Tunnel Vision – we all suffer it occasionally, especially as we work hard on specific goals. Sometimes , it’s really easy to identify the headway you are making – a swath of fabric becomes a shirt, for instance. And sometimes, it’s really hard to see the growth; suddenly you’ve arrived at your destination after a flat landscape and countless miles.
Twice a week, I’ve been taking a fitness class. Pair that with how much dancing, biking, lifting, and general circus skill training I’ve been doing, and one would think my physical strength would grow in leaps and bounds. But, over the past six months, my strength, and lack of, has broken me down in the middle of training more than I care to admit. The frustration of doing the same exercise over and over and still seeing no progress would alternate between making me incredibly angry with myself and have me biting my lip so I don’t burst into tears then and there.
The support of my peers and instructors did nothing to temper this frustration either. “Be kind to yourself. No judgment. See where you are this moment.” I have started to resent these words, resenting living in the moment and being kind to my body, when I had been kind to it for so long but the strength wasn’t improving. I would jump down from the trapeze in irritation because my long beats just weren’t working, and I growled at my skin the cat maneuvers because I couldn’t get my shoulders to engage. I would work my core as often as possible, and still could only manage one knee hang sit up. I had given up being kind. There was no progress. It just wasn’t working.
At the suggestion of one of my primary instructors, I scheduled a private lesson with the pilates instructor in hopes of finding out why I wasn’t progressing. Was it a strength issue? Was it how I sequenced my muscles? Was I even using the right muscles? After an hour of trying out different things, taking through how my body was feeling in each exercise, and a bit of poking at different muscles, we had come up with a plan. Turns out, I wasn’t engaging the right muscles at the right time, my breathing was off, and I had to learn how to turn off over-eager muscles. The next day, I added an extra knee hang sit up.
At the start of this program, we had a fitness assessment. A page of exercises and stretches, along with a number, that we had to be able to achieve by the end of the 9 months. The requirements were taken from audition requirements for some of the top schools/companies in the industry (National Circus School in Montreal and La Reve, for instance).
Our first assessment was in September – 6 months ago. Our mid-term assessment was yesterday.
In September, I threw myself into this program and risked injuring my shoulder again. A lot of exercises I was unable to complete for fear of tearing a tendon or bringing back the intense inflammation. My hamstrings were really tight, my body was compensating, and my back muscles wanted to engage when my core couldn’t.
Yesterday, I had biked 13 miles before arriving at class and I was still recovering from the chest congesting plague. But at the end, I looked at my numbers and was amazed. It was not only exciting because I was able to complete most of the list, but primarily because my shoulder isn’t twinging anymore. I did 8 push-ups! I sat on the floor for a moment after, marveling at the fact that for the first time ever, I stopped because my muscles were tired and not because I thought I risked tearing something.
I feel like Progress is sitting back on his heels now, chuckling merrily at the prank he pulled on me. He withheld all hints of progress and then unleashed them at once, watching my eyes bulge in astonishment as I complete each task.