Barbara held her cupped hand at about chin height and her other fist an inch or two below, like someone trying (but failing) to make the “Ultraman” gesture – or a combo of the black power salute with a “hide your light under a bushel” movement.
“This is your hip socket,” she said of her cupped hand, “and this is your femur.”
She waggled the vertical forearm.
“If your hip socket is perfectly aligned to factory specifications, it fits in such a way that you can do squats while standing on your toes.”
(Barbara, my guiding star and primary trainer at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA, didn’t use the “factory specs” language; she said all this in trainer-speak – but the message got through even if the words fell useless beneath the crushing weight of my ignorance.)
Then she began to wiggle things. Her fist came a little forward below her cupped hand, and then back; it went from side to side – and she began to rotate her wrist so sometimes I could see her fingers and sometimes the side of her hand.
“But not every femur head fits into the hip socket in the same way. There’s nothing wrong with that. You can move, you can bend, you can do all the things you’re supposed to be able to do with a ball-and-socket joint. But if your hip is a bit different, maybe you can’t do things on your toes without your knees hurting.”
A light went on in the dim, cobwebby reaches of my brain. (My brain looks a bit like an attic crawlspace. I don’t go up there much; it’s kind of hot, and only a few cross-boards indifferently laid protect me from plunging through the ceiling if I misstep when walking from rafter to rafter.)
“So if I’m hunkered down on my haunches and go to stand up…”
“Can you hunker with your feet flat, like kids can?”
“Then your knees are going to hurt.”
“They DO hurt!”
She nodded. Barbara has an uncanny understanding of body movement; she’s a savant even without the evidence of working with me for the last year and a half. She knew I couldn’t get up from a crouch comfortably; she’s seen me go through my giraffe-at-the-watering-hole movement to go from the floor to standing.
(Do you know that move? Get on your hands and knees and push one leg out straight behind you. Follow with the other one until you’re in an ugly version of down dog. Walk your hands towards your feet until your weight is back far enough to stand up. Lions would definitely attack during this very ungainly series, were there any lions running loose in the Washington, DC suburbs. Nature abhors a vacuum; I feel sure there will be soon packs of wild dogs preying on pudgy women with misshapen hip sockets as they struggle to regain verticality.)
All of this explained why my knee had argued with me while I was working out with Grace, who is a ballet dancer of such extraordinary suppleness that she could do the giraffe-at-the-watering-hole move and you’d burst into spontaneous applause at her beauty.
“So people who DO have factory-spec hip sockets…”
Barbara nodded to encourage the line of thought.
“…they become dancers?”
Barbara did a few classic pliés. “They can do this all day long. They DO do this all day long. But it hurts MY knees.”
This made me feel absurdly better. I can’t stand up from a crouch without feeling vulnerable to the attack of a predator (or the humiliation of sticking my posterior too far into someone else’s space)… but no-one could possibly expect me to share joint structures with professional dancers. It’s not a moral failing; it’s just the way the bones are formed. Yay!
The next day, I met with Grace again and explained to her that I needed to do her exercises in positions where my heels were down. Grace looked at me with great affection. “Your heels WERE down when your knees were hurting – remember?” “Oh, hell.”
The moral of the story? I have no idea. Just that trainers know SO MUCH MORE than me; I am astonished I tried for so long (and with so little success) to be healthy without a guide!
Ultraman, not at ALL doing the cupped-hand-with-raised-fist gesture. Image may be subject to copyright laws. Like I need another reason to feel paranoid about stealing blog photos.