A Graceful Disaster.
When I was growing up, I was not athletic. I’m still not athletic, as anyone who has ever met me or seen a picture of me can attest to, but I have finally found a few activities that I can stand doing for more than, like, five minutes. I vividly remember trying out for the soccer team when I was in elementary school and having zero control of my soccer ball and after ten minutes, completely giving up, throwing the ball into a corner and turning into a hysterical mess of hot tears and gulping sobs as my mother drove me home where I promptly stomped upstairs and slammed the door. The most athletic I got after that was when I was the scorekeeper for my middle school’s girl’s junior varsity volleyball team.
It wasn’t until college that I attempted another athletic activity, one that surprised even myself that I would consider doing: ballet. I have never been graceful, and being overweight, I felt more akin to a lumbering football player than a graceful swan. I took classes through my alma mater, the University of Oregon. I was not only getting college credit (albeit not towards anything remotely relevant), but my parents were also paying for it (since they paid my tuition). It seemed like a sweet deal. Although my flexibility never improved to the point I could do the splits, my hamstrings stretched well enough that I could almost put my hands flat on the ground when I bent over.
When I was a junior in college, though, my classes for my major ramped up, I started up a second minor in Non-Profit Administration, and my classes started to conflict with the times of the ballet classes. I eventually dropped dance class in favor of, you know, graduating on time. I kept my leotard, tights and ballet slippers in a drawer up at my parents for ages until I finally decided that I might want to try taking dance classes again.
The problem with starting dance class while being a working woman is most of them are during the day, or on the weekends, or they are only once a week which doesn’t really help when you’re trying to improve your strength and technique. I was taking ballet four days a week in college, and even then it really wasn’t enough. When I wrote my 101 Things List in January 2008, I put “take an adult ballet/dance class” on the list but sadly, couldn’t find any studios in New Jersey that would fit my schedule.
In July, just before moving to New York City, I lost a change purse that I used to keep my train and bus tickets. It was a Coach change purse, and I loved it because I’m a designer whore who can’t afford anything designer. I was crushed. So for my birthday in August, Erik bought me a new Coach change purse. When I opened it, I thought it was perfect, and was completely surprised that he would think to replace it with another Coach change purse (these things aren’t cheap).
While I was looking at it, Erik says, “What’s that it in the pocket…?”
“Huh?” I asked, flipping it over. In the front pocket of the change purse was a little card. I pulled it out and read, “Ballet Arts: Center for Dance.” Erik had bought me a pack of ballet classes at a studio in midtown Manhattan. (Yeah, I know, awww….)
It took several weeks before my own schedule lightened up enough that I had time to take the class. My parents mailed me my ballet clothes – shoes and all. The shoes are the most important aspect of a ballerina’s outfit. The shoes are leather and take weeks to break in, formed to the foot and worn down enough that they slide comfortably across the floor. I lost one of my shoes my sophomore year in college and was so frustrated when the leather of my new shoes would stick to the floor!
Last night was my first class, and while my mind remembered all the plies and degages, my body firmly did not. The first half an hour was actually pretty good, but then my body realized it had not done this in four years and it was pissed. My thighs and calves screamed at me and I was so sore afterward that my calves cramped terribly as I climbed the stairs to my apartment.
We’ll see how I manage another class in the future. I’m not sure how well my body will tolerate doing a ballet class just once a week, so I’ll have to fit in the time to go twice, or maybe three times a week if I can help it. Erik only purchased a 10 ticket card though, and I don’t want to use them up too quickly. Ballet classes are not cheap.
Ballet is, however, a form of exercise I’ve always enjoyed. And it’s one that I can actually do. Well, I can do it better than maneuvering that Godforsaken soccer ball (sorry, deep-seeded childhood bitterness). It doesn’t seem to damage my blood sugars too badly probably because it’s not to intense and I don’t have a rush of adrenaline. I wore my pump to last night’s class because I was wearing my gym pants, but my instructor said that it’s best just to wear a leotard and tights when dancing, to help improve the line of your body. Since I don’t wear a bra while dancing (the leotard keeps you plenty in place), there isn’t anywhere to put the gadget. I always danced without a pump in college, but my body doesn’t like to be disconnected for too long, or I spike something fierce. So I’ll have to work something out if I partake in ballet regularly.
Do you have a favorite, non-traditional method of exercise? I know Scott plays basketball with his homies. I’ve always thought team sports or dance are more fun than huffing and puffing on a treadmill. If you have any ideas on things I can try, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Anything to keep me off an elliptical machine will keep me happy!