So far here on the ship I’ve found a few fitness options on board. We only have two days out of twelve total when we’re at sea. But when we had one, I wandered around scoping out my options for staying active.
First, there are fitness classes. There’s yoga and spin and social walking/jogging groups.
Second, there’s a salt water pool. I described it as a wave pool (it’s very wavy) but Susan pointed out that it’s likely just the motion of the boat causing the waves. It’s salt water, which I like, and not too warm. I like that. I was worried it would be hot.
Third, there’s the walking/running track above the pool. It’s busy in the morning and there are some serious runners and walkers up there.
Fourth, there is a gym. It’s got some weight machines, two benches, all the dumbbells, treadmills galore, one rowing machine and some elliptical trainers.
So what did I do?
First step, as always, everyday was knee physio in our room.
Second, I did a lot of lifting with dumbbells in the gym. One weird thing is that the ship’s motion is a lot more noticeable when you’re lying on a bench with fifty lbs over your head. There’s a lot of extra stabilization involved.
Third, I jogged in the salt water pool and chatted with some Australian women about the South Pacific. Like, why are you here? Isn’t it warm at home? Aren’t a lot of the birds and plants the same? They were fascinated by the islands and their history and this is a great way to see them.
I’d count this fitness activity on our day at sea as a success.
You know how I can be when learning something new – I get all tangled up in helping my body move in the way my brain wants to and then I get annoyed with myself. My annoyance makes me tense and the tension makes me worse at whatever I was struggling with in the first place.
Yes, I do get on my own nerves just thinking about it.
One of the few times I have sidestepped this scenario is when I tried Zumba on the Xbox a few years ago. Instead of being frustrated when I didn’t ‘get’ it, I found myself laughing at my mistakes and then just carrying on. It was eye-opening.
Unfortunately, soon after I got into the habit of laughing at my ineptness, changes in the Xbox menu made it tricky for me to access Zumba easily. It was a tiny obstacle, but enough to deter me.
I remembered that feeling though. I am rarely casual about learning new things, and I hardly ever laugh in the process of making mistakes. I wanted to have that feeling again, in other contexts, but it didn’t happen.
Then, last spring, I was lucky enough to take a Nia dance class from my friend Elaine.
I made a mess of the movements* but I was laughing at myself. I was only getting about half of the choreography but I was having a grand time.
I have been trying to fit more Nia in ever since but I have only managed to make that happen in the past few weeks. Every Thursday morning, I go to class, flail around ridiculously and enjoy the hell out of it.
I can’t hear the changes in the music that tell me I should change steps. I routinely head in the wrong direction. I start too early and end too soon. As I told a friend of mine recently, I feel like I am gloriously awful at it.
I’m not putting myself down here. I’m probably not particularly bad at Nia – and the nature of Nia is that it doesn’t seem to matter how good you are anyway – I’m just celebrating the fact that I am not getting into that cycle of frustration while I learn. I am not the least bit concerned about how slowly I am learning – I am just reveling in the fun of the movements. I’m sure it helps that there are martial arts-type moves in the dances so I have a feeling of familiarity but, mostly, I’m just going with the feeling of glorious awfulness.
I LOVE being gloriously awful. I feel no pressure to get better at it – even though I am, no doubt, improving as we go along. Getting better just doesn’t seem like something I should focus on – having fun does.
Being in this space is really fun for me and it has my brain whirring – how can I bring this same feeling to other movement I am trying to learn? Can I enjoy being awful at a new pattern? Can I be gloriously awful at parts of Taekwon-Do while I learn?
I certainly intend to find out.
Are you gloriously awful at any forms of exercise? Is being awful part of the reason you enjoy it?
*Learning new moves WHILE matching them to music is a challenge, at the very least.
A few weeks ago I went to a weekend-long kayak symposium (yes, they call it a symposium) at James Island County Park near Charleston, SC. The weather was warm and so was the water, so I was really looking forward to getting back in a boat after a long winter on dry land.
The event, called the East Coast Paddlesports Symposium (as a philosopher, this term cracks me up every time), features classes for kayakers, stand-up paddleboarders (SUPers), and canoeists of all levels. I was looking to firm up my basic kayaking skills– paddling, getting in and out of the boat (yes, that’s a thing), boat handling techniques like edging and bracing, and solo and assisted rescues (getting myself and others back in our boats when we fall out, which happens).
The venue was crowded and festive, with vendors, loads of people trying out water craft of all types, and loads of people running around with paddles and PFDs (life jackets, now called Personal Flotation Devices).
My classes mostly consisted of being in (or out of) a kayak in this lovely sheltered lake area, and some nearby coves. On Friday I took an edging and bracing class, where you learn how to shift your weight to put your boat (sort of) on edge while paddling to help control the direction of your boat, to compensate for currents and wind.
One particularly hilarious exercise we did, for which I was the first volunteer, was a surprise bracing lesson. The instructor asked me to help him with a demo; I said yes. Then he got out of his boat, swam over to mine, and proceeded to throw himself onto my front deck, sitting up and pushing my boat all over the place. This resulted in lots of splashing, me screaming with laughter, delight and a little panic, and using my paddle to brace on either side to keep the boat upright. Win.
The next Friday class was a solo and assisted rescue class. I’ve done these sorts of classes a bunch of times, but still can’t consistently and confidently do a solo rescue– that is, get myself back in my kayak by myself in deep water. We worked on both assisted rescues and solo ones, but I made little progress. I left the class feeling a bit discouraged.
The next day– Saturday– was a real eye-opener for me. I had signed up for all women’s only kayak classes. They had dopey names– “The Feminine Edge” and (ready to grit your teeth?) “Damsels in Distress, No More”. Sigh. Do we really need to set women’s courses apart in these ways? Methinks not. But I digress.
In every other way, though, these classes changed the way I think about myself and kayaking. Seriously.
What do I mean here? Well, up to then I had thought of myself as particularly ill-suited to sea kayaking because:
I have lots of trouble getting in and out of the boat– I’m not graceful or comfortable or quick to settle myself in the cockpit. I am really uncomfortable getting out of the boat– sometimes I just turn over in the surf and drag myself out.
I feel major stress and fear of fat shaming when getting outfitted (I don’t own my own equipment…yet), as I worry about finding a boat big enough for me, as well as other equipment that will fit. As a result, my rental PDFs never seem to fit (they float up to my ears when I’m in the water– a bad thing) and the cockpit never feels right. I have been fat shamed (and felt fat shamed) most of the times I’ve gotten rental gear. That’s no fun.
I don’t feel strong enough, lithe enough, thin enough, etc. to perform solo rescues and some other techniques. I get discouraged and tired and just want to quit.
After reading the above, you might think, “Well, Catherine, since life is short, maybe you might want to consider some other sport”. Believe me, I have resolved to quit kayaking many times. But I somehow keep finding my way back to the water. When I can get away from the above worries, I have a wonderful time. But I have to deal with these challenges. Hence the women’s kayak classes.
So, what happened?
Well, first, let me say that almost all of the women in my classes had their own boats and had a lot of experience kayaking (some 15+ years). Some of them had some pretty impressive skills.
But guess what? It turns out that all of them had many of the same fears and same problems I have. Sure, some of the women had more skills than I did, but:
ALL of them thought that solo rescues were really hard.
ALMOST ALL of them couldn’t do the standardly taught “cowboy” solo rescue without some help.
MANY of them were really nervous doing assisted rescues.
ALL of the large-breasted women complained about the fit of their PFDs, so I was in good company.
ALL of the women with their own boats told me that I would get a lot more comfortable if I bought my own boat. And make sure to get it fitted properly– many women end up with boats that are actually too big for them, which doesn’t work.
So I learned that, when it comes to dealing with fears and worries about kayaking skills and stamina and gear, we’re all in the same boat.
What a relief.
Here’s me at the end of the day, smiling and happy (just before I turned my boat over in the surf and walked proudly, if soggily, onto shore).
Now to keep my eyes open for good used kayaks that are right for me. Stay tuned.
Readers, have you had any eye-opening experiences when you took a women’s only physical activity or sport class? I’d love to hear from you.
My exercise routine has been sporadic this past month. There were caregiving responsibilities, March break with my family, and a nasty cold.
I reviewed my activity data and was surprised to find my most active days for fitness were weekdays. What? In the warm weather I’m a Weekend Warrior, doing lots on weekends but little activity or exercise during the week.
This winter and early spring are the exact opposite, I’ve become The Reverse Weekend Warrior by walking my commute and scheduling four half-hour workouts during the week.
It hasn’t been pretty but I do feel good in my body. I never got around to spinning on Thursdays and Saturdays. The previous winters I did spin for up to an hour on Saturdays and a few times during the week. Not this year.
Poor Ethel, my bicycle, has sat unloved.
I’m looking forward to the warmer weather so I can garden, ride my bicycle and have drinks on my porch. Who knows, my weekends may even catch up to my weekday activities.
If that happens I’ve no idea what I’ll call myself!
In 2015 I spent more time kayaking with friends. I started venturing into the ocean and discovered (unsurprisingly) that sea kayaking is a whole different world, requiring not only skills I didn’t have, but skills I didn’t even know about. My first foray into open ocean (with waves and currents and big rocks to maneuver around) was a real eye-opener. It was, frankly, scary to me. But after some time, I came to enjoy—even revel in—the incredible beauty of an ocean environment. While still being a bit scared, I admit.
In 2016, I did some kayaking here and there, and then took the plunge (literally—man, is the water in Maine cold!) by doing a weekend intensive sea kayaking course with Maine Island Kayak (and of course my friend Janet). That course did two things for me:
1) It made abundantly clear how much I DON’T know about sea kayaking, like understanding tidal current, wave and weather effects. Oh, and navigation. And being actually comfortable and roughly in control of my boat bobbing around in the ocean.
2) It gave me a clear plan if I do want to develop my sea kayaking skills. I need to learn to roll a kayak, get comfortable in the boat under a variety of conditions, do lots of practicing of all sorts of techniques, and above all: log more time in a kayak on the water. This means I really need to buy my own sea kayak. Sure, you can rent them, but it limits you in where you can put in, or you have to transport it somewhere else and return it, etc. Streamlining the process of doing a sport makes that sport more doable.
So, for 2017, I’m investing some time and money on the following:
Rolling classes: I’m taking some indoor pool rolling classes with Kevin at Rock Paddle Surf Kayak in Salem. Last year I did one rolling class. And in the fine tradition of 2016 sports lessons, I learned how much effort and time it’s going to take for me to learn to roll (namely, a LOT). So this year I signed up for a series of 3 classes. I may have a partial roll by then, but certainly it will help move me forward.
Another weekend intensive: Janet and I are going to do the 3-day East Coast Paddlesports Symposium near Charleston in April. This is the perfect venue for me. The water will be warm, I can rent a boat and necessary gear easily, and it offers a big variety of on and off-water courses for a bunch of levels. This means Janet can go off and learn to fight sharks with her paddle while I work on rolling and other handling techniques in warm (did I mention the water is warm there?) water and under adult supervision. I learned so much from 3 days of intensive instruction last year that it’s worth some time and money to do it again this year. And likely I’ll go back to Maine for more kayak instruction and paddling in lovely Casco Bay (even though the water is cold…)
Possible/likely/uh… sea kayak purchase: I’ve been hemming and hawing for a year about buying my own sea kayak, but this is probably the year to do it. Kayaks are like bicycles: you can spend a little money ($700ish) or a lot of money ($5000+). I haven’t figured out what my entry-level boat will be like, but I will be asking around and trying out different ones. Kayaks are also like bikes in that you buy an entry-level one, and then can trade up. Or out—like bikes, kayaks come in multiple designs for multiple purposes: touring, surfing, fishing, etc.
Unlike bikes, though, a kayak cannot be stored in my (non-walk-in) basement, because it will be at least 15 feet long. So I have to leave it outside or talk a friend into storing it at their house. Not all the details have been worked out yet, but the process is moving along.
It’s a bit daunting, diving headlong into a new or different sport. I’ve been toying with sea kayaking for a while now. I guess it’s time to put my money where my mouth is.
Readers, what experiences have you had with deciding to plunge in (or not) and devoting some time and money to a sport or activity? Was it hard? Was it easy? I’d love to hear from you.
A couple of moments have stood out to me lately – fitness-wise. One was during the cool down in my Zumba class (to the tune of R. Kelly’s “The Greatest.” I didn’t pick the song, and Mr. Kelly’s past indiscretions can be discussed another day) surrounded by women 10-20+ years older than me, and the other was this past Monday night – finishing up a dance class, surrounded by women 10-15+ years younger than me. And I was good with all of it. If this is fitness at 30, I’ll happily take it.
When I actually turned 30 in March, I was surprised by the reactions of those in my peer group. Some noted how excited I seemed about turning 30, almost relieved (maybe they had nothing to fear!), others blatantly informed me that they didn’t want to turn 30 and were absolutely terrified. What that tells me is that we’re all still dealing with a lot of fears around life milestone “shoulds” and other delightful expectations.
However, the journey I did not expect to really appreciate at this age was the fitness one. I think back to when I was in my mid-to-late teens, seeing adults in the gym or in dance classes, and wondering what my body would be doing at their ages. I am grateful to say I’m in much better shape than that mid-to-late teenage Jess and that is cool!
I am also grateful that for the most part my life has embraced physical fitness in a body-positive way. It’s become my outlet, my way of getting back to myself, and my way of letting off steam. And in the past 3-5 years, my way of showing appreciation to my body.
Watching my grandma, who loved to dance and was mobile until her 80s, lose her ability to walk made me realize that I wanted nothing more than to move as much as I could, while I could. I sprinted, I danced, I punched, kicked, grappled, and lately, I have even come to love jump lunges. Yes, that’s right! JUMP. LUNGES. Give me a HIIT class any day, I eat that stuff right up now. My body is eating it up. It actually wants it.
I stretch every morning, and I say thank you. I sweat every day (even just 15 minutes if that’s all I have free) and I say thank you. I enjoy food immensely and I refuse to beat myself up, and I say thank you. I rest more than I ever did, I say thank you, and I still kill my work outs! (Because burning out is what will truly make you feel “old.”)
Someone told me once that as you get older, you give fewer fucks. And it’s true! But you give more fucks around what matters. I will give a fuck about my health. But not about looking a certain way, or choosing not to do the advanced yoga move this class, or being around people who are better than me, younger than me, or older than me. Instead, I smile to myself a lot more when I’m moving my body because I can say I’m here, bring it on, I’m ready. And then I jump lunge the shit out of it.
Excited to see where the next decade takes me, and I hope I can encourage others to get excited too.
In addition to jump lunges, Jess has been dancing for the past 20+ years of her life, the last few years as part of the Breath in Mvmt. dance company in London, Ontario (involving some of the most amazing humans in the city). She’s also been MMA-ing for four, and doing whatever else she can to keep moving, including axe-throwing, indoor rock climbing, interval training and more. She is a practicing (but not perfect) vegan, a full-on vegetarian, and generally an open book. She is a feminist (and sometimes an angry one). She loves crystals, astrology and is a bit of a peace-loving unicorn, unless you piss her off. She sometimes has a bit of a trucker mouth. But generally, Jess feels pretty lucky to be spinning around on this big blue ball with everyone else