This article appeared in the July 2010 issue of Washingtonian.
My first workout with Aaron Sterling was more of an audition. Before he’d take me on as a client, he said, we had to talk. With his feathered sandy-brown hair and polo shirt, Sterling, 37, looked like a Beach Boys flashback, only more ripped.
“What do you want to get out of this?” he asked. I’d shown up wearing a tank top and cargo shorts from Talbots.
“I was thinking something along the lines of this,” I said, pulling out a photo of Olympic swimmer Dara Torres reclining poolside in a bikini. I figured that would impress him.
He barely glanced at it. “I would rather see a body in motion,” he said. Moving correctly, I was about to learn, is a big part of Sterling’s philosophy at his gym in DC’s Adams Morgan. I followed him over to something that resembled a small blue hill rising from the floor. It was to be my nemesis: the Bosu ball—more precisely a balance trainer, which looks like a ball sliced in half.
“Get up and stand on one leg,” he said.
The ball was filled with gel, making it impossible to steady myself on its flat side.
“It’s shaking,” I said. “That’s what it does,” he said, then began counting back from 30.
I searched for something to grab onto. “I’m going to fall,” I cried.
At 44 years old, I didn’t have one good leg to stand on. According to Sterling, I was imbalanced. And he was right—in more ways than one.
After years of accumulated stress and disappointment—a string of breakups, losses of family and friends, years of sitting at a desk with deadlines looming—I had tensed my body into unfamiliar shapes. My back hurt, and some mornings I had to prop myself on my elbows just to brush my teeth.
I wasn’t overweight, but I felt old and tired and lazy. And whether it was a result of middle age, a sedentary writer’s life, or a history of choosing to be a spectator rather than a player, I wasn’t motivated to do anything about it.
Until the day I opened an e-mail and found an invitation to my 25th high-school reunion, three months away. Was this enough time, I wondered, to turn a soft and dimpled body into something worthy of a class superlative?
As the girl once voted most likely to wear Laura Ashley, I wanted to flex my muscles in something more along the lines of Roberto Cavalli. My goal: By the time I rejoined my old classmates, I would have banished my underarm jiggle, raised my butt a few inches, and carved my abs into something worthy of seeing the light of day.
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