The four days I spent at Push Fitness in Schaumburg this week challenged me mentally and physically, and the time helped me to gain more determination, will and grit than I thought possible.
Up until the point of starting this challenge, I thought of myself as a fairly strong, uncharacteristically active person for my age.
I was disbelieving, no dumbfounded, to learn that physical analysis suggested that my body age was more than 10 years older than my actual age.
But these last weeks have been eye opening. For instance, I had no idea how difficult it would be for me to hold my body in a plank position using only my toes and elbows.
I just figured that I could do it. But the first few days I tried this, under the watchful eye of my personal trainer, Push Fitness owner Joshua Steckler, I rocked, my arms buckled and I could feel my body caving downward.
Or, the time I had to push a 30-pound sandbag from one end of the room and back again.
It seemed easy enough, until my legs locked and refused to move. Thankfully, my boot camp partner at the time, Cheryl Seibert, talked me through it.
But this past week was different. My reaction time has been a bit sharper. I was able to hold the plank stance a little while longer. Situps, modified push-ups, pull ups and side pulls were all doable; but oh, did I feel the burn.
Sometimes, it would be just a shake to the wrist or a wiggle to the leg. Other times my mind's will and body's ability were just not in sync. Always, the increased heart rate resulted in a puddle of sweat that trailed me across the training floor.
The deep knee bends with and without the use of a weighted pole were especially tough and sparked fire in my gluteus maximus.
With as many exercises as I have done in my life, none seemed to use the muscles that these contortions did this week. (A day or two later, a simple cough, laugh or turn were all that were needed to remind me of the rigorous workouts.)
This past Friday's workout was particularly intense. Each time I completed a set or circuit, sweat would pool and trickle down fast and hard. My heart rate far surpassed the normal levels, but I was still going strong. I used machines that worked upper torso muscles and lower ones in my thighs simultaneously. Slowly, quickly, slowly, twisting and bending. (Yep, the body age analysis was right, I concluded.) It burned deeply. In fact, I wondered if I would recover. Of course a part of me wanted to stop, but it wasn't time for a break.
With sweat streaming into my eyes and down my neck, I kept going. I decided not to worry about the puddles or the pain anymore. For a brief moment, I started to smile.
I was determined to work through it and think about all of the stuff that I was burning off, like a years' worth of my favorite cake doughnuts, my beloved fried rice, restaurant breakfast sandwiches, amusement park funnel cakes, boxed cereals, birthday cake, winter's hot cocoas, unneeded second servings and hefty servings of my homemade granola.
Before long, my workout session was complete, and I headed to the locker room to get dressed. Apparently, I hadn't snapped out of the zone yet. As I was preparing to leave, another woman entered and quipped, "You're leaving here smiling?"
If she only knew; I had just burned off years of fattening memories.
• Lisa Jones Townsel, a freelance writer and substitute teacher, doesn't smile during every workout, but she has come to the realization that there can be joy in sweat and pain. She has also invested in a headband.
Starting weight: 198
Current weight: 190
Weight lost this week: 4 pounds
Total weight loss: 8 pounds, 4 percent