Monday, April 9, 2012

Stretching out: My Body

"It's not my fault, being the biggest and the strongest. I don't even exercise."

I've been taking an adult tumbling class one night per week since March 8th. In a span of six days, I had two separate doctors tell me that while my weight is fine, I really need to add some sort of exercise to my routine, and I've always loved gymnastics, so I signed up for adult tumbling.

I took recreational gymnastics on and off for years as a kid, but I was never very good. The few skills I had were pretty, with nice form and execution, but I was afraid of going backward and I just never really got completely past it. At one time, for a brief period, I had a standing back handspring on the mats, but I never moved it to the hard floor, and then I lost it when I stopped taking classes.

So my goal at this point is to have a good standing back handspring, unspotted, by May 10th. That'll be my 10th class, and I'm really pretty close right now, so I think I can do it.

Forgive the askew-ness. Spazzy took it.
I can't express to you how liberating it is to find myself slowly but surely quieting the fears and just going for it. Even though my attempts often fail to achieve the desired result, I can feel myself getting stronger, more capable, more tuned into how my body fits in the space it occupies. The skills I'm learning are simple by gymnastics standards, and I have friends who are gymnasts who will not be particularly impressed by a back handspring. But then, that's not the point.

For me, this is what yoga or meditation or Pilates is to a lot of people. It's not quiet or serene, but it's my opportunity to push myself in every way to a higher plane. I'm using muscles that have lain dormant for years. I'm facing fears that have always held me back. I'm testing myself every week, trying to be better, working to improve.

It's escapism. It's time with other adults who get it, who understand what it is to feel like they're capable of more than their bodies would have them believe. It's pushing, pushing, pushing, past self-doubt, past a disquiet mind, past limitations that we've put on ourselves.

I effing love doing this. I leave and I ache, but I crave that ache, because I feel like I've earned it. It belongs to me, wholly.

I believe our bodies deserve to be honored, and I've never felt more at peace with mine than when I'm coaxing it to fight against age and fear. It is as it should be.

How do you stretch your body? I don't believe there's one right way, though I know a lot of people who are addicted to running. Running has never done it for me, but I get it. I really do.


  1. Running has been my exercise of choice since I discovered how to do it right. When I was in the USMC, I had to run a LOT, but never took it seriously. I wish I had, I might have enjoyed it a lot more. Running helps me clear my head of the day's thoughts, catch up on music that I've purchased recently, and it's honestly the only exercise that produced any results for me (in terms of weight loss, and I'm speaking for me personally, not anyone and everyone).

    As for your goal of a standing back handspring, I have no doubt you'll achieve it by your set date. I've yet to see you not achieve one goal that you set out to do.

  2. I am fully impressed by your doing a back handspring, an by your handstand, for that matter. I've always been scared of falling over backwards, so I've never kicked up into a full handstand.
    At this point, it's Zumba that does it for me. AFter the first couple of songs I stop focusing on the other people around me and just let go. It reminds me of how much I love to dance - nothing technical or fabulous, just shaking my rear and getting funky. And it's a hell of a workout.

  3. @Deke—thanks. I hates the failure. Once I put all the pieces together, that skill will be mine for life.

    Missy—Thank you! And I know so many people who love Zumba, even though (or maybe because) it totally kicks their asses and wears them out. One of these days I'll have to try out a class.