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No skating around it: I can't match Meissner

FitnessKimmie MeissnerFigure Skating

Kimmie Meissner just might be the strongest human being on the face of the planet.

That's right, I'm talking about a 16-year-old girl, the one whose parents drive her everywhere she goes, the one who competes in a glittery skirt, the one who's barely a senior in high school.

Sounds absurd, doesn't it? I used to think so, too.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I agreed to lift weights with the world champion skater. She thought it'd teach me just how physically demanding the sport of figure skating can be, and I thought it'd be a chance to finally mix some sequins into my wardrobe.

Her strength and conditioning coach, Jeff Schneider, tried to warn me: Kimmie's not like a lot of figure skaters, he said. She actually enjoys working out, he told me. She loves lifting, he said. She could tame a shark, put a pink bow on its head and teach it tricks, he cautioned.

"What sets Kimmie apart is the intensity she does this workout at and her commitment to it," Schneider said. "Every exercise has the same intensity as the first one. She doesn't take a single second off."

We met at the University of Delaware Ice Arena. Schneider explained that Meissner's workout includes the same exercises that a football player or basketball player might use. While she skates every weekday, she'll hit the weights three days a week and spend the other two doing supplemental training, like working on her balance and agility.

"You sure you're ready?" Meissner asked, as we began stretching.

The warm-up included a bunch of exercises with funny names - inchworms, leg kicks, Frankensteins - which made me think we were rehearsing for the Rocky Horror Picture Show, not getting ready for a world champion's daily workout.

It took less than 10 minutes for me to realize that the day would not only teach us something about figure skaters, but it'd probably reveal a thing or two about sportswriters.

"When's the first break?" I asked.

"Um, this is just the warm-up," Meissner said. "We haven't actually started yet."

By the time we did actually start, I was already sweating and wondering if Schneider had the maintenance crew intentionally kill the oxygen flow into the room.

We started with legs. Meissner couldn't afford to go light. She's preparing for Skate America next month in Hartford, Conn., her first competition since winning the world championship in March. She'll debut new short and long programs and skate for the first time with a giant target on her back.

A self-esteem boost? After some jumping with dumbbells, we moved on to the single-leg press. I didn't lift the same amount of weight, I didn't do the same number of reps and I did only half the sets. I didn't tell Meissner this, but it was quite intentional. I read somewhere (Cosmopolitan?) on how important it is to build the self-esteem of teenage girls. I figured I should do my part.

We did some resistance jumping, which seemed pretty easy. By the end, though, my legs felt like Jell-O (and I'm talking about Jell-O before it hardens). While I caught my breath and chugged water, Meissner was smiling and full of energy. It was clear to me that she was probably plotting a world takeover or something mischievous.

"Come on, you're not already tired, are you?" She was baiting me. "This is nothing. We're just getting started."

"At least I can drive," I reminded her.

We headed for the bench press and that's when I figured out that there was something funny with the routine of my ice nemesis. She seemed to finish every exercise before I did, which could only mean that she was doing some creative counting. I hate to lament the quality of a good public education, but I really hope her senior math class at Fallston High touches a bit more on basic counting.

"Keep breathing," Schneider kept reminding Meissner.

I stifled a giggle because I had Meissner beat here. No one had to remind me to breathe. In fact, I couldn't remember the last time I'd breathed so hard.

Not over yet ... We moved on to some more resistance exercises, which Schneider announced with glee. "Now we're going to work the upper back." And what a relief that was. We were in jeopardy of leaving there with my upper back still in good working condition.

"This is just a normal workout for us," Meissner said, as I made a mental note to demand a urine test when we were finished. "I've been doing this like my whole life. You only have to do it one day."

After injecting some pain to the shoulders and rotator cuffs, we moved to the abs. We sat up, we crunched, we scrunched, we twisted and we cried. (I ad-libbed that last part.) There seemed to be about a half-dozen exercises, though I lost count, which is somewhat impressive considering I didn't finish a single one.

"OK, that's enough abs," said Schneider, finally putting us on the same page.

Meissner hopped up to her feet. I lay on my back a minute longer and admired the ceiling work because I'm the attentive sort.

"Now this may kill you," Schneider warned, as he and Meissner walked away.

A lot of people might have heard that and been scared. Not me. Death was starting to sound like sweet escape and also meant we might be finished soon.

... still not over Meissner and I took our positions on neighboring murder-machines - complex pieces of cardio equipment you see advertised on television in the middle of the night, the ones where you're stepping or running or cross-country skiing and swinging your arms the entire time, replicating movements that you'd never actually use in everyday life.

"I like doing level 10," Meissner beamed, punching a series of buttons. "What are you going to do?"

"Like, level 1,000," I said, setting the machine to level 6.

I finished much sooner than Meissner; I guess because I'm so fast.

"Already finished?" she asked. "Are you OK?"

"I guess so. My legs are shaking. Is that normal?"

"You can't be done already." She was taunting me now. "We're not even halfway through."

So I got back on, a decision I immediately regretted. I soon finished the exercise for a second time before she managed to finish it once!

After nearly two hours of exercising, we went back into Schneider's office. The trainer helped Meissner stretch down while I contemplated how I'd walk the next day.

"Are you hurting at all?" I asked Meissner.

"Hurting?" she asked, making a face like I had just asked her whether she was now or ever had been a member of the Communist Party. "Pffffft, no."

Schneider said that if I was hurting the next day, I should hop on a stationary bike for a bit. I was about to tell him what I thought he should do the next day, but instead shook his hand and thanked him for taking the time to ensure that I'd be spending the next couple of days sitting motionless on the couch.

As for Kimmie Meissner, she bounced out of the arena, announcing that she was going to hit the ice for about an hour. That sounded like a great idea and when I got home, I also hit the ice. I wrapped thick packs around either knee and lamented the fact that Ace doesn't make a bandage with sequins.

rick.maese@baltsun.com The high school Kimmie Meissner attends was misidentified when this article was published in the print edition. The Sun regrets the error.

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