Wait—what did you just say??
Chip hit me with one of those observations yesterday that sort of revolutionize how I see the world. And he did it SO CASUALLY.
Chip is the Body Dynamics trainer who works with me on stabilizer muscles. (He’s constantly coming up with exercises that make me say “I didn’t even know I HAD a muscle there.”) He’s a truly lovely human, which is lucky because for a while there, he made his living dancing in the ballet.
Seriously. Like, he paid his rent because his body was so disciplined and obedient and graceful that people would pay to watch him dance.
And EVEN KNOWING THAT, Chip is a delight. (I don’t mean to be unpleasant—but in the perpetual grade school of my brain, Chip is WAAAAAAY over there on the other side of the gym, climbing ropes and swinging on rings with HIS friends while I’m over here crying through the damned President’s Physical Fitness test with MY friends. In evolutionary terms, it would have been very unlikely for me to EVER run in Chip’s circles, except that he’s so damned nice.)
So yesterday, I was lying full length on a foam roller. (Ever done that? The first time, it’s like The Return of Torquemada. So viciously uncomfortable. And then, sha-bang. The body just adjusts and decides that THIS feels GOOD. Mm.)
Chip had a four-part exercise for me, but we’d just gotten through the first part—which was, like so many of these actions, deceptively easy.
You lie there, knees bent and feet on the floor. Now let one knee fall out to the side.
Hang on—not FALL. They call them “knee fall-outs,” but please. You think anything as uncontrolled as a fall will get the nod? Hah. Move your knee out to the side, but do NOT allow the body, on its round foam roller cylinder, to tip to the side.
Then bring the knee back up to center. Repeat, on the other side, until both knees have wandered from the pure path ten times.
Chip happened to compliment me on my knee fall-outs yesterday and I was smug in response.
“It’s because I’ve figured you guys out. While it LOOKS like the knee is the place for action, this exercise is REALLY about the glute of the still leg. That’s what stabilizes me.”
I got the Chip Seal of Approval (which looks like Chip pointing to his own adorable nose and then to me). “That’s it exactly,” he said. Then he told me an illustrative story.
“When I began dancing, people would have their legs out here.” I peered at the Zoom screen. Chip had his arm straight up and over his head. I’m sure he COULD have done it with his leg, but he showed me with his arm. “And they’d be focused on that leg. Where it was in space. What it was supposed to be doing. When really…”
His other hand came down onto his hip. “THIS is where they needed to focus. THIS is the part that’s holding everything up.”
I preened in delight, having come to this realization after working with him for ONLY four years. Me and the ballet dancers. We’re like THIS.
“So when I started, this leg was called the working leg.” Then he spouted some ballet-speak while moving his long, straight arm through space. “But now they’ve changed it. Now they’re called the GESTURE leg and the WORKING leg. Because they’re both working—not just the one that’s moving.”
I often dream up reasons to stall, to stop exercising when I’m with Chip or Barbara, but with these words, I actually came to a halt involuntarily.
The GESTURE leg and the WORKING leg.
The other three parts of the exercise were thrown into a new light. Part two: Do the knee fall-outs while holding weights overhead; left knee falls out to the side, right arm does a fly to the side.
Part three: Put the weights down. Now march your feet up and down, one at a time. Again, don’t let your body fall off the foam roller; hips have to stay level.
Part four: March your feet while the opposite arm goes back over the head to tap the weight on the ground behind you. Now hips AND shoulders have to stay level and stable.
And with every single action, I clarified with Chip. “Okay—left foot, right arm are the gesture limbs. What’s stabilizing on the other side? What’s the working part?”
“Stabilize with the right glute and left lat. Keep your shoulder down.”
Honey. I’m telling you—it changed things. The exercise is NOT about what’s moving. It’s about what’s NOT moving.
I’m going to need to think about this some more.
Give it a think next time you’re exercising or walking or whatever. Don’t focus on what’s moving; focus on what’s NOT moving. Mind-bending!