Day 85 – Diary of a wimpy ballerina

27 03 2010

Friday was the start of the kids’ spring break, and after Wednesday’s snow day I knew we needed to keep the troops entertained. We made a deal — suffering through haircuts would earn a movie. Diary of a Wimpy Kid vs. How to Train Your Dragon found the kid winning — and it was hilarious. The kids laughed out loud at the sillier jokes, and I found nostalgic humor in the painful transition to middle school and adolescence the wimpy kid makes.

After the movie I was thinking about my own first days of junior high when I was a shy, awkward 7th grader. I missed the last week of elementary school in May when I was hospitalized and diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. So in addition to the onset of pimples and gangliness over the summer, I had added challenges. Like carrying a plastic baggy of grapes for a mid-morning snack in my new ’80s purse and eating them in the middle of English class. Not the kind of attention you want to draw to yourself when you’re introduced to kids from three schools combining for grades 7-9.

Kids from my elementary school knew what had happened, but most hadn’t seen me over the summer. Questions about giving myself insulin shots made me blush and want to hide in my new locker.

After my kids went to bed last night, I did a taped Classical Stretch. Instructor Miranda often references ballet and her exercises feel very familiar from my days of barre work. Last night she talked about the core strength ballerinas have and that your stomach is completely still and strong through all ballet moves.

This made me think about the place I found consistency and an identity at age 12 –ballet class. When everything else around me was changing and uncomfortable, my ballet school was a welcomed escape and I really starting loving class. My skinny body fit in there and I knew what to expect. I started going several times a week, including Saturdays.

For as much as I practiced, I was a pretty wimpy ballerina in comparison to some of my talented friends who went on to study in college. I worked so hard to get my toe shoes and mimic the most challenging movements.

I stuck with ballet until age 16, when I traded my toe shoes for the coveted, plastic dance-team Barbie boots at my high school. I gained mental and physical strength from ballet that I now realize gave me a place to fit in, friends and — most importantly — the confidence I had in high school that has carried through the rest of my life — even though my core strength may have waned.

Running is like this for me now — a place to go and feel right when the rest of life is chaotic and confusing. A consistent place where you can strive for a goal and feel confident when you reach it. Doesn’t matter if you’re a “wimpy” runner when you’re just searching for a personal best.

I hope my kids will find passions like this — physical or intellectual or both — to help them shape and discover who they are and always have a place to fit in.

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Day 26 – Everyday ballet

26 01 2010

My half-marathon training plan has “easy runs” on Tuesdays. I did 2.6 miles and then felt like I needed a dose of stretching. Miranda from “Classical Stretch” was still in Jamaica – poolside – working on balance and foot strength. It was a little embarrassing for her that the bottoms of her bare feet were dirty when she flexed them. That’s what those beach workouts will do I suppose!

I know this lady is on TV, but some how she is reading my mind. She knows just when to tell me to tuck in my hips and offers the right motivation at the perfect moments. Today – as we did some point-and-flex exercises together – she was talking about the foot strength ballerinas have and how important that is to your foundation and balance for any sport. She used to be a ballerina, etc., etc.

How could she have known that I have been talking and thinking about ballerinas lately?? I was sharing with my friends over the weekend that growing up my dance teachers used to discourage running and other sports in favor of keeping your muscles long and lean. And watching my daughter’s ballet class last night made me wonder how life takes our flexible, slender bodies from ballet class as kids and turns them into something else entirely.

Miranda went into a little tangent about how important it is to exercise EVERY day, and that for years medical science told us 3-4 times a week was enough. She said the more we know now about aging, there is proof that as we get older our bodies start falling apart (her words!) and that with daily exercise they basically won’t.

So ha – I’m not going there body of mine. Even in my 40s. I may be far from the slender ballerina of my youth, but in the privacy of my living room, I can still attempt to stretch and move like one!