Friday, July 31, 2009

All I Wanna Do Is Dance! (Mexico City)

I've never been athletic. Throughout my school years (k-12), I developed my mind by trying to figure out ways to avoid physical education (PE) class. Why? Well, here are some examples:
Rope climbing: a downer.
Calisthenics: catastrophic.
Square dancing: embarrassing, square, and you call this dancing?
Dodgeball: ouch.

The only things I performed well in were the annual President's Fitness Test (I'm great at sit-ups -- although the days following the test were always painful) and running.

As a matter of fact, I loved to run and was quite fast. In grade school, I was one hell of a sprinter. I even competed, that is until the other girls' leg length outstripped my total height.

The height of PH (physical horror) for me were the requirements at my Alma mater. Colgate University had just gone co-ed the year before I attended, and I saw those years of PE classes as the revenge of the faculty and students who had always planned for the school to remain all-male.

I signed up for bowling as many times as I could. I'd start out each semester with a score of 50-60 and, by the end of the course, I'd sometimes bowl a 110. Once I even made 150!

I also took a class in running, which should have been listed in the course catalog as Let's Get Rid of the Girls, Fat Kids, and Wimps Quick 101. Turns out that running five miles at a clip (fast or slow) was only part of the torture. We had to lift weights, too. It also turns out that, although I'm no athlete, I am competitive, and there's no way I wasn't going to complete those runs or lift those dumbbells (and I am not referring to the jerks in my class). I made it through and went back to bowling (a 59).

The worst part for me, however, was the swimming requirement. A woman, whose son had drowned, had donated a large amount of moolah to Colgate with one proviso: In order to graduate, everyone had to tread water for five minutes; swim umpteen (or maybe four) laps across the Olympic-sized swimming pool, using two or more different strokes; and float on his or her back for what seemed like forever.

Now, although I'm an Aquarius, I'm no water baby. I grew up with not-so-fond memories of almost drowning in a swimming pool one summer vacation and of almost drowning in the ocean on another summer vacation. I think water is great in bottles when you're thirsty and in showers when you're dirty. Waterfalls are beautiful to view from a distance, even better in a photo! So, imagine my dismay when I found out that what was standing in the way of me and my diploma was a pool of water that my stream of consciousness was telling me I didn't want to jump into.

I had to dedicate many a semester to learning to swim. Floating was no problem. As a person of the female persuasion, I have built-in life savers that keep me uplifted (at least in a pool). I learned to dog paddle until I was dog-tired. I conquered the sidestroke, too, with relative ease, if not grace. The real rub was that I needed another stroke to keep me afloat. As I really don't like putting my face in the water and, as I was unable to coordinate my kicks with my arm movements, the butterfly and breast strokes were unmanageable. I got by on my backstroke (although those of you who've ever walked with me have the good sense to know that you should always be on the inside if we're on a cliff because, otherwise, I will end up forcing you off, although I certainly don't mean to do so, can imagine how I swam my laps -- sort of on the diagonal).

After graduation, life in Manhattan gave me no PE requirements, however, as anti-exercise as I was, I joined a gym. I lifted weights (Take that, Colgate guys!), did calisthenics(!), and swam(!). I even took a yoga class, which I really hated because it made me so tense.

For some inexplicable reason, I started racewalking. Racewalking, for those in the no-know, is a way to walk faster than slow runners run, while looking totally ridiculous. You always keep one foot (or maybe two?) on the ground, sort of rolling from the ball to the heel, and you swing your arms in a fashion that makes you look like a lunatic and makes people get out of your way, so it works out quite well in the end.

I racewalked until I broke out into a run again. I started jogging around an indoor track at lunchtime with some of my coworkers. I also started running outside with the guy I would eventually marry. Unfortunately, I matched my strides to his. As he is 6'2" tall and I am 5'1" small, I ended up blowing out my knees.

Over the years I've tried other forms of exercise, joining gyms and taking low-impact aerobics classes, following home exercise tapes, riding stationary bikes, and so on. Basically hating it all and making it my mission to avoid the E-word.

Only within the last four years, and thanks to my previous trips to Mexico, have I discovered the only type of E that I really love: dancing. And I've become addicted.

At home I take two classes a week and try to spend an hour or two, afterwards, actually dancing. In Mexico, I've been taking classes and/or dancing nearly every day.

Okay, I'll never be great. I'm only as good as my partner makes me look. But here's the thing. When I dance, I'm not thinking about what I did or didn't do 15 minutes ago, yesterday, last month, last year, or in a previous lifetime. I'm not planning for the future. I'm not stressed out, not done in. I'm in the moment. I'm in the zone. I don't think, therefore I am. And it's really the only time I am what I am: light, floating, high on life, completely happy.

1 comment:

  1. Hey there! This is Anna, Ross's friend from SEP. Ross sent me the link to your blog while I was working as a counselor at SEP, and I've thoroughly enjoyed reading it. This entry is one of my favorites—hilarious! I always thought that Ross's e-mails were witty, but now I can see that he got all of his writing talent from you. =) Glad to see that you're doing well. Hope you have a safe trip home!