The Pain Diaries – Journal

Day One

Eye of the tiger | Photo: Simon Wilson

Eye of the tiger | Photo: Simon Wilson

I was going to call Day One the day I went to All Canadian Fitness and just talked to Ernie and Adam about this implausible undertaking, but my kids said walking through a gym did not count as working out.

I’ve no idea how much work Craig Davidson, the reason I’m doing this, is putting into this. If he’s like most writers, he’d probably rather be drinking while wearing grubby clothes as he ponders imponderables, like global warming and bathing. I know that’s what I’d rather be doing.

My first day with Adam Higson, the boxer, is a revelation. I’ve been worried about important things, like what to wear. I finally settle on these long blue shiny Old Navy shorts that don’t fit anyone (including me) and a red tank top that I think looks quite sporty. Except for the part where my bra straps stick out.

When I was out shopping for cleats for Marc, I picked up a pair of cute little Reeboks. I haven’t owned running shoes in years. I think there’s a pair at the cottage somewhere with a mouse nesting in them.

Adam had me instantly doing these running forwards and backwards things. I felt like an idiot running – I seriously haven’t run since, well, I don’t know when. I was yelling and complaining the whole time, until I realized I was wasting very valuable breath cracking jokes. I shut up.

After a series of scrunches with a medicine ball, and many screams of pain, he let me put on boxing gloves.

I’ll be honest: I don’t watch boxing, because large sweaty men beating on each other is not my thing. It just looks mean, and extremely haphazard. Was I wrong. There are rules. We worked on just my stance for ages. Who knew you could stand wrong? I’d get all pleased with myself, then Adam would tap my shoulder and I’d fall over.

He taught me basic jabs – the left hand (I’m right-handed) set up for the later big-ass punches. There is a way to hold your hand; there is a way to hold your arm; there is a position for your chin; there is a trajectory for the whole jab that must be followed, and you must stand correctly the entire time. You should see how fast you forget about your bra straps.

The hour flew by, and I went home with an energy that was indescribable (but since I’m a writer, I should probably try). I was buzzed; I felt empowered; I LOVED hitting, something I had never done before. I was onto something, and I hadn’t expected that.

Day Two

After Day One, the night had been a little rough on my neck. I had bad whiplash 5 years ago, and I’d told the lads that I already had migraines. Whenever my neck acted up, the headaches got worse. Oh, and did I tell you I was going to learn how to box? Whadda fool…

After Day One, I’d been icing my neck and taking drugs. I know, not very athletic, though come to think of it, maybe it is. Is Tylenol a banned substance? The next morning, my neck was sore, but the rest of me was surprisingly okay. I patted myself on the back, figuratively, and congratulated myself for being in better shape than I thought. At my peak, I swim 70 lengths a day, 5 days a week. I was at my peak about a year ago. I’ve gone to the pool probably twice in the last 3 months. A little off-peak.

Day Two was Ernie’s turn to hurt me. He’s a former Hamilton Ticat, and I’m thinking they could probably use him right about now. He had me instantly doing these squat things (which I learned the next day would blow my legs up), and all manner of stretching rubber band things, stretching with medicine balls and all around painful endurance activities. He told me we would be concentrating on endurance. Like I was going to argue with a guy who has to go through a door sideways. It was all I could do to breath, let alone talk. Maybe these guys are smarter than I gave them credit for…

We finished up the hour on the treadmill, and I’ll admit this – I’ve never run on a treadmill. He turned it on, and I almost fell off. We started with walking – I’ve mastered walking – and got to a little trot that I could manage. As long as I was holding onto the handles. In two weeks, I’m supposed to look like a convincing boxer.

I left the gym on Day Two with rubber legs. I was sweaty, and feeling decidedly sporty. And hurty. I tell myself I’m through the rough first two days.

Day Three

After the second day, I don’t sleep, except at intermittent intervals like a collicky newborn. And I cry just as hard. I have iced my neck most of the night, but I still get a migraine. I will never survive this.

The next morning, the only thing that keeps me going forward is knowing I get to box again. We are alternating Adam and Ernie, each taking turns killing me. They are both remarkably tough, though in two different ways. Knowing I will be able to hit something is just too appealing to give this up. I can not believe how much I love this.

I get to the club in yet another new snazzy hand-me-down outfit from the kids. I’m a few minutes early, and surprise myself by hopping on the treadmill – of my own accord. What is happening to me?

Today, I get to work on my right punch, the big Daddy-o of power. I call my right fist the Howitzer, which is a little presumptuous, but hey – it’s my delusion. I get so into it – jab, jab, howitzer – that Adam finally gives up on trying to correct my stance (I have conveniently forgotten all I have learned from the knees down) and pulls out these little shackle things for my ankles. He velcros one around each ankle, then stretches the right band between them. I ask him if I can take them home.

He recalibrates my stance with the gizmos on, and I fall over. Let me tell you how happy I am that I am not being followed by a photographer on this venture.

With my feet planted, we get to punching in earnest. He is teaching me to cover my face today, and to concentrate. I’m like my cat chasing a fly – one minute all into it, the next looking to see what that noise was. Adam corrects my posture, my hands and my attitude over and over. My feet are on their own.

Boxing is like dancing. There is a choreography that is as complicated as any tango, if a tango ended up with people bleeding. At one point on Day Three, I finally look up in surprise. I have found the rhythm. Adam has told me it’s like finally figuring out how to ride a bike, and he’s right. All of a sudden, I get it. I’m not very good at it, but I get it.

Day Three is a breakthrough. I am surviving the pain, which they have told me will get better. Lying bastards.

Day Four

The night after Day Three has been the worst night of my life. Seriously. Migraine. Icing the neck. But the worst thing is my legs. Those power squats have left me unable to go down stairs. I am hobbling, and almost crying.

The lads have decided that Day Four will be my ‘do it yourself’ day. They’ve told me to just go swimming for some light cardio, and to take Day Five off. Day Five falls on a Sunday, and I consider going to church to pray for mercy.

I check the Y schedule for my Day Four, and find the only time I will be able to go is at 7am. This means after not sleeping all night – seriously, every single time I tried to move, every single muscle screamed so loud it woke up the whole house – I will have to get up at 6:30 and go swimming.

I don’t mind getting up early, I’m usually up by 5:30 anyway. But I prefer to wake early after having had some semblance of a night. At 6:30, I am pinned to the bed. I feebly pull myself up, holding back tears. I have lost my mind. I need to quit this ridiculous exercise.

I go down the stairs on my bum. At the Y, I literally have a hard time hauling on my swimsuit. I desperately try to walk normally so everyone else won’t know I can’t feel my legs. As I get into the pool, the warm water is so inviting I never want to get out. But no, my gurus have instructed me.

It takes me ten lengths just to get kicking normally. By 30, I can feel some benefits already of the cardio I’ve been doing at the gym. I am shocked, actually. I do 60, and feel fabulous.

And then I get out.

Swimming on Day Four has been good, but I’m still in pain. I look like I’m walking on someone else’s legs. I wish I were. All of a sudden, I realize my neck doesn’t hurt. At all. It’s hurt for five years. Unbelievable.

I also realize that the wine I gave up at the beginning of this trek is not missed. I am starting to have a new respect for my body, even the parts I can’t feel properly.

Day Five

Day Five is my day off. There should probably be nothing to write here, but I have never been so happy to have a day off in my life. I have warned the Poor Sod That Lives With Me (as he is affectionately known) that if he wakes me up with Cornonation Street blaring, I will kill him.

I don’t care whom is boffing whom, don’t wake me up.

Well, unless it’s that really skanky guy with his son’s girlfriend. For that, I’ll get up…

Day Six

I am reborn.

Nothing hurts. I have these little liney things on my stomach, which my son assures me are the beginning of abs. I have the world’s tiniest two pack.

Nobody that knows me will believe this next sentence: It is Monday morning, I am thrilled to wake up too early, my bag is packed for the gym, and I am excited about my boxing lesson.

I have lost my mind. In the midst of all this physical frivolity, I am still filing columns and developing outlines. All I want to do is base my life around that intense hour with Adam or Ernie, then spend the other 23 recovering or reminiscing about it. I see why pro athletes can’t do anything other than be pro at something, and maybe shill sports drinks or runners. They don’t have to race home and make editors happy. Or dinner.

Adam wipes that perky smile off of my face in short order. Today, we are learning combinations. We will be jabbing, punching, upper cutting and hooking. We do this until sweat is running into my eyes. We do this until I can barely hold my arms up. Then we wait 60 seconds and we to it again. And again.

I lose the rhythm over and over. Over and over, Adam corrects me. I finally get it going again, and find myself cheering for me. And yelling and grunting. No points for decorum in this place, lemme tell ya.

My feet are getting natural now. They know where to go, and I’ve learned that I like to dance around a little. Adam is laughing at me, so I punch him.

Day Seven

For some reason, even though I really, really like Ernie as a person, I dread walking through that door knowing what he’s going to make me do. He has The List, and I’ve seen The List, and I have contemplated hiding The List when he isn’t looking.

I show everyone my little ab thing that’s going on, and they smile politely. To say these guys are ripped is an understatement. I also tell Ernie I have a sore spot on my lower abdominal region (it feels like a stitch that won’t go away) and he instantly changes the exercises to make sure we don’t aggravate it. There is so much to be said for going to professionals for this stuff.

Notice I said ‘change’, not ‘let me off the hook’. Whenever he rolls out this big purple ball thing, my heart sinks. I can barely sit on it without falling off (I’m not blessed with natural balance-or natural light blond hair, but that can be purchased), and he expects me to do crunch things on it. Who sat around and thought up this stuff, anyway?

I come home and have to churn out copious amounts of copy. Just five days ago, I was communicating by telepathy, and here I am all business by 9:15 in the morning. My sisters have both called, gingerly asking me how I feel, then blasting me for being such a moron. I’ve always been the medically delicate one – to put it kindly.

I have never felt stronger. My initial reason for doing this was that I really, really wanted to hit someone, preferably a guy. Hard. Oh, go on. We all have our reasons…I just found the opportunity. I never imagined I would actually do it. But I swear, from the first punch I was hooked. Women are so socialized not to hit.

Adam and Ernie told me that initially, many women have a hard time actually punching. They hold back. And then both of them told me the same thing – when the women get their head around it, they are unstoppable. I believe that. There is power in being entirely physical and channelling any frustration, rage or hurt into something you can sweat out.

And who doesn’t have a little of any or all three of those things?

Day Eight

Okay, now I’m starting to feel bad for calling these the Pain Diaries. I’m human again. Sort of. Today I had boxing, and the Toronto Star photographer was coming to get some shots. Adam decided I should ramp up my warm up exercise to ‘pump’ up my arms. Snerk. Yeah, sure. I think all I managed to do was sweat like never before, which will no doubt be a really nice look for the paper. 42, no makeup, wearing shorts as big as diapers and sweat flying everywhere. I think I need to have a talk with Adam…

He let me use his tres cool boxing gloves, which I admit made me feel really special. They weighed about three times what the other ones did, so holding my arms up took some adjusting, but I started to feel like I could do this. Of course, cracking up laughing every few minutes took some of the tough edge off it – hard to look lethal when you”re giggling.

The session was still all work. Adam doesn’t care who’s taking his picture, his job is to make sure I don’t embarrass myself next week. He added this little sneaky side jab thing to the mix (I hope Craig isn’t reading this).

It can be really complicated, trying to remember combinations. As soon as I get it figured out, he changes it. I wonder how boxers do all this with someone actually hitting them. Adam said if they can’t connect, they can’t hit you. He said it’s good I’m considerably smaller than the other guy. I’m considering covering my entire body in grease so that everything will just glance off me.

At the end, we did some shots with Ernie and the training I do with him. But I don’t do that today, and my arms were shot. Nobody cared. If there is a single picture in the whole shoot where I’m smiling, I will be shocked. My webgod, Jeff, was there earlier and I’ll be posting some shots somewhere on the site soon. All I can say is that if Craig Davidson isn’t a scared man, he’s a crazy one.

Hee.

Day Nine

I’ve heard it’s important to keep your fitness routine everchanging, so that it doesn’t become, well, routine. It’s important to have variety.

I’m not sure that after 9 days of working out I really qualify for being bored yet – I still haven’t even mastered what I’m doing, for the most part. But today, Ernie welcomed me and announced that Ana Cristina would be doing my workout.

Now, I’m used to letting these two guys push me around, and when I look at their physiques I can shrug and think ‘wouldn’t want to look like that, anyway’. Ana comes over to say hi. She’s the girl I would have hated in high school. And yes, I am shallow like that. Insecurity is not attractive, but it is pretty rampant.

Ernie warns me that she’s tough. She’ll have you talking away about food and boyfriends and shopping and the next thing you now you feel like someone is dangling you over Niagara Falls by your ankles.

She had a different routine than Ernie, and as she demonstrated what she wanted me to do, all I could think was how cute her little black pants were. If I were sporty, I would buy little pants like that. They wouldn’t look like that, but someone should have her on a billboard.

As she chatted away kindly, I flailed around. Her exercises required more balance than some of the other ones, and I possess no grace. None. I can’t believe she wasn’t laughing, until she told me she was an actress and I realized she was delivering a very good performance.

Doing some scrunches and pull-ups, she made me focus as she counted higher and higher. I was staring into the face of an angel as a devil turned my abs into a macrame plant holder.

We were discussing her vegetarian diet (she’s a nutritionist) and I was nodding along, agreeing totally with the whole nasty meat concept. I’ve never been a big meat eater, but the last week has required a lot of additional calories.

I’m not going to tell her I came home ate half a leftover steak that I found in the fridge.

Day Ten

Okay, I’m getting nervous, so I’m getting sloppy. Adam spent too much time trying to dial me back in. The Star article made it a little too real, though I’m pleased with the picture of Craig that they ran. He is wearing glasses, and looks quite authorly. I’m going to let that lull me into a false sense of security.

Adam asked how my sore ab muscle was, the one I strained a few days ago. Before I realized what my foolish mouth was doing, it said “fine”.

No rest for the stupid. Back to full crunches and nasty things on that big purple ball. We’ve trying to work on my balance, mostly because I don’t have any. Some people at the gym have started wishing me good luck at my fight, and they have this sick kind of look on their face like you have when you’re talking to a cat that’s about to be put down.

Adam is working on more combinations with me now, and I’m learning more punches. Jabs and punches are good, undercuts are hard to keep up, and hooks are really tough. Adam learned that Craig is 6’1″, so he’s trying to teach me taller things. As long as the guy I’m fighting is holding up his hands and counting as he tells me where to hit him, I’m home free.

Day Eleven

Swimming was much easier this morning than last week. There are big posters all around the pool that tell you you’re supposed to tell the lifeguard if you have a pre-existing medical condition that may affect your swimming ability. Last week, I considered telling them ‘Yup. My condition is Total Idiot. I’m not having a seizure, that’s just the only way I can swim without drowning.’ Today was better.

Whenever I’m in the pool with any kind of regularity, my shoulders become reminiscent of those lovely East German Olympic girls before drug testing. I noticed with the boxing the same thing. It’s nice to be getting stronger, but when people tell you to take out the shoulder pads and you aren’t wearing any, you wonder if this is really what you had in mind.

I’ve always thought working out with someone telling you what to do is kind of beginners-only, or bored-housewife. You do what you need to do, and then you go home. What I’ve discovered is that I do much better with someone yelling at me, and refusing to put up with my whining excuses. I found myself swimming today and realizing if Adam or Ernie were to stand there and yell at me, I’d probably swim more, or faster.

Webgod Jeff keeps mucking with the site behind my back, then sending me cryptic little emails telling me to check something. To the photos he’s added a soundtrack (Eye of the Tiger) which had me falling out of my chair. Then he posted video, which is only going to make the enemy feel very reassured.

My sister in Toronto who still goes by Sommerfeld as well is in the enviable position of having lots of people now know her sister is a complete nutter. As she bats down questions of hereditary dysfunction, she is also struggling with being supportive, and killing me if I come out of this with one eye swollen shut, a la Rocky.

My other sister is just thankful she took her husband’s name upon marriage.

My body has just an all-over kind of little dull pain going on, and it’s actually kind of okay. It reminds me I did something other than search for the remote while trying to protect a bag of chips from the kids, my usual form of exercise.

My neck is fabulous, which is truly stunning me. It has been bad to worse for five years, after getting 3rd degree whiplash from some stupid woman running a red light and T-boning us. I would like to meet up with her now, let me tell you… But now it’s stronger, and after the initial 3 days of kill-me-now pain, it feels wonderful.

Day Twelve

So, I’m thinking I should be getting 12 drummers drumming today. Or something like that.

I saw my sister yesterday, who I’ve always considered the family jock. I’ll admit, in this family, that’s not saying much. You play one sport for one season, you win. Heck, you play one game of something, you win. She said she wants to start boxing this fall. Her husband shot up his eyebrows and I believe what he mouthed to me was ‘thank you’.

As this is my day off, it is the one time I can sleep, sleep, sleep. Or at least I could, if the cats didn’t think they still need to eat at 6:30am. Cats may have watches, but they don’t have calendars. I end up at the same time as always.

I sat here working yesterday and realized my knuckles were bruised. I am used to being dinged up because I’m a total klutz, but to be bruised because of some form of athletic endeavour still makes me feel like a star. A little star, but a smug little star.

Don’t worry. I’m thinking Friday is gonna punch the smug right out of me.

Day Thirteen

The day after seeing photos on my website, my sister came running over with her soccer shorts. I’m sure she was saying something, but all I could make out as she shook her head over and over again, was ‘no, no, no, no.’

When I was in grade 5, I started at a new school. My bus was late, and I had to walk into a class, alone, already filled with kids. That is how I feel walking into a gym. I have always felt so conscious of looking wrong and doing things wrong that in the past I’ve paid for a membership, gone once and looked at all the equipment, then gone home and eaten Doritos.

All Canadian Fitness is starting to feel like a fun little second home now. I like walking in there. Not a home where you can go borrow money or raid the fridge, but at least I know it doesn’t matter if I dress right.

Today Ernie decided to introduce some new pain. I think he’s reading these Diaries, and then disappearing into his pain lab to concoct evil new ways to remind my body just how old it really is. He announced we would be doing Pattycake Pushups. I don’t know how to spell it, but I thought ‘oh well, baby junk, bring it on’. I am such a fool.

You do a push up, and while still in the air, you have to clap the hand of the slave driver sitting in front of you. Every single time Ernie gives me an exercise to do where I have to do more than one thing at a time, I screw it up. I cannot multitask.
He tells me for full effect, I should do them with full pushups. I do them from the knees. Shut up Ernie.

At the end, I hop on the treadmill to cool off. Though I prefer the ‘lying prostrate on the gym floor’ method of cooling off, it is apparently not very professional. Have you ever seen these treadmills? They have all these little monitors and counters, so you can see your heartbeat and speed and mileage etc. My favourite one is the calorie counter. After running like a dog for 5 minutes, it lets you know you can go home and eat a grape.

Day Fourteen

Remember those pattycake pushups from yesterday? My shoulders sure do. I woke up this morning with the first exercise hangover I’ve had in a week. Leave it to ol’ Ernie to find a new brand of trauma just when I thought I’d gained the upper hand.
So to speak.

Adam and I are doing some serious boxing now. Well, I’m seriously hitting him. It’s like solitaire boxing. I have one more day with Ernie tomorrow, and a final session with Adam on Thursday. I box on Friday morning at 10:00 at Florida Jack’s in Toronto.
Adam has been training me all along to go three one-minute rounds. Sounds like a joke, right? I have a feeling it’ll be the longest three minutes of my life.

I’ve spoken to Stephen Myers, the Penguin publicist. He’s assured me that Craig has no interest in being behind a headline on Saturday morning that says “Novelist kills Columnist”. When they say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, I like to think these lads will draw the line somewhere close to here.

At the end of our one hour boxing workout today, Adam decided to toss me onto the treadmill to show me what 3 one-minute rounds would feel like from an out-of-breath standpoint.

He made me run – hard – for one minute. I’m really pleased that I don’t have to hang onto the handles anymore. I looked like such a dork hanging on. As I hopped off to take my rest time, I realized he was giving me about one minute to recover.

“Won’t I have a break in between rounds?” I gasped.
“Of course. You’ll have time to catch your breath,” he replied.
“I was thinking more like having time for lunch.”

I did all three minutes.

Hear me roar.

Day Fifteen

I bought boxing gloves. I had to tell someone. They are red. They make me so happy just to look at them.

Anyway…

Here is an indication of what you can make your body do if your are determined enough. About 12 days ago, early in my training, Ernie put these little orange cones on the ground. They’re about 8 inches tall (if Ernie tries to tell you they’re 2 inches tall, he’s lying), and he put them about 30 inches apart (I know – I still think imperial. So shoot me). He told me hop over them, feet together. A preschooler could do it. I could not.

Seriously. The first time, I kind of bunny hopped over the first one, my feet splayed like an absolute goof. I just could not make my legs hop up that high. We’d been doing some squats and stuff, but still. It was demoralizing. He made me get through it kind of hobbling over the cones. Two days later, I did a little better, but I was holding onto his hand for support.

Today, I scooted down that line back and forth 4 times, then 6 times, then 8 times. I did it. Over and over. My body can now easily do something it couldn’t do at all less than two weeks ago. How cool is that?

I’ve learned a lot. You need a great set of abs for anything. All the power comes from there first, and everything else is pretty useless if you have a weak gut. It’s hard for women to grab that back, especially after kids.

And sometimes even when it is strong, you still don’t get that flat tummy you used to show off at 16, stupidly believing you would have it forever. I look at some of these little tarts laughing at my wrinkles and think ‘yeah, fall in love, have a kid, eat the crusts off of 2,487 cold grilled cheese sandwiches and we’ll talk.’

Pregnancy can leave you looking like you’re wearing a fanny pack. Backwards. You can work out like a demon, and only look like you’re wearing an empty fanny pack. Backwards. Sometimes life isn’t fair.

A cool think about the boxing is that it develops your upper body, fast. I can’t reverse gravity (I’ve started to look like an hour glass someone forgot to tip back over) but I can go for the optical illusion of balance. Or I suppose I could just perm my hair. It’d be easier…

Day Sixteen

I got home and told a friend I’d endured my last beating. He asked if I wasn’t being a little optimistic that tomorrow wouldn’t be my last beating. He’s not my friend anymore.

Adam and Ernie went relatively easy on me today. Lots more of these luxurious stretches that two weeks ago would have pulled my arms out of their sockets now feel like a day at the spa. We did four practice rounds, so I could feel how long a minute would feel like while actually punching and moving and ducking. A lot of ducking. It is an eternity, even if you’re wearing very cute boxing shorts that match your very cute boxing gloves.

Adam has given me this little bracelet thing, the kind I used to make fun of when people wore them. Those little plastic-y ones. This is a boxing one. I don’t make fun of it. Jackson wanted to try it on, and I reacted like someone wanting to cut Samson’s hair. Until the match, this stays on.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to it being over. I know it’s a publicity thing, but I’ve learned so much I’ll be damned if I’m not going to sparkle a little. There’s this little bug of pride in me that wasn’t there. I can do something I couldn’t do before.

I’m thinking my real fun will be at the October 5th event, where I can leave my gloves at home and just have a good time.

Unless, of course, Craig needs some help in the ring.

Recap

For a recap of events to date, you can start with the Toronto Star article I wrote, The Fighter website, and All Canadian Fitness’s site.

Anyone looking for awesome web help needs to contact SlypigPro. Jeff has gone above and beyond in helping me on this.

Boxing Day

To everyone who has written and called wishing me good luck, I thank you so much.

To everyone who has written and called telling me good- bye, we’ll talk when I get back.

Aftermath

Okay, it’s the next day. I’ve had a decent sleep, and have regained a little equilibrium. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks.

Want to know how crazy? I just called my sister, Gillian. To tell her all was well, to thank her for her messages, to prove my jaw wasn’t wired shut. We spoke for five minutes before she gently told me I’d called her yesterday afternoon with the same information.

I didn’t even get hit and I’ve lost my mind. To anyone wondering how much I’ve put into this ‘fake’ fight, that should give you some indication. I guess I need a vacation. And to anyone who I was supposed to call and didn’t, well, call Gilly and see how I’m doing.

A couple of pieces will be published this week with more details. I’ll link them here.

I’d also love to know if any other gyms have boxing classes for women, so I can provide the information for people that have been asking. If you know of a place in your community, or own one, forward the details and I’ll get something together. This has been a fabulous training exercise that I plan to continue.

One Week Later…

Okay, all joking aside, I will now tell you the fallout from the past three weeks.

This started as a goof. The letter I fired off to Craig Davidson was pretty typical of me: Do first, think later. I had no intention of ever, ever boxing anyone. Anytime, anywhere. Ever. Then when it came down to putting my money where my mouth was, I had no choice.

There was no way I was going to back down and waste the time of a Penguin publicist and a serious writer. When I walked into All Canadian Fitness, there was no way I was going to waste the time and efforts of people who do this as a business, not as a goof. When the Toronto Star came on board, I was already fully committed. Or perhaps I should have been committed, depending on whom you talk to. When my own paper, the Hamilton Spectator took it on, I knew I was doing it in front of the home crowd.

Seriously, I do not work out. I never have. I like swimming laps, and at times I do it quite religiously, but it’s been months and months since I’ve been in the pool with anything close to regularity. The initial days of training with Ernie and Adam were absolutely excrutiating. I have never been in pain like that in my life. The first three nights I had migraines and seriously considered bailing out.

But then a cool thing happened. My whiplashed neck, which is basically a source of chronic pain (and yes, I’ve tried everything) stopped hurting. And the headaches got better. I was getting stronger, and I was feeling really well.

I was not overweight. When I get a migraine, I don’t eat. And I get a lot of migraines. I’ve had them since I was 9. But weight is only a part of working out. I needed strength and balance, two things I was sorely lacking. So basically I was this kind of weak, squooshy whiner that they needed to press into shape.

It is very hard to work out for an hour, with a large lad standing over you telling you that you can so do another 5. I was dripping sweat every day. I never sweat.

When I put on boxing gloves, I had a rush that no description could do justice. I felt strong and mean and disciplined and driven and in control. I still do not want to ever punch someone in the head; I couldn’t do it. But training with gloves on me and blockers on Adam is fabulous. I would implore every woman to find a way to try it. The release is amazing.

I am going to keep working out this way. No, not every day. But I want to keep working with Ernie and Adam, and they’ve developed a small affection for the nutty writer chick who darkened their doorway.

I am not a stunt writer. I started out doing this because I’m a little crazy, and I’ve learned more about myself than I thought possible. I thought I was done with self-discovery. Turns out I’ve only just started.