Being “ladylike” has never been a strength of mine. Let me begin with a story from my youth. My early years of school were spent with nuns as teachers in Newfoundland. Mostly I have fond memories of those nuns but not so much when it comes to judgements about clothing, decorum, etc.
We were in grade one and girls had to line up to get into the cloakroom to change into snow pants. “Change into” meant pulling them up over our tights and skirts. I saw no need for the cloak room. Just pull them up quickly. Zoom. But the nuns strongly disapproved. I was sent to the corner.
Another time I got into trouble for sitting astraddle my chair. You know, backwards with the back of the chair between my legs. Again, let me stress, I was wearing tights. Again, to the corner. This time for unladylike behavior.
I wish I could report that I’d reformed, that their lessons worked and that I was now only ever sitting in a ladylike fashion. Not so. The truth is, I’ve gotten worse.
The problem is that I’m wearing leggings a lot these days because of my knee brace. So even with skirts and dresses that would normally go with tights I’m often wearing leggings. The brace inevitably rips tights and then starts to cut my legs. So, if I’m wearing the brace, leggings it is.
When I’m wearing leggings I don’t worry about modesty. I stretch my legs a lot. I feel a bit like an injured super hero. But then these postures and positions begin to feel comfortable and I forget what I’m wearing. I’m in my fifties now, still worrying just a little bit what the nuns in my head might think.
Maybe I need to become friends with these nuns instead.
Last summer I blogged about the problem of peeing during workouts, Peeing during workouts, not just an older woman’s issue, and frankly, since it isn’t a problem I have (yet?) I haven’t thought about it much since.
But I’ve been working towards mastering one of the CrossFit staples–the double under–and it bugs the heck out of me that I can’t do it. I can skip really fast and I can tuck jump but I seem to lack the coordination to get it just right. I’m either landing on the rope, or whipping myself in the shins with the rope, and it’s super super annoying. Reading up on difficulties with double unders I was struck again by all that’s written about women and exercise induced incontinence.
(By the way, would you wear that t-shirt? Who would? It’s a prank gift for mean people to buy for their partners, don’t you think?)
What’s a double under? “A double under is a popular exercise done on a jump rope in which the rope makes two passes per jump instead of just one. It is significantly more effective than a single rope pass in that it allows for higher work capacity.The Double Under takes a bit of coordination and determination to master. Those with less coordination will find it a little more difficult. The Double Under must be executed with more intensity in order to complete a high number of repetitions without mistake.” More here.
I wondered for awhile about why the frustration. After all, there are a lot of things at CrossFit I can’t do unmodified (see Leveling up at CrossFit: Rx versus modified workouts for more details): box jumps, pull ups, even push ups if I need to do more than 10.
Then it hit me. It bugs me because I’m used to thinking of myself as being good at jumping rope. I love jumping rope. It makes me feel like a kid again. See The joy of jumping rope .There’s lots of gender role socialization I missed out on. I don’t know very much at all about make up. I can’t knit or sew and I cook only because someone has to but I did get elementary school skipping! I attended elementary school in Newfoundland, Catholic elementary school, wearing school uniforms and being taught by nuns. I know ideologically there’s a lot to dislike about Catholic school but these nuns were terrific. They were post-Vatican II nuns, hippie folk granola nuns with acoustic guitars and a fervour for educating young women. There and then it was likely a choice for them as girls to either marry and have a dozen children or become a nun and get a university education. They taught me to read, to write, to knit, and on the school yard I learned to jump rope.
I also recall lessons in penmanship which clearly didn’t take.
Recently I had the occasion to go back and wonder about these nuns. I found my old first day of school diploma! Who on earth gets a first day of school diploma? It reads “we’re sure that the years between now and your graduation from university will be rich and rewarding”? I had taken it out and was marveling about the bravery and optimism of nuns in rural Newfoundland sending these beautiful certificates, complete with photos, home to families who might have been giving not so much thought to their daughters’ educations beyond high school.
They were members of the Presentation Sisters, http://www.presentationsisters.ca/begin.html, an order which had come from Ireland to Newfoundland charged with the task of educating girls.
Four pioneering Sisters among Nano’s followers, Sisters Bernard Kirwin, Magdalen O’Shaughnessy, Xavier Maloney and Xaverius Lynch, carried her vision and spirit to the shores of Newfoundland in 1833. They came at the invitation of Bishop Michael Fleming to establish a school that would offer improved educational opportunity for girls and young women in St. John’s. Nano’s vision had birthed a response that was both broad and penetrating. For the next 175 years our sisters continued to respond to this call. Academic learning, spiritual development/religious education and a deep appreciation for the arts and music were central to our education ministry among students, teachers and parents.
So I think I’ve always thought of myself as good at skipping rope. I’ve got lots of fond school yard memories. That’s why I get so grumpy now that I can’t do double unders. Searching for advice about mastering the double under I found lots of advice geared at older women. Great, I thought. But sadly it’s all about strengthening the pelvic floor so you don’t pee during double unders. (See Curing a Case of the Workout Pees and “CrossFit Gynecologist,” I’m Appalled. There’s Help For ‘Peeing‘…)
That isn’t my problem though. I’m back at it next week, learning to whip the rope faster and hold a tuck jump longer. I’m following CrossFit coach Dave Henry’s instructions and I’ll let you know how I go.
It took awhile to find a video double under with a woman! But here’s one:
And here’s someone doing a wild number of double unders very quickly!