I see a trainer named Tessa a couple of days a week. She is strong and has powerful legs. She wears a tight black unitard and her long dark hair is usually knotted at the back of her head. She thankfully lacks that perky cheerful demeanor that so many trainers have, as if the career path to trainer runs through high school cheerleading.
She is a hard grader. I try to make her do the same exercises as me but she resists because she wants to watch me carefully as I go through the paces, spotting immediately if I am trying to cheat.
“Lower your left hip.” She cautions as I hold a plank. “Nothing in your back right?”
“Uh maybe a little.”
“Tuck your butt under, Jay.”
“What does that mean?”
“Tuck in your butt, Jay.”
“I heard you. I just don’t have a clue what you mean.”
“Tuck your butt under.”
I wobbled slightly in my plank.
“Tessa. I hear the words. I know the definition of each of them separately. But when you put them in that combination I don’t know what you mean. My butt is in the air. It is pointing at the ceiling. There is no under to tuck it into, assuming a butt could be tucked at all. Which I doubt.”
She completely ignored my comment. “On a scale of 1 to 9, where 9 is the worst agony you can feel and number 1 is lying in a feather bed, what number are you now?”
“I don’t know. I am still trying…
“Jay, lower your left hip.”
“…to tuck in my butt.”
“I thought you could do two things at once. That’s 40 seconds. Keep going.”
“I can do two things at once. I am doing a plank for a long stinking time and worrying that my butt is not tucked.”
“Ha Ha. What number would you say now?”
“It is hard to say.”
“Well if you can’t decide we can just keep holding the plank.”
“There is no we here. You are sitting on the floor. I am holding the plank.”
“I am right here with you, Jay. What number?”
“I am at a 5.”
“Nothing in your back?”
“No. I don’t think so.”
“You don’t think so?”
“Tell me if you feel anything in your back. Anything at all. Lower your left hip. You are at 50 seconds.”
I was holding the sort of plank where your forearms are on the mat and your toes are the only other part of your body touching the earth. I was doing my breathing and every few seconds I blew a lungful of air onto one of my forearms to cool it down.
“What number now? It’s a minute twenty seconds, Jay.”
“Maybe a 7.”
“Keep the butt tucked. Left hip down. Anything in the back?”
“Butt tucked! Come on Jay”
“One minute forty seconds.”
“How…. much… longer?”
“What number are you?”
“I am at an 8.”
“That’s good. Keep it going. Keep the butt tucked.”
“No keep going. Hold on. You can do more.”
“What’s your number now?”
“I don’t know. Twelve?”
“Ha Ha. Keep your left hip down. Come on Jay.”
“That’s two minutes. Lets go for two thirty. Anything in your back? Anything at all?”
“Argh.” My arms had started to quiver between my elbows and my shoulders.
“That’s it. Keep it up. Butt tucked. Stay with it.”
“Grrr…” My plank was teetering.
“Here you go Jay good job. Stick with it. Two twenty five. Five-four-three-two-one.”
I plopped down on the mat with a splash of sweat.
I said, “Damn. That was hard.”
“Yeah you did good. Next time you can go for three.”
“Plank is a good exercise for you. You can do it anywhere.”
“Wonderful.” I wiped sweat from my face. “What was that tucking in the butt stuff? Do you really think there was any way I could figure out what you meant?”
“Of course. That’s why I said it.”
“It makes no sense. Zero.”
She looked at me with genuine disappointment.
I continued. “Really, no one could understand that.”
“Makes perfect sense to me,” she said as if that answered the question.
“I hope so. Why don’t you show me? You do it.”
“Gladly.” She got herself into a plank then settled a bit so her back and legs were flat. Then she let her stomach sag a bit so there was now a slight arch to her back.
“This is you.” She said.
“Hardly.” I rolled onto my left side on the mat and propped my head with my arm. “I have much more gravitas.”
“See my back? See that curve? That’s what you were doing.”
Tessa cocked her head from her defective plank to l look at me. She was making sure I saw what she wanted me to see. If she could have left her body frozen in that position and got up, she’d have found a yardstick. Then she’d have given me a slap to insure my attention. When she had it, she’d use the yardstick as a pointer and trace the contour of her slightly sagged back to make sure I got it.
“Okay. I see it. Though I still don’t get how I am supposed to tuck my butt.”
“I will show you.” Tessa slightly rocked her pelvis forward and downward, straightening her back as she did. “You see that?”
“That is what you mean?” The movement was familiar. It was basically a shorter version of the same thrusting movement that every man knows. But I wasn’t going to say that. She might hit me with that yardstick.
“You see how my back is straight now?”
“You call that ’tucking your butt’?”
“Uh huh.” Tessa came down from her plank onto a knee, then straightened into a kneeling position.
I said, “I don’t see what the butt is getting tucked into.”
She gave me a perplexed and disappointed look. I clearly wasn’t getting the lesson. She tried again. “Just imagine that you have a tail.”
“A tail? Do I have to?”
“And that when you hold a plank your tail is curled up over your body and the end comes down between your legs.”
“You are kidding…”
“So when you straighten your back your tail dips down and curls further underneath you.”
“So you see….”
“I am trying not to…”
“…how your tail tucks beneath you…”
“you mean if I had a tail rather than a butt.”
“…and your back gets straight?”
She gave me a look that said she had made this about as simple as it could get and really hoped for my sake I could follow this explanation.
“As long as you keep that butt tucked, your back stays straight.”
“Then you don’t get any pain in your back.” She concluded the lesson with a satisfied smile.
“Is that the official way to say it?”
“Tuck in your butt? Is that the official name? I mean you could have said ‘straighten your back,’ right?”
“I don’t know if it is the official name.” She paused for a second, thinking it over. “That’s just the way I say it. You want me to say something different?”
“No. That’s fine.”
“You are sure?
“I am sure.”
“Ok. Just let me know, Jay. Are you ready to stretch?”
“Bring it on.”
– Jay Duret