Nothin' but a 'G' thang

In his supremely awesome jam, "Crawling Back to You," Tom Petty crooned, "most things I worry about, never happen anyway." I try to remind myself of this line whenever the tiny little Woody Allen in my brain starts to give me mini-fits of neurosis. (This happens more often that I'd like to admit.) For instance, in the week leading up to my final testing at the Super Bowl, I had myself convinced that the improvements I'd made during my Gatorade Sports Science Institute fitness and fueling regimen would be minimal, if they even registered at all.

To recap: Over the course of six weeks (the first week was just the initial testing), I did circuit training workouts designed by trainer Todd Durkin (who, for the second straight year, watched one of his clients quarterback his team to a Super Bowl win) and I was given samples of Gatorade's G Series of drinks: Prime for before workouts, Perform for during, and Recover for after. I wasn't given any real dietary guidelines, so I ate the way I usually do, which is mostly healthy with an occasional splurge on panang curry, cheese and/or several glasses (bottles?) of wine.

My "final exam" in Dallas was supposed to reveal the changes, if any, to my aerobic and anaerobic fitness, strength and more, and I was sure that the hour and half of testing was going to be one long exercise in shame. My inner Petty couldn't croon nearly loud enough to drown out my inner Woody.

Well, as I wrote shortly after the testing, the worrying was all for naught. I didn't stroll in there and post a scientifically impossible, Joan Benoit-esque aerobic capacity or anything, but I did manage to improve in every single test except for one. With Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin cheering me on, I proved to myself that I can still train my body to function like an athlete's.

So, without further ado, here are the results.

Breaking down the numbers

• Body composition: I only lost one pound total, but the Bod Pod results proved that I'd lost seven pounds of fat and gained six pounds of muscle. The difference meant a 4.1 percent drop in body fat! This was the most surprising of the results for me considering the workouts were just three times a week for six weeks. Definitely motivation to keep it up!

Allen Kee/ESPN

Goodbye seven pounds of fat, hello six pounds of muscle.

• Wingate: The dreaded bike sprint test! My peak power (the highest power I generated in a 3.5-second interval) improved a great deal, while my fatigue index (the percentage decline in power compared with the peak power output) was about the same. I still need to work on that (goodbye lazy stationary biking, hello wind sprints), but my anaerobic capacity did improve from the 34th to the 75th percentile for women, so that's good.

• D2: You stand in front of a big black board with lights all over it and try to touch each light as quickly as possible when it turns on, while simultaneously reading numbers that appear on a screen in the middle. This was the only test I got worse at, scoring just 63 hits and 76 percent hits to misses. To be honest, I did so well the first time (100 hits, 96 percent hits to misses) that it would have been nearly impossible to best that score. (Just ask Miles, he tried and did even worse than I did!)

• I-SPAN: This is like the D2, but the lights are affixed to a big, sort of H-shaped contraption, so I had to leap to touch them and return back to the middle before leaping to touch the next light. I made it to each light faster, on average (1.049 seconds as compared to 1.443 seconds), and completed the whole test faster this time around (21.31 seconds to 25.29 seconds).

• One-mile treadmill test: I had to run at a steady pace for a mile, never speeding up or slowing down, with the change in my heart rate reflecting my aerobic capacity. I ran faster than I did the first time, and my heart rate was barely affected, moving me from the 54th to 93rd percentile of women my age for aerobic capacity (VO2max).

• The last tests of the day were a max plank and 60 seconds of one-leg balance touches, sit-ups and push-ups. My sit-ups improved from 49 to 53, my push-ups went from 26 to 37, my left leg touches went from 32 to 37 and my right leg touches went from 30 to 37. I finished the day off with a max plank pose, that went from 1 minute, 25 seconds to 2 minutes, 3 seconds. I was proud of that until Todd told me the totally ripped, crazy-in-shape guy before me did a 14-minute plank. 14 minutes! I get tired just standing for that long!

Could I have done more? Absolutely. And I will. One of the best parts of this adventure was that it forced me to stop making excuses for my fitness. I had gotten complacent and lazy in my workouts, and I blamed that on aches and pains from years of competing 365 days a year in basketball, field hockey and track. It turns out the soreness was from neglect, not from old age. Pushing my body harder and more often made it start to work like an athlete's body again, and not like a sometimes-gym rat's body.

The goal was to find my inner athlete, and I did. I may not be breaking any long jump records these days, or keeping up with the youngsters on the track, but I'm happy to say I'm willing to face a challenge again. I guess you could say my "How Sarah Got Her Groove Back" project was a success. Groove found!

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