The Body Project

Get Out of Your Head!
March 16, 2011

I’ve never been able to do forward dive rolls.
Not so much because I couldn’t but because I was absolutely terrified.
Terrified my arms wouldn’t catch me or my head wouldn’t tuck at the right moment or simply because jumping from a standing position headfirst into the floor is petrifying.
I went to gymnastics last night despite my bad day. Daylight savings time hit me hard, my morning was anxiety ridden, and I strained my right hamstring. My gym buddy, Kat, a former elite gymnast, was also stuck at home without a babysitter. So, while I thought the workout would be a great distraction, I didn’t have anyone to film me or give me tips or tell me to get out of my head.
And in my head I was.
On the floor, on the tumble track, my insecurities taunted me; slowed me down.
Before Kat would yell at me, “Get out of your head!” when I was jumping forward instead of up which sent me traveling out of my front tuck.
Last night when David, our coach, instructed me to do forward rolls to a jump to forward dive roll on the floor, I said, “I’m scared to do dive rolls.” He smiled, nodded, and walked away.
I was left with no choice but to do it. I stalled. I worked on my handstand forward roll, and for the first class, I was able to consecutively pike up (not straddle) out of my roll into another handstand.
And when I finally told myself to try a forward roll to dive roll, I did! I actually had so much fun doing them I nixed the initial forward roll and did consecutive dive rolls across the length of the floor.
It wasn’t until right before bed I realized something; I had been so paranoid being the most novice gymnast there, I did two things:
1. I didn’t notice that during the whole class, while I was doing dive rolls to handstands to pike ups to front handsprings to front tucks, I was doing more advanced tricks than one of the newest additions to the class as of last week. While she had six prior years of experience in gymnastics (which trumps my one year at 16) and a background in cheer leading and tumbling, during the 90 minutes, I only saw her work on two tricks: round offs on the floor and front handsprings on the tumble track.
2. I completely ignored my own progress: Not only did I conquer my fear of dive rolls, I had fun doing it; I graduated from straddling up to a handstand to a pike-up into a handstand; Pulling my knees closer to my chest during my front tuck not only gave me more power (and sent me flying face down on the mat the first time), but as I concentrated on jumping up into a front tuck, I could feel the difference.
I guess an elite gymnast and a mother of two knows a little something about something.

She Looked Just Like a Normal Person
March 10, 2011

We are bombarded every single day with images of beautiful women.
Women who seem to have it all: flat stomachs, perky breasts, toned arms, radiant skin.
There are billboards, TV advertisements, tabloid and magazine covers staring at us from every direction. We see so many models, celebrities, and TV stars we forget to look at the woman in front of us or all around us. You know, the real women.
Before this goes any further, I am not advocating that celebrities are not real women. In fact, I am arguing quite the opposite.
The benefit of living in LA, combined with two years working near a slew of post-production studios that worked on films like Transformers, is that I have seen celebrities as they are.
Hilary Swank, after finishing a run in Santa Monica, ordered a double non-fat semi-dry cappuccino. She was very small and “looked like a man.” Those weren’t my words, but take them for what they’re worth.
Charlize Theron ordered a cup of coffee. She was slim, short, and pretty, but unrecognizable as anyone famous until Lane, my co-worker, scooted next to me behind the espresso machine to exclaim, “Isn’t that Charlize Theron?” We came to the conclusion she was nice because she tipped. (Remember tipping your baristas makes you a good person!)
Kate Hudson ordered a soy chai tea latte. I remember this vividly, as she was my third ever customer the day I was learning the POS system. Coupled with the dim realization that Kate Hudson was indeed standing in front of me wearing black shades, I could not find the soy button for the life of me. And to double check she was who I thought she was, I asked for her name. “Kate!” she snapped at me. In her defense, it did take me an incredibly long time to find that soy button. As beautiful as she still was in person, her skin was not radiantly flawless. She was battling a few blemishes that day.
Megan Fox. I did not see her. I was too busy setting the store alarm off. According to the guys, she was “too skinny.”
Let me reiterate, I am not trying to bash celebrities. What I am trying to say is this: before you start bemoaning that fact that your skin isn’t perfect or your body doesn’t look like Jennifer Aniston’s, look around. We become so fixated on the images we see instead of the bodies we see every single day. Guaranteed, the woman standing next to you doesn’t look like a celebrity. And even if she is a celebrity, guaranteed she wouldn’t look red-carpet-ready on a normal day. Like my mother once said about an actress she saw on the street, “she looked just like a normal person!”

You Are Your Own Worst Enemy
March 2, 2011

“When you go to gymnastics tonight,” Ryan suggested, “try to keep an open mind.” My amazingly computer savvy friend is teaching me the ways of the blog.
But what came out of his suggestion was entirely different than anticipated.
Earlier yesterday, I stumbled across an article published by The Huffington Post, “The Trouble with Bright Girls.” Dr. Halvorson suggested that bright girls are likely to see their abilities as innate, unchangeable... pre-determined. They grow up to be women who are far too hard on themselves, prematurely concluding that they don’t have what it takes to succeed in a particular arena and give up much too soon.
“Even if every external disadvantage to a woman's rising to the top of an organization is removed…we would still have to deal with the fact that through our mistaken beliefs about our abilities, we may be our own worst enemy.”
While she is speaking career-wise, her argument applies to many facets of life.
For me, I’ve always been late. Not late in regards to punctuality but late as in two, five or 10 years too late. At 11 years old, I fell in love with ballet. After some convincing, my mother signed me up for a beginner ballet class. What I remember most about the class was an acute sense of embarrassment, hopelessness, and failure. I didn’t know the first thing about doing ballet other than what I had studied in my library books. The instructor suggested I sit out for the barré work. In a pink leotard and chubby from the beginnings of puberty, I watched the tiny “beginning” eight year old girls glide effortlessly through the positions. I never went back.
When I was 15 years old, I signed up for gymnastics. Most female gymnasts are reaching the peak of their career at that age. But because of my age, the coaches took me out of the adult class, placed me in a recreation class and then later I started training with the team girls. I only stayed with gymnastics for a year until an ankle sprain that refused to heal forced me to stop.
Fast forward ten years later and I’m back where I started: adult gymnastics class.
The first two adult classes I attended left me with the same sinking feeling I had when I was eleven: hopeless and frustrated. I watched the adults, who had been elite gymnasts or had participated in the classes for months, tumble with ease while I found out everything I was doing was wrong. I’ll never be able to do this, I thought. I’m too old to learn. Everyone is laughing at me. I pushed back tears as everyone moved to the main floor to do tumbling passes, while I stayed behind, practicing cartwheels and handstands over and over. I imagine this is how some people feel at the gym for their first time: everyone knows what they’re doing, everyone is in better shape than me, I’ll never be able to do this!
But resisting the easy way out ie. giving up, I tried a different adult class at a different gymnastics center. And within the first class I was landing (on a tumble track, mind you) front tucks and front handsprings – the last skill I mastered on the floor as a 16 year old. It was exhilarating.
It took a different gym, a different coach and a different crowd, but most importantly, I didn’t give up! I told my inner voice, my own worst enemy, to shove it!