"Scissors: One minute," our coach orders succinctly.
I inwardly groan, drained from doing all the conditioning sets before. After a month-long break in China, executing our new warm-up every morning is practically impossible. My legs force themselves off the ground and I drag my back off the carpet. I cross my arms and interlock my fingers, prepared for the second set.
"And..." she drawls, scanning the carpet to ensure everyone was ready, "go!" My legs move side-to-side, always one above, the other below, constantly switching like some gargantuan scissors. I pace myself; one, two, three, ticking off every second as the burn begins to creep along my abdominal muscles. Eighteen, 19, 20, I tighten my interlocked hands, hoping to distract myself from the intensifying burn that's spreading to my hips. Twenty-eight, 29, 20!
What?! We're only halfway? My willpower plummets, and suddenly my legs feel like lead. I glance desperately at our coach, who looks on impassively and yells corrections at some girls. The timer on her phone sits neglected on the carpet in front of her -- if only I could see the time! I grit my teeth and try to find something to keep myself going, but the only thought running through my mind is: Is it over yet? My legs drop heavily onto the ground to rest for a second.
"Ok girls, down."
On command, every girl relaxes and the tension in the gym evaporates. I was that close to finishing the set? There were only a few seconds left... Sighing, I inch onto my stomach and complete another minute of scissors, this time lying facedown while lifting my legs off the ground. My hamstrings burn so much that my legs can barely move.
"Last time," our coach states curtly. I push myself onto my back again, lift myself off the floor, and await the signal to start. Our coach scrutinizes every girl's position, and once satisfied, commands, "Go!"
So it repeats. The burn sparks and disseminates faster this time. I try to think of something else, a happy place, anything, but it's so painful. I take a deep breath and count; when I hit thirty, hopelessness blossoms in my chest. I clench my hands harder. When is it over? When is it over? I squeeze my eyes shut, trying to garner energy to continue. Darkness envelops me, and an unusual calmness washes over my mind.
Think that you can do it, my inner-voice urges. Think that it's easy! My eyes fly open, and I glance around; everyone's still in the same position doing scissors. But as I look closer, I notice one girl's barely hanging in there, another's legs are shaking, and even though they are obviously struggling, they don't give in.
Realization hits me -- it's not easy for anyone, but if they can do it, why can't I? I run through every excuse and explanation I can think of and come up empty. There really isn't any reason I can't do it; only I think I can't do it.
I replace my mantra with another: I can do it. I chant this over and over in my head, feeling somewhat foolish, but surprisingly the pain dulls. When our coach tells us it's over, I'm taken aback; time passed so quickly compared to the previous set. I relax, feeling accomplished.
I vaguely hear our coach call us to do the last set. Everyone shifts onto their stomachs and settles into position.
"Go," our coach instructs. One, two, three, I calmly tick off each second. Eighteen, 19,20, I continue to pace myself, ignoring the cries of my worn muscles. Twenty-eight, 29,30, I let out a long, agitated sigh, but instead of feeling hopeless, I start thinking: I can do it.
"And... down," our coach says. I lower myself back onto the carpet, and as my back muscles unfurl in relief, I inwardly smile. I did it.