No Blue Ox, Babe!

Monday, May 07, 2012

I know a guy who is smart, charming and hilarious. He gets compliments on being smart, charming and hilarious all the time. It doesn’t even register with him anymore; being a close friend, I know he really craves compliments about being fit, handsome and sexy. Which he is! But he says he was a chubby kid and has carried that baggage into adulthood.

It’s been said we don’t aspire to what we already are (or think we are, I guess). Me? I was working out with a personal trainer for the first time and she was surprised (no doubt based on my bountiful BMI and stunning lack of cardio endurance) at how much weight I could lift and keep lifted.

“You’re a strong chica,” said J., my personal trainer.

“Yeah. Thanks.”

I’ve been hearing this my whole life. I’ve never been “small” – my lowest adult weight put me at size 6 and it scared the hell out of my parents when they saw my collarbones and hips jutting out. In high school, the football coach put me through a weight-lifting circuit once and I’m surprised he didn’t ask me to try out.

As a child, ballet didn’t work (no ability to follow the steps, none); my portly neighbor said to 10-year old me, practicing in the backyard for cheerleading tryouts, “You and me, we’re a little thick in the middle to be cheerleaders, honey.”

I’m not saying I looked like this:

But in high school track? Shot put.

So when someone at the gym compliments me on the way I pound the elliptical machine into submission, it’s not that I’m not grateful for the kindness, but I’m kind of over being Blue Ox Babe, even as I’ve come to accept it as my niche. Genetics. Destiny.

But I crave compliments about being graceful, coordinated and fast.

I don’t do Zumba. Or yoga. Step aerobics? Out of the question. All these classes are as similar and terrifying to me as the working dynamics of a school playground:

1. You’re expected to enjoy yourself, whether you want to or not. I was that weird kid who liked to stay in and read.
2. Everyone seems to have an innate ability to enjoy herself except me. See “weird kid,” above.
3. Everyone assures me that if I unclench my butt cheeks and “just move!” – no matter what is actually being demonstrated at the front of the class -- it will be FINE, because THEY felt that way in the beginning but they stuck with it and now it’s super fun.

They don’t understand that I will never get my fun on because my brain will not allow me to “just move” any which way that feels fun and natural because NOTHING FEELS NATURAL in that situation.

I talked to Trainer J. about this. Surprisingly, she feels the same way I do [about classes like Zumba]. I noted that while eternally petite, poised and graceful, she also has amazingly sculpted arms and legs, no body fat and looks like – at half my size – she could flatten me in half a heartbeat. Surely This Woman could help me with my secret fitness desires?

This is what led to me doing box jumps in the middle of the gym. If you don’t know what box jumps are, here is the explanation: you stand in front of a box about 18-24” high. You jump on top of it. Easy!

(See? A child could do it.)

I stared at it. I was nervous. Afraid even. What if I fell? I mean, I didn’t think I would break anything, but still…

“Any minute now,” J. said.

I finally leaped up and came down HARD, feet slamming onto the top of the box like I was trying to break through it.

J. laughed. “Yes. You’re STRONG. You’ve got that part. Try it again and this time I want you to land on the balls of your feet. I know you can land more softly than that.”

More panther, less elephant. Got it.

Again. And again. And while not exactly “cat-like,” not “largest land mammal,” either! J. used my strength as a framework to get me going in new direction (she’s so good). It was familiar and then again, not. I grinned.

Riding this enthusiasm, I thought, maybe this “grace” and “balance” stuff is something I can work on. Clearly, I was delirious from endorphins. In the next moment, I wondered how much of avoiding “grace,” “speed” and “rhythm,” was about fear: fear of looking ridiculous, of failure, of what others might say. And as a result, how I hid my fear by rejecting activities I might actually like. Finally, how I’d begun to dismiss my strength. Lots of people would love to be what I take for granted. I wondered how much fun I missed on the playground being caught up in judging and being judged. And then I wasn’t so much afraid, I was sad. What a waste.

I’ve said before that when one stops eating ones feelings, expect those feelings may come out in strange and sometimes unsettling ways. It’s taken me a while to figure out where to stick my emotions if I can’t hide them in a burger and cover them in mayo.

I remembered an incident from high school, when I was athletic and healthy. I’d found out my boyfriend cheated on me. I went to visit my best friend, a lifeguard at the Y. She listened to me cry with anger and hurt, then found me a swimsuit, pointed to the pool and told me to start swimming. If it was good then…

“You ready to try some yoga?” asked J.

I nodded. “Absolutely.”
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  • JENNNY135
    I can so relate to you, I too was never one of these petite, graceful girls. I've always been told that you could hear me coming a mile away cause I walked like an elephant - Boom, Boom Boom - I finally realized I heel striked too much. I was drawn to events like: discus throw, shot put and defense in soccer. It probably didn't help that I was a Tom Boy, never wanting to play with the girls cause playing with the boys was more fun. Wrestling, boxing, skate boarding - my knees are so scared up it's embarrassing....lol.

    So be you, strong and healthy.

    2118 days ago
    I don't think that Matilda would EVER have compared you to the evil school marm/aunt/all around nasty human being! emoticon (I dunno though, how DO you feel about chocolate hoarding?)

    I am so colossally uncoordinated it is a bit on the hilarious side to watch! I think that may be why I don't ever take a class, I am so convinced that watching me get down and silly would end the class immediately! I've tried Zumba, I've tried Nicole's 28 Day Bootcamp, I've even tried dancing with some girl wiggling around to an ABBA song on my WII Fit Plus....(I LOVE ABBA)
    I've come to the conclusion that as long as they only ask me to move my feet in one direction, we're just fine. If they want me to start moving in a back and forth direction, well give me a couple of minutes and we'll see. But when Nicole says firmly "Now let's get those arms moving up and down!" Well, it's allll over. I just KNEW there must be something fundamentally wrong with me when I didn't fall instantly in love with Zumba, never to be the same again. Once again, ask me to move more than one part of my body in any sort of choreographed way is way beyond what my brain can begin to absorb.
    Not that I don't want to do this, I do...more than just about anything else I have been working into my exercising program! I LOVE syncronized movements!
    But one other thing I deal with...OCD. This means I am a perfectionist and I want to do what I do without flaw. But I don't want to make mistakes and I have yet to figure out how one does that. LEARN something with no practice and no mistakes.
    I was not an athletic child, but I think that was more because my "father" (whole nother story) was an itinerant farmer and we moved....a LOT. I was never in one place long enough to be accepted, let alone be able to try out for any kind of organized sports. So I didn't learn team sports, I didn't socialize and I sure wasn't going to put myself in a position to be laughed at!
    Oh man, you are SO good at bringing up subjects that make me stop, look around and say "Wow, now where did THAT come from?" Thank you.
    No one is going to laugh at me, are they. Is that MY fear?
    2118 days ago

    Comment edited on: 5/8/2012 3:11:02 AM
    You have inspired my next blog, because your words "I wondered how much of avoiding “grace,” “speed” and “rhythm,” was about fear: fear of looking ridiculous, of failure, of what others might say" is exactly how I have felt about running! I just started a few weeks ago, and ran for the first time outside yesterday - something I thought I would never be able to do!
    2119 days ago
    First of all, I thoroughly enjoy reading your blogs too. You write with a sense of humor that I thoroughly identify with. Perhaps this is because it sounds like we had similar childhood experiences. I was the weird kid who liked to read. Growing up, my aunts, uncles, & other relatives always called me a Chinese word that means "strong" but is really a euphemism for "fat kid." I was pretty strong though; none of my male cousins wanted to mess with me because they all knew I was stronger than they were and could beat up their puny asses easily.

    My schools never had a football team (being that I went to all girls schools pretty much my entire life) but if they had, I have a feeling I would have been roped into trying out. Middle school into high school, I was built like a linebacker.

    One of the reasons (oh there are a multitude of them) I never participated in school sports is because I am the BIGGEST KLUTZ alive. I still am. I have 2 left feet. I can't seem to stop walking into things. I am incredibly uncoordinated. Yet, I work in a lab and doing experiments requires fine motor control that one would think I did not possess. And I'm actually not bad at classes that require choreography. I'm actually pretty good at Jazzercise. Who would have thought that the girl who can trip over her own feet can dance?

    Box jumps. Ugh. I shudder at thought. I don't think I could do those. And assuming I could, I'd probably be more elephant than panther. I'm sure someone in the gym is watching you do that and thinking to themselves "Damn, I wish I could be like her and do those!" So good for you!
    2119 days ago
    I have never in my adult life been smaller than a size 14, but other than that....It's like you were posting my thoughts and feelings in a much more poetic manner than my brain was thinking them.
    2119 days ago
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