Friday, July 29, 2011

Cartwheel Friday

Two years ago I went to my first Spin class.  I joined the Wellness Center at a hospital near my job; it had a manageable gym, plus a lot of classes.  I wanted more yoga in my life.  I wanted Tai Chi.  It was a fairly cheap rate. 

When I signed up, I got two weeks of free spin class--a $7/class value!  I didn't really think I could do it; I had heard horror stories about people throwing up, that kind of thing.  But I wanted to try, mainly because I knew how much the classes would cost me out of pocket.

Little did I know I would fall in love with Spin class.  I loved that someone else chose the music, and I was lucky because it was music I liked (later I would  have Spin teachers that chose horrible techno dance music, so I know how lucky I was and still am).  I loved having someone else decide when we would push hard and when we would back off.  I loved the variety.  I liked all the people I was meeting.  I had wonderful, supportive, encouraging instructors.

I felt like a kid again, tearing through the neighborhood on my bike.  I felt like I was reconnecting with essential parts of myself.

Yesterday I talked to my first Spin instructor, who was in the gym doing some training for beach volleyball, one of her passions.  It was strange to see her in a different setting when I'm so used to seeing her on a spin bike in the front of the room.

My spin instructor was standing on one leg while moving the volleyball around her waist.  I congratulated her on her agility and balance.  My spin instructor told me about her friend who has resolved to do a cartwheel every week.

It sounds like such a simple thing:  do a cartwheel every week.

The woman has loved gymnastics since she was a child, and she doesn't want to lose that.  My spin instructor and I talked about how long it had been since we had done a cartwheel and how hard it would be to do one now.

To be honest, I have never been good at cartwheels.  I remember in the 8th grade, when in P.E. class we had to create a gymnastics routine.  I was that tall girl, the one uncomfortable in her slightly bulky, always changing body.  And I had to create a gymnastics routine?

When I started thinking about it, I practiced all the things I couldn't do.  Then I realized that a smarter thing to do would be to devise a routine around what I could do:  somersaults and round offs and such.

It reminds me of my approach to Ph.D. Comprehensive Exams.  I spent the summer of 1991 trying to get my head around T. S. Eliot's "The Wasteland," the gaping hole in my graduate education in twentieth century British Lit.  By the end of the summer, my strategy was to write my exams without ever mentioning the poem in much detail.

In both cases, my strategy of focusing on what I could do and avoiding what I couldn't master worked.

But back to cartwheels and the friend of my Spin instructor.  My Spin instructor and I both loved the idea of doing something on a weekly basis that takes us back to what we loved in childhood.  We also loved the idea of a simple activity that keeps us flexible and strong.

Will that friend of my Spin instructor still be able to do a cartwheel when she's 80?  One thing is for sure:  if she doesn't keep doing cartwheels now, she will certainly not be able to do cartwheels when she's 80.

Think back to childhood:  what brought you joy?  Are you doing that now?  If not, why not?  Can you reclaim that joy?

Cartwheel Friday--reclaim the joy!

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