“What do you DO in balance class?” my mother asked.
(She likes me more now that my butt doesn’t take up quite as much acreage. She can’t help it; she’s old, and was steeped in an era when women were judged by their physical beauty. The reappearance of my waist is a moral victory, in her opinion.)
It’s a surprisingly challenging question to answer, as Barbara (the ultimate personal trainer) wants to – literally and metaphorically – keep us all off-balance. We can’t anticipate what we’re going to be doing because she never does the same thing twice…
… which is awesome.
The premise is that you won’t lose your balance when you’re standing solidly on two feet. Instead, you’re going to keel over one day because you missed the curb, or slid on the stairs, or found yourself holding a bag of groceries at arm’s length while twisting to get tonight’s dinner into the trunk. So you need the muscles to yank yourself back to center while you’re in a twist, or shifted to the side, or are otherwise unprepared for whatever life throws at you.
Balance class, then, is about core strength – and core-strengthening exercises are the ultimate example of isometrics. There’s no use comparing what you’re doing to what everyone else is doing; the challenge comes only from below your skin, and what you do to strengthen your core is only measurable by how your muscles work together.
So switching up the class is par for the course. Today, for example, Barbara gave everyone balloons, which we had to inflate. (“Breath control,” muttered my friend Steve.) Then we attempted to control the balloons.
“First, pop the balloon up with your right hand – then hit it with your left.” (No problem. That’s easy and fun.) “Then tap the balloon up with your right foot, and then your left foot. One touch per bounce. See if you can turn in a circle as you do it.”
Oh, RIGHT. I was all over the room, traveling like the King of the Road. Trailer for sale or rent. Turns out to be much easier if you can work your balloon up against a wall or, even better, into a corner – but Barbara is no fool. “Out of that corner, you cheater!” (That’s not what she said; she’s far too kind for that – but it’s what she meant and I knew it!)
Then, after we’d chased balloons bobbing just out of arm’s reach at ankle height for a while, she had us cross the room in lunges, twisting each time to pop the balloon from one side to the other. More hilarity. More inadvertently using classmates as backboards. More startling balloon attacks to the back of the head.
Then she pulled out simple gym towels. Simple stretches became horrible planks with feet on the towel, either going in-out, in-out to the side or up-and-back, up-and-back in a ladder climb. And just as I was about to scream MUTINY! (once I got enough breath back to do anything other than my accustomed bitching), it was back to the balloons. This time, we all stood in a circle and attempted to keep ALL the balloons aloft while passing to the person on the right – and then the left – and then standing on one foot – and then the other foot.
Spoiler alert: We couldn’t keep them all aloft. We could keep about three of them up, and we started with EIGHT.
By the time she said “Okay – let’s stretch” (which means YOU SURVIVED ANOTHER CLASS YOU ARE A WARRIOR), we were fully wrecked by giggles – and utterly sweaty.
Balloons and towels. Who would have thought??
Sarah (I think it was) stopped into class to video us all kicking balloons across the room, so maybe I’ll be able to link to what will no doubt be an entertaining and dimly humiliating clip in a bit. THAT should brighten your day considerably. (If you’re having an unusually gloomy day!)
C’mon to balance class with me. Thursdays at 10. You’ll love it.
Balloons. They look so innocent, don’t they? Huh – right.