Friday, February 26, 2010

A Few Clowns Short of a Circus

What did I sign myself up for?!?!? If you know me at all, you're going to think this post is a work of complete fiction, but I swear by my aching back, it all happened. I was too busy trying to access muscles that I didn't know I had, so I didn't snap any photos -but I'll try to include some I've found online to illustrate my points:

My first night at the Circus
by HeatherEve

I didn't quite know what to expect. Aside from two 60-mile breast cancer walks, I haven't exercised since I quit soccer in 9th grade (in favor of debate, which pretty much sums up my view on physical activity), and even then I chose the goalie position to minimize required exertion. I knew that the circus acts would require/build strength, and that I had NONE going in. I arrived early and watched a bunch of tiny children hula hooping while balancing on big spheres. Like this, only younger:

Behind them, a group of boys were launching each other off teeter-totters and catching them in chairs on poles. Over their heads a group of teen girls hung from the rafters doing something in unison. On either side were kids swinging on a trapeze and others racing unicycles.

I watched in awe, but I didn't really get nervous yet. I figured I had signed up for an entry level adult class, sure to be full of pudgy housewives.

Correction #1: There are 10 adults in the class. 7 have taken it before, most of them multiple times. I am pretty much the only pudgy one. Gulp.

The course description mentioned juggling, unicycles, Spanish web, and triple trapeze. The first two seemed pretty benign - skills necessary? Yes. Danger of death? Unlikely. I figured we'd start with a day of safety stuff, or maybe even unicycles.

So already you know, that is not what happened.

First up was stretching. I guess that made sense, and should have tipped me off about the level of exertion yet to come. As I struggled to touch my toes, I watched everyone around me do the splits and put their leg behind their head (okay, nobody but the instructor did that, but it still felt like everyone else was made of Jell-O and I was just pudding). Of the 3 newbies, the other two clearly have a background in dance, gymnastics or yoga. I have a background in office supplies.

As we stretched, the coaches came around and pushed and pulled. This scared me a little. I am not flexible. I've actually never been able to do a back bend. I expressed my concern when we reached that portion of the evening - "I don't think I can do this - "

At which point the tiny Russian woman grabbed my back and pushed it upwards, and all of a sudden I was doing this:

I'd be tempted not to believe it, but I DEFINITELY FELT IT, and still do today, so I know it happened. There was a burning sensation that took a while to go away, during which point I was sure I'd end up crippled. But no time to contemplate that, we were off to our stations!

Uh, what? Where's the safety lesson? Where's the ground work? No? Straight to the long trampoline? Okay...

As the coach waved us forward I didn't even know where to start. "Do I just jump?? I have a secret fear of trampolines. My father was a gymnast in high school, and had injured his neck on a trampoline. Ever since he was really guarded about them, and we were never allowed to play on them or get one as kids. So when we were turned loose to make tumbling runs down this sucker, I didn't quite know what to do. After a few passes of straight jumps, tucks, and what had to be the worst looking Russian's ever, I was encouraged to do front handsprings. That wasn't going to happen, I can't even do them on the ground. I settled for somersaults, despite having not done one of those for years either.

After two or three passes of that, I got sick and had to sit down. Awesome! I'd like to blame it on the spinning, but I've fainted enough times to know that was where this was headed (probably because I haven't had my blood pumping like this in YEARS), so I sat down and drank some water, thought I might vomit and carefully made my way to the ladies room, and eventually pulled it together again. Embarrassing? A little. But I knew it wouldn't be easy, and you have to start somewhere. And it's not like I'm worried about impressing this group of strangers. They're all nice so far, but they all seem to take it very seriously, where as I'm just in awe that people are letting me play with this equipment.

Anyways, when I got back, my group had moved on to the high wire.

THE HIGH WIRE. That's a real circus act. Okay, so this one was only about 3 feet off the ground, and they really call it the low wire, but you can see the progression. All that kept running through my head was the Bones episode when Brennan hurt her feet walking on the wire (very amusing episode though). This lizard child has better balance, but about the same belly as I do:

Bat, who appears to be the head coach asked if I was okay. I told him I hadn't exercised in 15+ years and wasn't used to quite this much exercise, but I was trying. He asked my job. "I work in a tax office."

"Ha ha ha, you sit at desk all day!"
That is very true. At least he could understand why I was so soft and wimpy :)

We had the option of using the giant pole, which I wasn't sure I could even lift, let alone not clothesline someone with, so I stuck with the other balance aid which was a cloth paddle called a "fan". It looks like a big racquetball racket, but solid fabric, and you flap it to move air and keep your balance.

Then again they turned us loose! Bat held one hand lightly as I tentatively stepped out on the wire. Ow. Ow. Ow. He kept telling me to slow down, which was probably better for my balance, but going fast was better for my feet, not so accustomed to having a big wire pressed into them. I never tried it alone (I have a feeling that is to come) but we did walk with limited assistance both forward and backward across the wire.

Next: time for round III, ding! On to the HOOPS:

This was by far my favorite "looking" act, but also the hardest. They were 2-3' off the ground, and to get on you hang from your arms and pull your legs up. With your stomach muscles. If you have any. Which I don't. Xena helped me force my feet up, at which point I was able to use my arms & legs to pull myself up to the hoop. We did a variety of basic but very cool looking poses while she slowly spun the hoop. Stuff similar to this:

I felt kind of defeated since it was so hard for me to get on that one, but hey - I know I'm weak and flabby, and I was proud that I tried it. A quick google search of "aerial hoops" shows this is both a circus and stripper act, so two very divergent career paths lay ahead of the kids who study this.

After this point I thought the evening was over, but again, I was wrong. We all circled up on one more set of mats for PUSH UPS AND CRUNCHES.


These are things I DEFINITELY haven't done (or wanted to) in quite some time, and it showed. My push ups are saggy and awful. The group counted off 30, I maybe got 15-20 of those in. Then crunches: I actually made most of the 50, which kind of shocked me. And I wasn't just faking it with my neck, I could hear my sweaty back peel off the mat.

And then they sent us home, and I wondered if I was going to die.

So far, this class is nothing like I thought it would be. It's probably better, but I'll reserve judgements to see how in pain I am the rest of the day. The coaches are really nice, it is DEFINITELY a work out, but it is way more fun to swing and bounce on things than do yoga or aerobics (never happen). Apparently we have a lot more "acts" to explore in the next 7 weeks, and you can bet I'll struggle with all of them, but hopefully I can stick it out!


Carin said...

I am so glad you posted about this!! It sounds so fun, I am very jealous!

Anonymous said...

This is hilarious! I am so proud of you! That must have been hard to be the new guy but you had a great attitude and made it through! Way to go!