I have been going back to exercise classes after Thanksgiving. During my childhood and youth and well into my twenties, I hated any form of exercise with passion. One, I was shit at it, and very often just too sick to do anything. Second, German PE teachers are assholes. #notallgermanpeteachers you want to say? No, all of them. One of my favorite writers, Arnold Stadler once wrote that there were two types of PE teachers at his High school. Those who were former Nazis, and those who were the sons of former Nazis. Ok, this got dark really fast (he is still an amazing writer if you love dark humor). My physician had written me a certificate that told my teachers to not grade my performance in class- i.e. I would participate, but not be graded on it. What my PE teachers thought this meant however, was telling me that after every test that we did, that I would have failed anyways. In front of everyone. By the time I was sixteen, I just didn’t go anymore and didn’t work out or do anything except for the occasional hike.
In grad school, I slowly started trying out Hot yoga. I was in this women-run studio in Davis, and slowly, slowly, I decided to trust my body again. I found out that you can have joy in exercise without being competitive, or turn into an Olympic athlete right away. In Indy, I started doing Barre classes, and kinda stuck with it. In Portland, there was a barre studio three blocks from my house. So I went for a while, and then I had my emergency surgeries, and my nine month recovery. And then I got lazy and all the self-doubt came back. But, finally, I kicked myself, and started a week before Thanksgiving. After the first time, I came home crying. You see, almost all barre studios make you think that you will look like this:
Well, ok, that’s exaggerated. But this is how I look in comparison:
But I persisted. Thanks to the remicade and all of these doctors (and nurses) working their butts off, I am the healthiest I have been in about seven years, if I ever wanted to get a little bit fitter, it would be now! So I went back, and I actually signed up for what I thought wasn’t going to be too hard: The 17 in 17 challenge. Between Jan 18 and Feb 14, they challenge you to take 17 classes. So, every other day, kinda. I had it all planned out, or so I thought. Except for the three days before my remicade infusion, in which I couldn’t make it through the day without strong painkillers. Then, add two days of post-remicade fatigue. And all of a sudden, I had a week left. And, I actually did it. I went every damn day, and on Friday, I went twice. I may have treated myself afterwards with tacos (really conveniently located next door to the studio), but I did it. I can’t say that I got better- my coordination still sucks- when my instructor says right leg, I usually lift the left first. I still can’t do much of the abdominal exercises- how could I? I have a triple layered 8 inch scar down my belly! But, baby steps. What I learned was that, yes, on occasion there are people there who are blessed with great genes and fantastic stamina, who will just plow right through and still look like a sip of water. But, most of the time, everyone in there is fighting some sort of battle, and they come to forget about it for just one hour. They didn’t care about my wardrobe malfunction (never wear neon thongs under a thin grey leggin!), they didn’t laugh about me just having to modify A LOT (the great thing about barre is that there usually a lot of modifications), they were busy doing their own thing. So, while I still don’t have a Misty Copeland physique, what changed is my mind and my attitude. I still rank my least favorite exercises in my head while doing them (planks, followed by anything involving my non-existent stomach muscles), but I noticed, I focus more on the fun stuff (everything else). And most importantly, I learned to get rid of all of that bullshit that my PE teachers put into my head. The lovely instructors were so supportive. I always expected one of them to tell me that me and graceful will just never work out, or that suck majorly. Instead, they cheered me on, and were helpful when I had questions, even when they were stupid. So, former PE teachers, get out of my head. You’ve been there long enough.
I am worthy, damn it. I may not be great, I may not ever master this, but I am here, and I am having fun.
See you at the barre.