward dog in the past. And while no yogi, I can rock a Warrior 2 pose with some confidence.

Hot yoga is no joke. And I’m telling you the tale about how I barely made it out alive.

From the waiting room, I spied a room with huge windows and people sitting on their mats waiting for class to begin.

After changing into my version of skimpy workout gear (shorts and a tank top), I pulled open the heavy wooden doors and was hit by a wave of stale heat and body odor.

With a room heated to 100 degrees, I understand why men are in shorts and women look modest in sports bras and basically underwear.

The heat doesn’t seem so bad at first. I rolled out my mat, put down my towel and sat. I didn’t take a sip from my water bottle, instead opting to conserve hydration for later in the class. What really started to get to me was the idea that I couldn’t leave the room. When I signed in and said it was my first class, I was told that I shouldn’t leave the room. (The transition from hot to cold can be more difficult than pushing through the workout.)

As I settled in for a 90-minute class, panic washed over me. There is something about dense, thick humidity that makes you gulp in every breath and triggers your fight-or-flight response. I had only been sitting for a minute, but I was quite sure that this hotbox was going to take me out.

That panic intensified when I was told class was beginning and the doors were locked.

But here’s the wonderful thing that happened: It was the first time in my entire life that I can remember focusing on the task of breathing. And that is it. My mind didn’t drift off into the woes of the day or what I would eat after class or run through my long to-do list. It was so hot and humid, I was reminding myself to breathe and not to die. (Seriously, over and over in my head.) I didn’t think of anything other than the pose I was doing and not giving up before the end of class.

I couldn’t let myself stop as much as I wanted to. There were people two to three times my age who were in there keeping it together. Luckily, my competitive nature can always be counted on to make sure I don’t quit.

Also, being drenched with sweat, I lost my vanity. When I work out, it’s hard not to focus on others around you – their physique, their technique and their choice of workout clothing. Within five minutes of class starting, my body was so covered with sweat, I couldn’t grab my leg for a stretch without my hands slipping. This isn’t dainty, lady sweat we’re talking about. I looked like I had taken a shower with my clothes on, then took a quick dip in the neighbor’s pool fully dressed. My face was bright red. I had never sweated so much in all my years. Even thinking back to preseason double workouts in August and running for hours and hours in the unrelenting sun, those produced light dustings of sweat compared to this.

For the first time, I didn’t give a crap about how I looked. I wasn’t self-conscious about my less-than-ideal areas and instead had a singular focus on not passing out. Keeping conscious and pushing through the 26 poses were all I thought about.

It was an out-of-body experience, for sure, and a lesson in perseverance. I could have given into my brain’s demand for self-preservation and run out into the cool hallway to finally get a deep breath of air, free of dank humidity. But I didn’t.

I knew my body would get a workout, but I never expected the mental exercise I received.

Katie Bell, here near the finish of the Sea Dog’s Father’s Day 5K, has always been athletic, but hot yoga proved her biggest challenge.

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