Whenever I try to change myself, this is how it goes:
One step forward, two-hundred-and-twenty-three steps back. Or, as Lorelai Gilmore would say*: I start doing the spastic polka.
Of course, part of the problem is that I put myself in advanced courses when I don’t even know the fox trot. I tell myself, I learned the Viennese waltz for a show I was in back in 2003, so clearly I am thisclose to becoming the world’s greatest dancer. I don’t want to spend hours perfecting my shuffle-ball-change**. That’s boring. And it doesn’t feel productive. Give me a spotlight and some sequins and I’ll surely be Ginger Rogers.
(Insert maniacal laughter here.)
Anyway, I’m actually talking about this routine thing. Growing up.
On an academic level, learning has always come easily to me. I couldn’t understand why people thought school was so hard, why they complained about our homework load–I was clueless. (Until I took AP Chemistry. I’m really bad at Chemistry.) And I always thought that academic learning was higher learning--if they’d made me take a home ec class, for example, I would most likely have gone to the school board in protest.
I guess I thought I was somehow above the day-to-day, that learning to run a household was simple and thus less valuable than my beloved literature and art.
Oh, teenage Laura. You’re so, so stupid.
That “simple” stuff is by far the most difficult subject matter I’ve ever had to master. And why?
Well, it just so happens that I can explain it, and I can explain it because I recently began taking barre classes as part of this whole being-a-healthy-adult thing. Well, I took a couple of classes at Barre3, which is more like barre mixed with pilates and yoga, and I did some barre videos online (they have some great ones you can stream free with Amazon Prime).
Stay with me, here.
You see, in barre, you point your toes. A lot. Pretty much all the time.
Sounds simple, right? Natural, for many. It used to be natural for me and I thought it would be again.
Pointing your toes is so friggin’ hard.
It was for me, anyway, because my main muscle workout for years (when I do it) has been yoga. In yoga, we don’t really point our toes. We flex our feet. And apparently, by spending the last decade flexing more than I point, I’ve lost that muscle memory.
Yes, even if your parents built you a good foundation (Remember that metaphor? Am I confusing you yet?), it can still crumble if you neglect it.
You have somewhere between 650 and 840 muscles in your body, but any muscle will atrophy if you don’t use it.
But here’s where it gets hopeful (and yes, I will soon stop talking about my feet):
Yes, I was tired and sore. Yes, I’ll be tired and sore some more. In fact, I’m starting to think that people with super toned bodies are always tired and sore–they’re just good at hiding it. However, regardless of the pain I felt during the workout, the shuddering muscles, the many curse words that ran through my head, by the end of it I felt wonderful.
I never feel that way after a workout that comes easily.
Sure, there are chemical elements at play in a workout that don’t necessarily factor in, say, making the bed (a habit I got into and then somehow fell out of as part of my spastic polka, even though I really enjoyed having a neat, peaceful bedroom every day) but there is still a payoff. That thrill you get when checking items off your to-do list. That beautiful moment when you sit down in a clean living room.
So toning the toe-pointing muscles (and the house-cleaning/schedule-making/healthy-eating muscles, etc.) will hurt–but it will also feel great. And I don’t have to go full-on ballerina, but I can do better than the spastic polka. I just have to find the fitness level that works for me.
And while there are exceptions, building muscles is something you can do your whole life through. The old dog who can’t learn new tricks?
*I believe only die-hard Gilmore Girls fans will remember that quote. Even more die-hard fans will remember the actual number of steps back she says she’s done; I do not.
**Actual dancers of the world: I’m sorry for mixing my metaphor here. I only know so many dance words. All metaphors aside, I’ve always wanted to be a good dancer but let me put it this way: I have actually been the only cast member in a musical production NOT to have a dancing part, and I was in the chorus…