Fancy Footwork


Would you rather read a tender romance… or a report from the eighth grade science fair?

I ask because I can go either way. I was reclining propped by soft pillows as the handsome man dimmed the lights. He took my vulnerable, naked foot into his warm hands, strong fingers wrapping around the arch. “How’s the pressure?” he purred.

As it happens, my reflexology appointment with Bobby (at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA) was a lot more like an eighth grade science fair.

In fact, my whole fitness journey is like an eighth grade science fair – except I was a lousy science student in eighth grade and now I’m continually goggle-eyed, amazed and fascinated by what I’m learning about anatomy, kinesiology, cardiovascular endurance, the role of nutrition and sleep, and the perpetual, ongoing quest to WAKE UP THE GLUTES.

So I hope you weren’t eager for romance – because this was ALL SCIENCE FAIR!!

Bobby is a trainer at BDI. I didn’t even know he was also a masseuse until the recent massage workshop. I went with my friend Laura, who’d recently had shoulder surgery. There were four massage tables set up in the Balance Class room, and the four BDI masseurs standing by them, ready to demo the different kinds of massage available – it was a drool-fest and pretty fascinating.

And Bobby was working on Laura’s neck and talking with her about her shoulder surgery. At the time limit (“get up and give someone else a chance”), Bobby refused to surrender Laura. He moved to her feet and began his version of reflexology (besides going to massage school, Bobby trained in Thai massage) – and Laura began making faces.

These faces are familiar to you because you’ve seen them on the faces of your dining companions when they bite into something magnificent. Perhaps you’ve seen these faces on your sexual partners – well done, you, if so. (Look! We’re back to tender romance!)

These are the faces of people who are suddenly lost in a sensation. The brain temporarily shuts off and the body takes over.

Laura got off the table and staggered over to me. She woozily put her shoes and socks back on. “Is your shoulder better?” I asked.

“Uh – yeah!”

Uh, yeah is right. I signed up for my hour with Bobby (and then stupidly arrived a full 15 minutes late; I hate that. It’s so rude. I blame traffic… but also that I kinda forgot until the last possible moment, eek).

Bobby and I discussed what he was doing and what he was noticing. He told me that there are some 7,000 nerves in the foot, and that reflexology focuses there instead of on the hand (which has even more nerve endings) because the foot is bigger and it’s easier to tease out the different strands of information.

“You’re a shallow breather,” he said.

“You can tell that from my FOOT?” I squeaked.

Bobby grinned. (This alone is worth the price of admission; Bobby has a megawatt grin you could use in a blackout to find your way to safety.) “I can tell that because I’m looking at you.”


“But also because this is the part of the foot associated with the lungs.” He bore down a little and I squeaked again – this time because he’d found a tender spot. “This tells me maybe you’re dealing with something in your respiration.”

We talked about the fact that I was running with Barbara, and that the reason I slow down and start walking is not because my muscles wear out but because my lungs do.

“Try doing some deep breathing. Fill your lungs to the bottom. Not all the time – just when you remember. See if you can’t become a deep breather, slowly.”

Well, shit.

That was pretty fascinating

There was more – a lot more – but that was my big take-away. When we were done, I was scheduled for my Barbara fitness appointment. We were going running. How provident!

I put my sneakers back on; my feet felt smaller in my shoes. Was that because I just didn’t lace the shoes up tightly enough? Or were all those muscles primed and ready and sleek and loose?

Bobby had worked my ankles, so my foot rolled more easily; that was a plus. But mostly my run was notable because I was trying to breathe more deeply. (Barbara has told me repeatedly to breathe more deeply, but sometimes you can’t hear the message until you’re ready – or until a handsome man is holding your foot while he says it.)

And here’s what happened:

Envision my lungs as a large flannel bag. I use the upper two thirds, and a cluster of kittens has taken up sleepy residence in the lower third. They’re curled up, purring and warm, unassaulted by the gasping wind of my cold pants… until yesterday.

I was trying to breathe into the bottom of my lungs as I ran, and all the kittens woke up and began protesting, driving their tiny kitten needles into my flannel bag… it’s going to take a bit of time to work those kittens into mighty tigers, but I’m going to do it…

…and we made it back around our mile and returned to Body Dynamics in good time. I think I’ve run the loop in less than this 13 minutes, three seconds – but I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to 12 minutes yet. YET. I can’t claim a “personal best” or anything, but I bet it was close.

So I think the fancy footwork was a benefit. Heaven knows, it was fascinating. I’m going back!

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Oh, dear. Upon re-reading, I see that it looks like I have a REAL crush on Bobby (as opposed to the entertaining crushes I already have on Barbara, Gwynn, Grace, Chip, Mario – all those fit, happy, kind people at Body Dynamics). But really – the man is TWELVE. I don’t want him. I just want to look at him. Don’t we all need more kind, smart, cute people in our lives??



The hand-off was botched; Graziella was supposed to slip the document into his hand. But either he bungled it or she did, and now the folded piece of paper was lying on the ballroom floor in plain sight.

“Shit,” he thought. “This stuff never happens to James Bond.”

Still smiling into the eyes of the Archduke’s teenaged bride, he shifted his weight to one foot and reached to the side with the other pointed toe. Got it!

Slowly, moving nothing other than his leg, he drew his toe back inward, dragging the launch codes over the parquet floor…


Sucked you in, there, didn’t I? Yes, this is an anatomy lesson, and today’s word is “Adduction.” It’s what you do when you want to draw your ankles back together from a wide stance.

You can’t BELIEVE how many muscles are needed to adduct your hip. I mean – dayum. Gwynn (the astonishing therapeutic masseuse at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA) has a book she hauls out for me occasionally when I’m fully overstimulated by anatomy. It’s a massage-focused anatomy reference called “Trail Guide to the Body” and you can buy it on Amazon. I know, because my copy just arrived.


Did you know there were six ways your hip can move?

  • You can extend it. (Touch your toe to the floor behind you; feel that nice stretch in the hip? You’re extended.)
  • You can flex it. (Knee up. Stand there like a fool, wishing you could put your foot back down. Alternately, get the first foot up on the stair. You’ve flexed your hip.)
  • You can abduct it. (Reach out for the launch codes to your side.)
  • You can adduct it. (Draw that secret paper back in.)
  • You can laterally rotate it. (Make your knee and foot swivel out, so you’re standing splay-footed. This is my natural state.)
  • And you can medially rotate it. (Knee and foot swivel inward; now you’re pigeon-toed. I can barely get my feet past parallel. It’s just the way I’m built.)

So I was diving into my Trail Guide, studying the gluteus muscles. Between the three glutes, any two of them take part in all six movements. All three are used for abduction…

…except LOOKY THERE, PAW! The ONLY glute that adducts (drawing in the launch codes) is glute max! So… if you stabbed the secret agent in that muscle only and injected horse tranquilizers, HE’D NEVER BE ABLE TO RETRIEVE THE CODE – disaster!!

Actually, that’s not true. He’s wilier than that.

The Trail Guide tells me that there are SIX muscles involved in adduction.

(Want to know what they are? I know; me too. Just the names are so glorious. Adductor magnus, adductor longus, adductor brevis, pectineus, gracilis, and gluteus maximus (lower fibers). Couldn’t you write a hell of a Roman tragedy starring these names?? The mighty Clan Adductor would think they were in charge, but sneaky Gracilis and brave Pectineus have other plans.)


Lordy. MY POINT – and I do have one – is that sitting there right now, you are an astonishing feat of engineering. Holy crow.

This book is utterly fascinating. And it’s huge. Paperback and spiralbound, it’s still so heavy that after you carry it around for a while, you need a therapeutic massage. This must be a clever ploy by the world’s masseurs.

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I love this book.



Above the swirling bodies in the club, sporadically plucked from the darkness by the spinning lights, is the god of raves, the master of beats, the silent hero amid the cacophony:

The DJ.

Always shown wearing headphones – and frequently really, really long dreads – the DJ is the acme of ultra-cool, matched with a technical nerdiness that transcends fashion or style. He (or she) holds every dancer in the palm of their hand, able to change frantic tempo, pulsing beat, grinding rhythm, MOOD with the flexing of one long, spider-like finger…

…unless we’re talking about putting together a playlist for Balance Class.

Barbara (my personal fitness guru and the Balance Class professor) does not object if I act as DJ for class. So every week I spend happy hours thinking up what we’re going to listen to. When my buddy Steve is in residence, he and I swap off as DJ – but he’s been temporarily sidelined, so it’s all me at the moment.

And this gives me SO MUCH JOY.

I think some people are completely indifferent to music in class, and some people are energized and powered by it. As for myself, I am ruled by it. If we’re doing an exercise that’s whipping me, I can be completely reenergized by a great song. NOBODY enjoys my playlists more than I do, and if I have any breath at all, I usually sing along. Sometimes loudly.

You can’t sing Pink quietly. Sorry – I meant P!nk. (A name that really messes with the spell-checker.)

Steve set an incredibly high bar by creating themed playlists. “Songs with lots of brass.” (Which he did for me because I LOVE a good brass section.) “Songs produced by Peter Asher.” (We cursed him when he finally announced the theme when no one could come up with it. He knows TOO MUCH about music.) His best was “Name the link between these two songs.”

When you’re sweaty and gasping, it’s a wonder and a glory to have a mental puzzle to figure out. It distracts you from the exhaustion. He played “Jolene” by Dolly Parton and followed it up with “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus, and we were all stumped. Finally he had to tell us that Dolly is Miley’s godmother.

Yeah – too much knowledge…

But the theme concept is so much fun. I’ve done (checking my playlists now) an all-covers playlist, one that was all Beatles or Beatles covers, colors, girls’ names, places, songs by people who use a pseudonym (like Elvis Costello or Sting), movie soundtracks, and weather phenomena. Sometimes I tell the class the theme; sometimes I try to make them guess.

It’s trickier than you might think, because you can’t throw on any song. The class doesn’t love contemporary music; they respond best to disco or earlier. It can’t be inappropriate (Barbara looked at me in alarm when a song had profanity in it; she’s not prim herself, but she has to protect the sensibilities of her students, and I respect that). It has to have a driving beat and a lot of energy… so if you try to do a playlist that names every person in the class and you want to do something for Beth, you can’t dredge up that syrupy surprise from Kiss. That’s a BAD balance song. (And a bad song.)

I had to finally go with “The Boys Are Back” by Thin Lizzy, and then it turned out that Beth wasn’t short for Elizabeth, so the very long stretch of “Lizzy” wasn’t at all accurate… but everyone enjoyed that playlist. I did “Dear Prudence” but by Siouxie and the Banshees for me; the class agreed it was disturbing… which entertained me. Siouxie Sioux’s version has a LOT more energy for Balance Class than the original by the Beatles. I win.

The song that got the most people singing along ever? Creedence. Here Comes the Rain, from the weather playlist. Go figure.

Last week, Barb (not the teacher – this is another Barb, and a true Sister in Sweat she is, too) requested a Queen playlist. Fun!

Only… all that wild experimentation Queen did, it turns out, renders MANY of those songs ineligible. Those guys were changing tempos ALL THE DAMNED TIME. This would be the kiss of death if we were trapped doing Barbara’s infernal “Empty the Dishwasher” move.

(Squat down and reach down to your left. Stand and reach up to your right. See? You’re pulling a plate from the dishwasher and stacking it on a high shelf. Barbara will NOT allow you to pull multiple plates from your imaginary dishwasher and stack them to move them all at once; I’ve tried. The point is, if you can get into a rhythm, then unloading an impossibly high number of invisible plates from a non-existent dishwasher is more bearable; you just can’t have music that makes you go speeding up and slowing down.)

(Do I need to point out that after you’re done unloading THAT dishwasher, there’s another one on your right, with empty shelves above you on the left? Barbara is VERY symmetrical in her Torquemada-like excess.)

So I’ve varied the Queen playlist; now it’s “Flamboyant Performers.” I’ve got eight good Queen songs (we’ll do our warm-up to the wildly-varied tempo of Bohemian Rhapsody; I’ll be watching to see how many people sing along), and I added some Elvis Presley, Elton John, Lady Gaga, Madonna, and Adam Ant. There’s a P!nk song because she is just astonishing in concert. And I polished it off with Adam Lambert, who the surviving members of Queen chose to go on tour with them because his voice is close to Freddie’s. His solo work is very high energy.

It’s time to go to Balance Class now. Hope my fellow sweaters (sweat-ers, not woolly pullovers) enjoy this week’s selection!

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Anyone got a good idea for a playlist theme?



Moonlight lovingly edged the ancient cobblestones. It wasn’t a square or plaza – nothing so grand. Osteria No. 8 (or maybe it was Osteria No. 7 or Osteria No. 21 – I don’t remember anymore) had its outside seating in a wide place in the street. Rome passed along beyond the low planters, but the pace was leisurely – just right for an Italian summer after sundown

We were having dinner at a place we just happened across after a day of tourism. The waiter set a large, shallow bowl before me; almost a broad dish. It was filled with heaven. A broth, fragrant with fresh herbs. Pliant, compliant potatoes, cubed and fetching. Beans – blameless and curved. Fresh carrots. Onions, sweet and nearly translucent. The occasional coquettish and winking noodle.

“Minestrone,” he said with a shrug that said both “nothing – air – merely the bare minimum for life’s survival” as well as “others may have fallen from the pure path but we hold to the old ways here at Osteria No. 8. Spoon up the glory and feel your life’s essence restored. Here is a reason to rise each morning; something to give your soul to – something worth dying for.”

I’ve never forgotten that simple, extraordinary soup…

…so when I tell you I know how good soup CAN smell, please believe me.

That’s not how I smell.

No one talks much about menopause. Sure, you finally put paid to the messiness of menstruation, and that’s a bonus. The underwear takes a decided turn for the better. And we’re all taught to fear hot flashes.

But no one told me that the change in my hormones would alter the way my sweat smells.

I keep smelling soup when I work out. Not ethereal, ambrosial Roman minestrone – no. I’m talking about the tinny, salty odor of cheap canned soup. Condensed, so the smell is strong and assertive.


It turns out that’s ME smelling like a bad chicken noodle soup.

My pits still smell like the primate house at the zoo, and my crotch still has that secret hot scent when I get an unplanned whiff (which sometimes happens; those trainers at Body Dynamics sometimes get me in strange positions where I’m confronted, astonishingly, with my own Lycra-clad genitalia).

It’s the rest of me that smells different.

“Jeez,” said Barbara as she was putting me through bird-dogs. (Hands and knees; now reach out, fore and aft, with one hand and the opposite leg. Don’t let your hip dip. Don’t arch your back.) “It smells like soup back here again.”

“It’s ME!” I collapsed to the mat (which smelled a great deal better than I did). “Menopause has made me smell like bad chicken noodle!”

There aren’t many things you can say to a trainer with Barbara’s experience and knowledge, but I think I really did startle her with that one. “What?”

I explained that my body chemistry had shifted WITHOUT MY PERMISSION and I wasn’t sure what to do about it. This made her laugh – but I still don’t know how to handle this. I can put deodorant on the primate house, and I can keep the nether regions clean. But what am I supposed to do when the skin over my chest exudes the smell of cheap soup until I hie me to the showers??

And if I ate a better quality of minestrone – say, if I moved to Rome and ate exclusively at the various osterias – could I improve the quality of my personal fragrance?!?

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And wouldn’t it be a delicious experiment to try?



Let’s be clear – it’s important: That title isn’t “WOO-choink” – it’s definitely “WUH-choink.” Can you hear it?

It’s the sound I make when I walk around my house. “Wu-choink,” I say, “wu-choink, wu-choink, wu-choink.”

I am, of course, providing the soundtrack to my glutes grabbing my femur and pulling it back. Now that Barbara and Chip and Grace and Gwynn at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA have done the impossible (only took three solid years) and turned my glutes on.

So now I mutter “wu-choink” as I walk. Unless I’m on the stairs, going down. Then I say “brraaa-aa-aa-ack?” Because I’m a lot less sure that my glutes can actually do that… despite the fact that I’ve been going down stairs for 59 years now.

(Well, maybe 58. How old are babies when they start going downstairs? I mean upright; not the bump-ba-dump method on the butt. I have a child and I remember when such milestones were important to me, but the actual date is gone now.)

Now that I think of it, I seem to have a permanent soundtrack going in my mind, helping me graduate from bump-ba-dump to thud-thud-thud to brraa-a-ack. Next up on my body playlist: Woosh! The sound of glutes gracefully lowering this body from one step to the next. No “falling with style” here – I shall slip effortlessly down the steps as if on rails, my toned and obedient butt muscles at last working as they are supposed to.

Soon. I’m sure of it.

It’s a good thing I live alone. I think this constant verbalization (not to mention the fact that I now keep my hands UNDER where I thought my butt stopped so I can feel the muscle connect to the thigh) would drive anyone else mad.

I was lying in my bed yesterday. (A brief round of intestinal distress made sleepytime a requirement; it wasn’t MY idea to sleep for 48 hours straight with brief but action-packed forays to the potty.) When I lie on my back with my knees up, I can feel a long, scary-hard muscle running down the back of my thigh.

I’m pretty sure that’s a hamstring… but I think it’s suddenly popped up like tensile steel because of wu-choink, wu-choink, wu-choink.

(No, not the noise – I mean the awareness of the glute’s role in ambilocamotion, duh, which deserves, nay – REQUIRES, that I make that noise as I prowl around the house at a pace just slightly faster than a wedding march.)

And if the hamstrings are suddenly waking up… is it possible that the hip flexors might one day soon be able to take a vacation in Tahiti? Lie on a beach in a hammock and drink fruity beverages adorned with cocktail umbrellas?

Come to think of it – you know what it sounds like when you rock gently in a hammock? That’s right. Wu-choink… wu-choink… wu-choink…

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This is not a picture of my ass. This is about a third the size of my ass. But this is how my ass is beginning to FEEL. Oh, Lordy.