Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

G Gets Strong: Day 7 | Push-Ups and Recovery

So on Jan. 4, the day after I celebrated a year sober, I started a fitness program to test my strength that will take me 90 days to complete—until April 4. My goals are to test my strength and to do unassisted pull-ups.

I started last week with a chest-and-back workout that made me sore for five days. You know how, when you haven’t run or cycled in a long time, you overshoot the distance you can go and the next day you’re paralyzed?—that’s how I felt. For five days. Because of course the next day I had to do cardio, and the day after that it was biceps, triceps and deltoids; and on and on.

Saturday, I did two workouts: went snowshoeing, and did a separate legs-and-back workout.

I took a break on Sunday.

By yesterday my chest was feeling OK. The deep muscles in my butt were screaming, and a knot had appeared in my right thigh, for which I did some stretches. But I could do push-ups again.

I was able to do more than I did last week.

I have to do like five or six different kinds of push-ups. The hardest kind is the “dive-bomber” push-up. I’m allowed to modify it into something called the “Hindu” push-up, which seems almost equally hard but whose movements I’m more familiar with because I’ve studied so much yoga.

Last week when I tried to do this, I crashed. On my head. For real. I’d done so many pull-up exercises (on resistance bands) and other kinds of push-ups—straight push-ups, military push-ups, diamond-hands, declines, wide-flies, etc.—that my arms wouldn’t hold me up, and I fell on my head. This is when I almost gave up… I almost said, Fuck it. I could hear the ass-hat gym teacher I had in high-school calling me an “old lady” from the other side of the track while she socialized with the track-stars who had already finished their four laps and were sauntering in for their showers.


Famous last words. “Fuck-it” is usually the last thing we say to ourselves before we take the first drink or drug.

I decided to keep showing up, after getting some encouragement from Coach Angela, but I couldn’t see how, if I could not even attempt a move, I’d ever have a chance of getting better at it. But somehow I did. Something happened in the past week that allowed me to try again yesterday.

It’s called “recovery.” Literally. … What makes the muscles so sore is this: they develop tiny little micro-tears. What happens during the week is, when you cross-train, you give the muscles a break and exercise other parts of the body, and those tears heal and in the process make the muscle stronger. The muscle recovers.

This happens even when you’re 46 and you’ve been telling yourself all your life that you’re not capable of real physical fitness because you’re an “old lady” who can’t run around the high-school track even once without stopping.

Last night I tried again. And I not only did one Hindu push-up, I did five in the first round, and six in the second round. (To be honest, the sixth one was a bit compromised in form. But what the hell!)

Flipped myself out. Yelled down the stairs, where my son was watching Bogey in The Maltese Falcon, “Dude! I just did FIVE of those things that made me crash on my head last week.” My boy hollered back,

Yeah, my Main Mama!

Wrote to Angela, my coach:

omg, Ange, I just did FIVE of those f*cking dive-bombers! so chuffed

She wrote back:

Yeah baby! I am sooo stoked for you!! (Read that with a Spicoli accent!) Keep it up, you are going to be transformed.

Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont HighShe’s writing tongue-in-cheek, at least about the Spicoli part. Anyway I laughed. The guys at school loved Spicoli. In fact my college BF and I had a cat we named Spicoli. I can hear Sean Penn saying, “Duuude, awwwesome.”

Another metaphor: totally overlooked it in my post yesterday, contained in what Bill Clinton said about good nutrition breaking up the blockages around the heart and enabling the body to heal itself.

This is what happens when we learn how to take care of ourselves and practice these principles in all our affairs. Our hearts get rid of the garbage. We recover.

It’s not “a Pollyannish proposition,” as my Al-Anon sponsor would say.

It’s hard work, dude.

Learn it. Know it. Live it.


  1. Wow – way to go G!! You are going to look and feel amazing at the end of all of this. Am really impressed. I would love to have a strong body – be able to do push ups, hold the plank for longer than 20 seconds and so on. I bought a cross trainer last year and now amble in front of Desperate Housewives a few times a week. Its better than nothing but not as nice as I bet snowshoeing in the fresh air is. Keep it up girl!!

  2. G – isn’t there an easier way to get back in to working out and being fit? It sounds so punishing. How about walking, then walk/running, some yoga and pilates, THEN the pull-ups/push-ups. Still, I’m glad you’re embracing a program to keep yourself healthy and strong. P.

  3. guinevere

    January 23, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Nora… thanks for your encouragement. Much appreciated! … Peggy, I agree it looks punishing. What I’m learning is I have to be flexible. I started this regimen at the beginning of the year, and my expectation was to blast through 90 days and test my strength–do pull-ups at the end. What is happening is, my body and my life are teaching me I have to let go of my expectations. Injuries happen; death happens; we have to take care of life. More on this later…

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