“The glute muscle attaches WHERE??”

I was having one of Those Conversations with Barbara the guru trainer at Body Dynamics. Surely you know the kind of conversations I mean. The one where someone says “well, of COURSE you exhale after you inhale. What else could you possibly have thought the pattern was?”

I was having a dawning revelation: I have HOPELESSLY MISUNDERSTOOD MY OWN MUSCULATURE. Like, since before the earth cooled, I’ve been wrong in a really big way.

First – my utterly erroneous assumption:

To run, you throw a foot forward and use the quads (the long muscles on the front of the thighs) to pull you up to that foot. Repeat on the other side. I thought that’s how we were all running.

Second – my equally erroneous mid-education assumption:

To run, Barbara somehow coiled up all her power to her back foot and sprang forward, driving her toes into the ground and using her glutes magically to spring forward like a straight-legged gazelle popping over the cheetah lying in the grass. I thought that’s the secret; that’s why Barbara can run and I can’t. I just can’t do that.

And finally – the correction I finally understood today but it took THE ENTIRE HOUR I was with Barbara:

To run, you throw your foot forward and then the glute on the forward-leg side (whaaaaat??) contracts, forcing the thigh bone to pull back towards the butt.

How’s that possible, you ask (if you’re like me)? If you pull back on the top of the femur – which is already as close to the butt muscle as it’s going to get – then nothing happens.

“Not at all,” Barbara replied. (By this point, she was actually touching me. No one at Body Dynamics, save Gwynn the Gandalfian masseuse, will touch you without fair warning and express permission.) “Your glute doesn’t attach here” (she poked the top of my thigh on the side). “Gluteus maximus attaches HERE.”

And damned if she didn’t reach pretty far down my thigh bone.

Still clearly in the range of my very large posterior but nowhere near where I thought the glute went.

Actually, I’m not sure where I though the glute went; I think I assumed it sat on my backside like a dinner plate, complete unto itself.

BUT NO! It attaches way down the thigh bone, so when it contracts, it’s like wrapping a big fist around your leg and tugging backwards. NO FREAKING WAY.

I stood in the big room in utter stillness, one leg in front of the other like an Egyptian frieze, my hands on my butt. Then, my head wrinkled in concentration, I squeezed the glute of the forward leg…and got pulled up to that foot. The other leg naturally swung ahead and I did it on THAT side.

Barbara wrapped a rope around my hips. “Do it with resistance,” she said, and I dragged her slowly across the open space, wood smoke pouring from my head for concentrating so hard. “Stand up,” she said, “don’t lean over. Relax your arms.”

Of course I was walking like a mime in a high wind. I relaxed and tried some more. I’ll be damned. I’ll be god damned. This is kind of… it’s working!

She let go of the rope and I powered my way across the room, pulling that thigh bone back each time.

And then I broke into a run.

“YES!” cried Barbara joyfully. “NOW you’re moving forward!”

It was weird. Really, really weird. I’ve been in the machine of my body for 59 years and I’ve been using it wrong all this time.

“We’re going to have to go over this again. Maybe two or three times,” I said to my brilliant trainer. She nodded, grinning. “Of course. It’s a big change.”

“I had no idea that’s how it worked.”

“Don’t tell me what you thought was going on; I don’t think I want to know!”


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I’m still sort of reeling. I had it ALL WRONG. How strange is that?!

2 thoughts on “Gob-smacked

  1. how I wish I had a Barbara to explain my weird body! I cannot help but admire your perseverance in this journey you are on, Pru. It inspires me!


    1. Oh, how I wish Barbara could be cloned or franchised, or something – for she is a treasure for true! Thank you so much, Juli, for seeing how much perseverance this takes; it really is an uphill battle some time!


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