trapeze

I Triple-Dawg Dare You . . . (From Fear to Clear Headed-ness)

I When my best friend Michele told me about Sky Candy, an aerial gym that offered classes, I never thought that one day it would be my playground.  She had been taking classes for a bit, and her tales of learning, getting stronger enthralled me.  Plus, her newfound confidence was tangible.

I wasn’t sure I was ready, strong enough.  But then the idea sat in my head.  It bloomed, it percolated, it grew into more than a possibility and yet something that scared me a little bit.

Do It Anyway,came a little whisper out of my mind.  Not sure from where.  Most of my inner dialogue voices were usually naysayers, Negative Nancy’s, Debbie Downers or Drill Sergeants who yelled whenever I moved.

So I did what I do best: I kept my promise to my friend that I would try, and I showed up for a semi-private lesson to learn the trapeze.  Michele was there, smiling calmly, and she introduced me to our instructor, Joanna.  The warm-up had not even started but I was already sweating.

“What are you doing here?  Are you sure you are up for this?”  My self-talk critics were alarmed, in protection-mode.  I did the warm-up exercises, trying to listen to my body instead of my mind.  Okay, now I was warm, sweaty and breathing hard.  Too hard to hear any cautionary announcements from my fear.

The trapeze bar looked innocuous enough: a wooden dowel wrapped with grip-tape suspended by rope secured to a I-beam-ed ceiling, about 5 feet of the ground with a big red gymnastics “crash” pad underneath.  For a moment, it took me back to being a kid who liked to climb trees.  It was just a small strong limb awaiting a climber.

“Okay, so you are going to grab on here, then put your legs up here like this,” said Joanna, in her soothing voice.  As the 60 minutes would tick away, I learned that she was the Mother Theresa of aerial arts.  Always serene, a deep thinker, able to prod you to your best with just a kind word.  She wore a form-fitting tshirt, leggings and socks.  For some reason her striped knee-high socks made her more approachable and trustworthy.

First she demonstrated the movement, explaining along the way where your hands, knees, feet or whatever body part needed to be.  She made it look so easy.  She was strong in a different way that I had seen in my experience in yoga classes or weight rooms.  I liked it.

My friend went first and did well.  Her months of lessons were evidenced by her skill level and control.

I could hear Team Negative in my head slipping into comparison and self-judgement:  “Oh, so you think you can do that?  She is so much better than you.  There is no way you can get close to what they can do.”

Fortunately, Joanna’s reassuring voice pre-empted their verbal take-down: “Okay, Laura, are you ready to give it a try?  You are going to be great.”

Sit down and shut up. I am going to do this,” I said to my internal skeptics.

Yikes!  I am upside down.  And it is okay.  Wait, it is more than okay.  It is fun!  A few more coaching cues, and presto, I was up, above the ground, sitting on the trapeze.

“This seemed a lot harder in my mind,”  said my mind to myself.  “But it is not.  Dare I say, it is kinda easy.”

Ponder…ponder….

Back to the lesson:  “okay, lean back, slide back, one foot on the bar while bending your knee, press into that and stand up,” Joanna coached.

Bam!  I am standing up.  On just my toes.  Clinging tightly to the sides of this adult-sized swing, the rope that connect to the trapeze bar.  Looking out over the gym.  And completely amazed.

“You are really doing this.”

“I knooooooow!”

“And you are liking this.”

“I am!”

“And you are good at this.”

“You are right!”

(just a small conversation between my Inner Caretaker and myself.)

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I felt like a little kid and yet a superhero all at once.  Playful yet powerful.  Silly yet cape-wearing serious.

I had clarity:  I was experiencing the unbelievable freedom of trusting my body and its strength to do this thing that I had dreamed about only a few months ago.  Not just trusting, but noticing and celebrating, and even daring my capable machine of muscle, bone and balance to do more.

“Okay, Joanna, show me something else.  I am ready.” I said, certain that I was.

Illegal Use of a Squat Rack

You know “that guy” at the gym, the one who stands in the squat cage doing bicep curls, admiring himself lovingly in the mirror, and then does not rack his weights?  Yeah, we have a name for him: douche bag. We (women in the gym) cringe when we see him.  He is one of the reasons women hate going in the gym.  He represents everything bad at the gym: testosterone cloud, rudeness, confusing use of weights, stinky armpits.

Well, today, I was that guy.  No, I did not do bicep curls in the squat rack while taking a selfie video.  I did something worse, and by worse, I meant that a) I was probably breaking some kind of gym rules (and I work there), and b) I probably made a few guys cringe and say “what the hell is she doing?”

What did I do?

I practiced some trapeze skills on the Smith machine bar. 

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Just balancing on the bar, my hips on the bar, my legs straight behind me, no hands.  Think: classic scene from Titanic on the front of the boat, Kate peering out over the water, while Leo gently holds her.

But for me:  no loving helper, no feet on the ground, no rail to catch me.  And no net either!

Look Ma, No Hands!

Okay, okay, I was only a couple of feet off the ground.  It was not dangerous.  However, it may have looked silly.  But it had a purpose.  There is significant core engagement in this movement, which is personal trainer-speak for: good balance and squeezing your butt really hard.

The purpose was practice, which looks a lot like play.  I was practicing some skills that I need to have so I can get better at the aerial classes I have been taking.

Wheeeeee!

This is a new thing that my body has graciously allowed me to pursue.  As I have gotten stronger and more confident, I try new things, like trapeze lessons.  And as I take the trapeze lesson, I notice where I am strong enough to do things I thought I could not.  I also notice where I need to get stronger . . . little things to work on at the gym including a strong back and core, and better grip-strength.

Less Workout, More Play Time

There’s a symbiotic, yin-yang relationship between my workouts and my play time, that is, the Sky Candy gym which offers aerial classes.  Each feeding into the other.

For now, I have given up on tracking numbers (scale, tape measure, clothing size), and instead I am just focused on improving my skills and strength so I can play better.

Which puts me in the squat cage, probably looking like a foolish monkey, but secretly, I am getting revenge on all of the gym douche guys.  And having fun doing it!