September 18, 2017

Grace looks like the gorgeous angel in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” just before it morphs into a death head and starts melting people’s faces. She stands over me as we work out together and croons lovely words that seem at first to be impossible.

For example, if Grace says “Soften your ribs,” she actually means “Clench your abs as tight as you can because your rib cage has shifted upwards and that means you’ve let go the grip you have on your pelvis.” And of course, with her uncanny trainers’ eyes, she’s absolutely right.

She’ll ghost her hands so lightly over my ribs; she honestly seems to think I can soften the bone that is straining to accomplish whatever the exercise is.

So there’s a lot of Grace-speak that needs translation at first… just as it takes a moment to get that the Barbara-speak question of “where are your headlights?” actually means “you’re letting your pelvis tip down again; yank it up, there, girlie.” But Grace did hand me one glorious concept on our very first session together that resonates within me still, like a struck bell.

“We’re going to build in you CONSCIOUS competence in holding your hips straight, and then over time, this will become UNCONSCIOUS competence. That’s your goal. But it won’t happen quickly, so don’t worry about it.”

Unconscious competence. Perhaps that’s a common phrase at Body Dynamics – or at gyms and physical therapy sites far beyond Falls Church, Virginia. But I first heard it from Grace, and so I credit her with the thought.

I stand at the fridge, filling up my water bottle, and find I’m wondering at the mild strain in my back. “Oh, right – conscious competence,” I think, and turn the abs on low to draw the hips into a neutral position… which immediately stops any protest in my low back and makes me feel more firmly rooted to the kitchen floor. A position of power.

I watch the dog chase gleefully after the Frisbee, full helicopter tail expressing his joy, and I absent-mindedly tip my hips back to neutral.

I walk down the hallway and do a pivot sort of pelvis dance that I can’t imagine ANYONE could see (unless they’re trainers like Barbara and Grace, who have x-ray vision) in which I let my hips rock down as far as possible, I then tug them up as high as my abs will draw them, and then I center them in the middle – the neutral position I’m supposed to be maintaining.

And this is becoming so rote that now I think I’m heading into semi-conscious competence. (Like a coma patient just beginning to stir. “Doctor! I think she’s coming round!”)

I feel that unconscious competence might be out there somewhere. Maybe I’ll actually get there one day!

I hope Grace doesn’t melt my face off in the meantime, though.

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2 thoughts on “Competence

  1. Encountered a similar mantra horseback riding–when you sit, envision a marionette string running up your spine through the top of your head, and keep the string taut. So instead of hunching over, I sit, rib cage lifted, as though that string is pulling me upright. Which also engages those abs, and sets those hips in neutral. And makes me appear two inches taller. I can use all the help I can get.


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