Exercise: What the hell is it all for anyway?
I'm thirty-eight years old and tonight I learned that I can no longer safely do anything resembling a cartwheel. I am still sitting here, sort of in shock by my very sudden, age-induced limitation. I mean, for God's sake, just last year I was teaching step aerobics, weight training and cardio-kickboxing classes. Now I can hardly sit down or stand up without almost breaking some bone.
My seven year old daughter recently took up Level One of gymnastics. Yes, it's adorable and, yes, I encouraged her. I only became active in my twenties, after having my first child and gaining an amount of weight equivalent to the size of a couple of kindergarteners. So, knowing how great it feels to challenge your body, and how strong I feel after doing any kind of activity, when Seven asked to join, I of course said that it would be a great idea. She had already missed the Beginners class, though, but they allowed her and a friend to "try out" for the Level One class. They were required to do one somersault, one cartwheel, and a hand-stand. Seven did a nice little roll and a decent enough cartwheel. Her hand-stand, though, was quite impressive. So as it turned out, both girls had suitable enough skills to join Level One and I was happy she had something to do that interested her and would keep her active.
It seems, though, the decent cartwheel she had done that day was a stroke of luck. She really can't do one properly, as it turns out. On top of that, all of the kids actually need to know not only the standard one, but the round-off, as well. Anyway, I discovered this small fact the one day I had gotten to gymnastics a few minutes early for pick-up and I peeked into the gymnasium at the end of the class when Seven didn't know I was watching. Even though she's the cutest thing in a leotard to ever live and breathe, she wasn't doing the proper round-off: cartwheel with legs gracefully fanning through the air, turning the body ever-so-slightly and then snapping the legs together and down. Nothing like that. Poor thing really can't get her tiny legs too far into the air at all. They're sort of all bendy... and stuff. Heartbreaking, I tell you. Anyone who has a child that tries and tries at something and still can't do it, you know what I'm talkin' 'bout. And the worst is that she truly believes she's doing it correctly. Of course, now, that puts me in the ever-so-awkward position of having to make the decision: break the "never-lie-to-your-child"rule or tell her the truth that she really, truly should be in Beginner.
Anyway, tonight as I was eating a few discarded pizza crusts (the idea of any part of a pizza being discarded still boggles my mind) after my delicious, yet miniscule Lean Cuisine meal, Seven comes into the kitchen and starts practicing her round-offs. As I coach her from my kitchen chair, my back hurting as usual, (f.y.i. - my aerobics career ended after I sprained my back and my hip, which of course lead to major sciatica... that's another blog altogether. All done, fitness career!), she wants a demonstration. Suddenly, so does my husband, Forty-Three, who has a sudden interest in my gymnastic ability. Food swallowed only seconds ago, I get up and assume the stance: arms held high in the air, front leg hovering inches off the floor in preparation for the initial step before hurling myself across the floor, (people, you know the position I'm talking about. Remember being on your front lawn when you were about five years old, practicing for the high-school cheerleading squad? We all did it, with those stupid chants, too. S-U-C-C-E-S-S... that's the way we spell success!) Okay, anyway... I do this, no wait, I stupidly do this and as scared, yes, as scared as I am, I do a sort-of cartwheel -legs not any higher/straighter/better than Seven's - and hear something crack in my pitiful wrist as something unattaches, or so it feels, in my back. Then I hobble off to seek the safety of a chair.
"You didn't get your legs up!" Forty-Three thinks it must be fun to remind me of this, especially as he's eating more pizza and throwing more crusts into the box. (I can't even.... who does this?)
Feeling completely old and broken, I sit at the table, debating if a third crust is okay since I only ate rice cakes, a Special K bar, and a banana. As I mentally scroll through my daily food intake, I ultimately decide, no, I won't eat it. But now I feel doubly defeated somehow. How does someone who's spent twelve years working out at the gym, almost every single damn day, and mind you, someone who's spent a year teaching all kinds of fitness classes, suddenly find herself unable to do a stupid cartwheel or have a third pizza crust? (who doesn't like crust?) Even my mom, Sixty-Six, can't believe it. Our conversations come to mind as I rub my wrist contemplating getting a full body scan to make sure I haven't, in fact, shaken something loose. These conversations with her have repeated themselves too many times to count:
Sixty-Six: "What the hell's wrong with you? You can't even move anymore. Even with my emphysema, I'm fit as can be. Nothing hurts me!"
Swell. My emphysema-stricken mother is suddenly more fit than her aerobically-trained thirty-eight year old daughter.
So, I ask: What the hell is it all for then? I build myself up, stronger than ever, but two, possibly even three herniated disks later, and I can't even do a stupid cartwheel. You would think that after all those years of conditioning my body that I wouldn't be so... fragile. I mean, thirty-eight isn't so old... is it?
Ew. I just used the adjectives old and fragile in the same sentence and I was describing myself.
But... on the flip side. Even though my body aches and I am unable to share the joys of cartwheeling on the lawn with Seven, I still have the uh... knees, (no, not those. They crack all the time), ummm, elbows, (well, not really those, either. I think I have some signs of arthritis in them. They hurt when I bend them.), the uh... uhhhh.... shins of a twenty-year old.
Thirty-eight ain't that bad, now is it?