Barre: Back to Basics (aka DAMN! I’m unfit!)

doublebarre_editMovement is difficult this morning. My body is trying to figure out what the hell I did to it. And why. It hasn’t done anything to me. In fact, my body has been very nice to me lately. It eats, sometimes sleeps, gets me from point A to Z throughout the day. It allows me to give fabulous hugs and cook delicious meals for my people. So, right now, my body is whimpering and begging for an explanation as to why I would inflict torture on it. Oh, body of mine … how sorry I am that you are feeling pain – because, let me tell you, every iota of my being, physical and mental and (yes) even emotional is feeling the pain too. But it’s not from torture. It’s not from self-inflicted harm. It’s from a decision I made to take another step to being well.

I am intimidated by physical activity. I don’t like not knowing what my body can and cannot accomplish. I don’t like discovering those boundaries while in the presence of others. I don’t like being new to something and not having the competency to execute the exercises with confidence. I don’t like being in front of a mirror. I don’t like my body feeling weak or unstable. All of which happens when you’ve reached a level of unfitness that your body has never experienced before and you have to take those first steps to rediscover fitness.

I don’t have a driving desire to be super fit or to be 20 lbs lighter because that’s what I was however many years ago. My wife has been committed to reclaiming her health and weight in 2015 and she’s doing an amazing job. But her motivation seems to be an internal desire to settle at a certain weight that she feels most comfortable at. For me, it’s a challenge for me to tie my weight to my fitness. Pre-baby, I had weighed in at 120 lbs and, by all appearances, could be considered fit (yoga, hiking, walking -i’ve never been a runner – swimming, various fitness classes) but my weight belied my health. I’ve been trying to change the way I think about fitness and be more holistic about my physical health. I think I’m settling into a philosophy of wellness.

The idea of wellness has obviously been around for years. I’ve read through articles, books and websites about how to approach and incorporate wellness into your life. Hell, Kaiser sends me a mailer about wellness at least once a month. As I whittle away the busyness and business that surrounds wellness, I’m realizing that this is one of those concepts that is fully personal and one that you need to internalize in order to manifest. Wellness is not based on a good BMI number or the number of reps you can do in the gym. Wellness is not about switching to a vegan diet or eliminating alcohol. My vision of wellness is evolving into a feeling of satisfaction with how my body carries me throughout my day and rests at night. And, when I look at it that way, I have a lot of work to do because, although my body has sufficed, it has and does not carry me through our days with strength and grace and comfort. It hurts to sit on the floor and play a board game with Shortstack and then try to stand up, carrying our SUP from beach to water causes pain in my right shoulder, standing in the kitchen and cooking for a morning causes my ankles to swell and become achey, sitting at my desk for a few hours inevitably creates painful muscle tension that often explodes into a headache. So, no, I am definitely not well.

I decided to try something new in the way of exercise. Although I can and love to walk, I know that having an external motivator (i.e. an expectation to show up at a class) is good for me. Through a fluke I discovered Sweat & Soul Studio in Kaka’ako and screwed up enough courage to go to a class. Granted, first I emailed the studio to see what class they would recommend for a very unfit beginner and Melissa (I believe she’s the owner) was gracious and welcoming. I have a background in ballet – I danced for 20ish years. I know, and was reminded during my Barre class, that although you may take the dancer out of dance, you will never take a dancer’s awareness out of the dancer. I forced myself to leave the house, park the car and walk into the new studio; anxiety was bubbling up everywhere and I fought the urge to turn around and make excuses for myself all the way back home. But I walked into the studio, was greeted by Keala with such damn good energy and an open ear, before I realized it I was standing in a studio with walls of beautiful barres, a yoga mat, a strap and 1 lb weights. Oh lord. And then the next hour+ was intriguing and creative demands on my body which engaged and sought out muscles that I’m not sure exist within me. It felt right … not necessarily good – there was a wall of mirrors in front of me which I determinably tried to avoid looking at, but it was right. I knew and craved the feeling of standing in front of a barre again. My body unconsciously arranged itself into an acceptable position and, under Keala’s guidance and patience, I asked my body to do things that surprised me.

I’m in pain today. Tomorrow will likely be worse. The class I took yesterday has altered the way I think of a dance studio and the versatility of a barre for a full-body workout was quite a revelation. But I’m going to another class – hopefully tonight. And another one this weekend. I don’t expect big changes, but if I can start to extend my right leg from a seated position without toppling over or if I can engage my core long enough to maintain independent arm movement  for a second or two while in a suspended V, I’ll be satisfied.

I can say that my mantra for my 40s will likely be some version of “being well and happy is an everyday journey – filled with many steps forward and back.”

Be well, friends.

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