September 15, 2017

You’d think something called “balance class” would feature… well… balance-related things. Like maybe we’d all spin in circles like Maria Von Trapp on the top of a mountain and then try not to fall over, giggling at the dizzy sensation.

But that ain’t how Barbara rolls.

Her theory (and I have to say, she’s got justification) is that you need balance not just when you’re whirling, arms outstretched, while hitting a perfect C sharp with the kind of clarity that causes avalanches… because how often is THAT going to happen?

No, to Barbara, you need balance when you trip over a curb or a small dog gets its leash tangled around your ankles or you’re about to head down the stairs with your arms full of laundry – and when THAT happens, you’re going to want the muscles up and down your trunk to be ready to YANK you back upright again.

So balance class is really a core work-out. And while spinning like a top would definitely be more fun, it isn’t anything like as useful.

Yesterday we were working on core exercises. Whenever we use the large exercise balls to sit on, I’m sent to the next room over to fetch the red ball, which is (yay!) much larger than the blue or the white balls. There are advantages to being rather tall.

(The red ball is kept on a rack about eight feet off the ground. To get it down, you have to find something you can use from below to pop it off the rack and then (if you’re jaunty) catch it on the way down. You can drag over a step, or be a buff jock and jump up. Getting it down isn’t as hard as tossing it back up again so it will stay and not rebound off the wall and escape once again, but I’m getting better at it. Three or four tries instead of finally saying “Here – YOU do it” to one of the many kind and ultra-fit people who staff Body Dynamics.)

By the time I got back from getting the red ball, the other five people in the class had lined up in a row against the back wall. No room at the inn. I very bravely took a spot in the front, close to the mirrors.

Make no mistake, this IS brave of me. If asked to grab an open space, I will gravitate towards the corner farthest from the door (so someone walking by who casually glances in the room from the hallway will see other smaller, more delicate bodies than mine) and away from the mirror (because I don’t like to see my body any more than I like passing strangers to see it).

But yesterday I was front and center, pretending I didn’t mind. And at least in my conscious mind, I didn’t. (Lizard brain, however, wanted to scurry to the corners and wouldn’t have minded a more flattering lighting situation.)

We were doing crunches – sit on the ball and walk out until your mid-back is on the ball. Do a dead Egyptian with your hands crossed on your chest or – if more advanced – behind your head, and then pulse for five crunches. Walk back up. Repeat.

I usually do balance class exercises thinking “I’ll do three sets and then I’ll ask if we can stop, I’ll do two sets and then ask if we can stop” on a steady loop. That’s what I was thinking when I finished my last internal round of what I thought I could do. Instead of asking (it wasn’t long enough; Barbara wouldn’t let us stop yet), I just took a breather and hung my head.

When I lifted my eyes, I saw that Mardy and Steve, behind me, were both jocking it out with their hands behind their backs, keeping time to the excellent playlist Steve had put together.

And suddenly I felt like a dripping-sweat, broad-in-the-beam Diana Ross, with the Supremes keeping perfect time behind me.

This amused me so much that I very rudely interrupted Barbara from her skillful combination of supportive cheerleader and Marine Corps drill sergeant and made her hand me my phone so I could take a photo.

(And yes, I was thinking that this was an EXCELLENT way to get out of doing several sets of crunches.)

There’s Peggy back there, too, in the photo, using the barre to ensure she can get the most from her crunches. Balance class can handle people of all levels. Steve and Mardy are the most advanced in strength and technique, but everyone works that hard, at their own level. We have to – Barbara wouldn’t have it any other way!

Next week maybe I can get the class into long, white spangly dresses and we’ll do “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Which Brings Us Back To Doe A Deer.”

Exercise probably sends too much oxygen to my brain.

Oh, shoot. In this photo, I’m on a white ball. Right – we’d been doing HORRIBLE exercises where you lay on your back and pass the ball between your hands and your ankles, going fully flat between each pass, and the red ball was too wide to control. Too bad; the red would have looked nice for the photo!


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