by Pallas Hutchison
Not everyone is a born athlete. Although I’ve attempted sports, I’ve never been good at them. Ballet was a disaster. My sister, as previously mentioned, got all of the grace in our family. As a child, I was all knees and awkward angles. In 6th grade, my stint on the track team ended with a sprained ankle at the first meet. In 7th grade, one season as bench-player on the field hockey team convinced me to put away the stick. Over the summer, I discovered that tennis didn’t suck as much as the other sports but I wasn’t good enough to make the team. By sophomore year, I had accepted my non-athleticism, choosing to smoke pot with friends as we walked around the track or played poker on the bleachers instead of participating in whatever torture the gym teachers devised. Needless to say, I failed gym class in high school. (Ironically, I rode my bicycle to summer school to make up the lost credits. According to MapQuest, I rode 5.45 miles each way. I was in great shape that summer.)
For my senior year, I signed up to take a pre-natal yoga class in lieu of gym class. Not only was I being proactive about my health and my baby, I would get credit towards my diploma over a GED. I loved yoga. The gentle movements were modified to accommodate my ever-more-bulbous body. The other expectant mothers ranged from late 20s to early 40s, and the comfortable companionship they enjoyed with each other did not extend to include me. Pregnancy was a beautiful and natural thing. Teen pregnancy felt like leprosy. I only attended three classes. (In hindsight, I was probably hypersensitive.)
Back to the lifestyle overhaul…
Kids need outdoor play time. My dog, who has since passed, needed walks. Weather permitting, we would walk to the park and the kids would play. When my mother watched the girls, I would walk with the dog around Bell’s Neck and enjoy fleeting moments of serenity. My bicycle rusted quietly in the garage.
I bought a beginner’s yoga DVD and have watched it enough to create my own stretching routine. Am I doing the moves correctly? Maybe… I bought a gym membership, one of those holiday deals at Planet Fitness where you get the year for $99. My orientation consisted of a distracted desk clerk pointing me to the machines. “Press the start button. You’ll get the hang of it.” And off I went to a room full of people who knew exactly what they were doing. I went faithfully for two months and never braved anything beyond the “press start” phase. I’ve discovered that I lack the knowledge & self-discipline to exercise effectively on my own.
I signed up for swing dancing lessons and enjoyed it immensely. Cost-effective, fun exercise that opens up a whole new social circle. Unfortunately, it is a partner dance. I’ve bartered massages for private lessons and now I’m a fairly decent dancer. (Swing, as a faster-paced dance, requires more enthusiasm than grace.) I pop in on classes every now and then but without a regular partner, it’s not consistent.
In 2010, the girls joined a kids martial arts class. Rules #1 at the dojo: parents are not allowed to coach. I didn’t know the first thing about martial arts or self-defense anyway. Six months later, I signed up for the adult’s class. Movements that initially felt unnatural became muscle memory. Tight muscles that limited range-of-motion stretched to allow movements I didn’t know I could do. For the first time in my life, I can do push ups – just the girly-knee ones, but they still count.
Now, in 2013, the girls have made it to the rank of red belt and transitioned into the adult class with me. My belt rank is green with a black stripe, two full ranks behind the girls. I’ve participated in -and completed- a Spartan Sprint. Apparently I am an athlete of sorts; I’m just not a team player.
Next step, rest & stress management.