a complex athletic choreography

It’s with a similar embarrassed-pride to that conveyed in this entry last year that I begin this Monday entry.

I’ll start at the end and work to the beginning, if that’s OK…

My calves ache. My knees feel a little inflamed, and whatever part of my thigh-muscle (I probably know the name, but it’s funnier, and more in-line with my shtick, to feign ignorance) runs down the back part of my upper legs burns to match the calves. Even the little crescents of muscle at the base of my butt where my legs connect smart. Strange muscle groups; ones I’m not used to receiving feedback from. I mean, I’m better off than I was a year ago… I’m lighter and leaner and continue to take myself out for some exercise on a regular basis. Only thing is, even with a year of doing so I’ve not switched things up much. Sharaun says this is why I’ve stalled-out and am not losing more weight. Maybe she’s right. A year on the elliptical alone does seem a bit of a pigeonholed workout. But even being better off, even after that year, the muscles not worked in my limited workout protest when worked.

It’s an hour after noon on Sunday and the weather here is simply fantastic. Brilliant. The best we’ve had in weeks. Not a cloud in the blue sky and the sun is strong enough that the chill air doesn’t cut hard enough to push you back indoors. It’s the kind of “winter” day that makes you pine for springtime; the kind of weather that settles under your skin and itches as you hide from it inside the house. I’m in the garage. I’ve backed the car out into the driveway to clear one side and I’ve got the iPod playing through the speakers. I’m wearing a pair of “workout” shorts, a t-shirt, some tennis shoes and a hat to keep the sweat out of my eyes. In each hand I’ve got the ends of a blue jumprope and I’m whirring the thing over my head as I bounce on the balls of my feet. The “rope” is dark blue and made of soft plastic and the middle section is scuffed badly. I’m counting. Fifty-three, fifty-four, fifty-five, fifty-six, fifty-seven, fifty-eight, fifty-nine, sixty. I”m trying as hard as I possibly can to establish a rhythm while remembering to breathe. I have considerable trouble with each.

It’s getting late on Saturday afternoon and the shadows in the yard are getting longer and darker. There was some real sunlight today for the first time in a long time, but big white clouds billowed in before long and made the air seem cooler for no sunlight. I’m slicked in sweat anyway, and my eyes are dry and burn from the cold air. My throat hurts from sucking wind and my head is throbbing a bit. I imagine my brain swollen just a little too large for my skull, too tightly packed. I’m counting. Eighteen, nineteen, twenty. Crap. One, two, three, four. Damn. One, two, three…

Mid-afternoon Saturday and I’m jumping too high, I can feel my knees bend and it’s taking much too much effort to get off the ground. Doing it wrong is still hard work and I’m sweating. Those guys in the gym looked like they were almost bouncing on their toes. If you didn’t see them from the waist down you might think that’s what they were doing. I need to shoot for that kind of “bounce jump,” something that won’t be like doing hurdles in addition to trying to time this infernal spin-jump spin-jump combo. What finally clicked for me was the sound of the plastic rope smacking the ground as it came around. I started timing my tiny jumps to that sound, just a split-second afterward. From there I just realized it’s all just a continuum. I can time the jump to the sound, to the position of my hand in its rotation, to a beat, to my breathing, to anything. I can get two or three successful jumps in a row now. Small but it’s huge to me.

Saturday before noon. Just got back from taking Keaton to dance class and I’m standing in the garage. Just standing. I’m swinging a blue jump-rope from ground behind me, over my head, and to the ground in front of me. Over and over again; back to front. I’m not jumping; I’m just trying to be coordinated enough to whip the thing around my head consistently without smacking myself in the neck, getting it tangled, or having the resulting arc bulge out on one side and catch my hip on the other. I can’t explain why this is so difficult for me. I have no sense of muscle-timing, I think it’s why I’m so bad at sports. I have to think incredibly hard to get my body to do something; what might be innate to someone else is a complex athletic choreography for me. I can’t even begin to try jumping this thing until I can reliably swing it around my head and back, so I’ll start there.

Sharaun’s still got all the women from church over at the house so I can’t head home yet. Keaton and I stop at a sports equipment store so I can pick up a jump-rope. Her bun has fallen out and has turned into a ponytail. I have to carry her through the parking lot because the asphalt is still damp from yesterday’s rain and it’ll soak right through her thin slippers. They have a bigger selection of jump-ropes than I’d anticipated but in the end I just go with whatever’s cheapest. It’s synthetic with black plastic handles, probably made in China or Taiwan. I choose the blue one over green and purple options. Five bucks. Not bad, I guess, but I can’t help thinking a piece of cut rope taped on either end would probably have been cheaper. I buy it anyway because I’ve only got a few days to figure this out.

You have no idea the flood of good feelings I have walking into the coffee shop with Keaton next to me. It’s early Saturday morning and she’s all decked-out for dance. Pink tights, black leotard, pink ballet slippers with little bows tied in the thin lace-things, and a black knit “bun cover” in her hair. The bun cover has little jewels on it and I did the bun myself. Gave her a ponytail to begin with, twisted it around into a lump and pinned it with a pin I found in the bathroom. She looks all thin and tall, like girls do when they’re becoming whatever comes after “toddler.” Little girls, I suppose… but to me the period is marked by that lanky look. Because it’s just her and I people look and smile. I get the feeling that it’s a rare thing, a dad and his little girl out for dance. I see other dads at class so I know it’s not true, but people still look like they admire it or maybe they’re remembering a time past or it just makes them smile. Either way holding her little hand I feel proud, of her and myself.

Maybe I can get a rope and practice over the weekend. With three days to learn I should at least be able to look reasonable come Tuesday.

Man, getting to the gym in the beginning was hard enough to overcome for me and I can still stay in my own little world there. A class, some kind of social workout where I’m supposed to be keeping up and doing what everyone else is doing and not making a fool of myself… that’s something else all together. In my normal world I’d never do this, but for some reason I’m excited to try. It’s just that jumping-rope thing that’s got me worried. Sit-ups, pull-ups, stadiums, I even think I can make a passable uppercut or straight punch to the bag without looking wretched. But jumping-rope? All that timing and spinning and whatnot, that sounds hard. Not at all up my alley. I’m worried about the jumping-rope part; I really am.

Thursday morning at work and I’m talking to to a buddy who’s signed up for a “boxing fitness” class offered at work. It’s over at the gym every Tuesday and Friday from 4:15pm to 5pm (canceled this week because the instructor is sick). I know the guy who’s teaching it, works at the sawmill but is a spare-time boxing enthusiast, I think he may have punched around some local amateur circuit or maybe still does. I met him through Ben and Anthony some ten years ago and he used to sit near enough when I worked one floor down from where I am now. The class is basically circuit training. Hitting the bag, sit-ups, push-ups, medicine ball passes, and jumping rope. A but-whooping three-quarter hour endurance race. My buddy convinces me to sign up, I keep thinking back to Sharaun telling me I need to “switch it up” to get the weight loss going again.

“Yeah. A boxing class.”

“A boxing class?”

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