Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Rolling with the punches

I remember a time in my life when I thought that I wasn't athletic.  This belief was no doubt fueled by my complete inability to climb the tree in our front yard.  It had a low limb and all the other kids could jump up and grab it, wrap their legs around it, and then swing themselves up onto the limb.  Me?  I brought a kitchen chair out and cheated.  I'm just not much of a climber, you see.

Then there was the Presidential Fitness Test in elementary school.  This annual week of P.E. hell was the source of many a nightmare for me.  You could just SAY the words "chin-up" to me and I would break out into a cold sweat.  I daresay that the bar exam was a lesser cause of consternation for me.  I wanted so badly to ace that dang fitness test and make President Reagan proud but, alas, the chin-up always got me.  They would tell me to do as many as I could and I would just hang there, grunting awkwardly and kicking my feet as if they could somehow propel me upward.  Then they would give me a lift to see if I could do it if I had a little help getting started.  Not so much.  Finally, they would give me a chair, let me get into "chin-up" position and see if I could just hold it.  It was remedial Presidential Fitness and I still couldn't do it.  As soon as they took the chair away, my arms would shake and then straighten and I'd be hanging there again, bringing shame upon the President.  I'm just not much of a chin-upper, I guess.

But then I started playing sports.  I found softball and discovered that, when a sport didn't involve climbing or chin-upping, I was pretty good at it.  I mean, I don't want to brag but I WAS the MVP for the Green Goddesses in 6th grade and still have the trophy to prove it.  So when I say "pretty good" I, of course mean, amazing.  Softball led to volleyball and then basketball and I was decent at those - I was an average player on the 7th grade B teams so, you know, I was sort of a big deal as you can imagine.  ANYWAY, I finally discovered tennis and that was my real love.  I loved being out on the court and I was actually good at it.  I played on the JV and Varsity teams in high school and finally realized that the chin-up bar and that dang tree limb had psyched me out - I actually WAS athletic. And I've gone on thinking of myself as an athlete ever since then.

Theeeeeeeen I joined a boxing club.

Stop laughing.

See, my sister Tammy and my friend Jo Ann each independently decided to buy a groupon for a boxing club in our town.  Jo Ann asked me to buy the groupon and do it with her so I did.  We went to a few classes and I liked it so I decided to sign up and join the club.  Partly because I liked it and partly because I'm apparently a gutless follower who does whatever Tammy and Jo Ann do.  

So let me explain how this class works.  You have your hands wrapped and then you take your gloves to a bag in a room full of hanging boxing bags that looks like this:

Then, before you put your gloves on, there is a 15 minute warm-up that you have to do.  This usually consists of things like squats, running, jumping jacks, high knees, and other exercises that leave me panting like a 400-pound man.  I frequently have to take a break or two during the warm-up and I try to do it discretely so as not to bring shame upon the President or anybody else.  Unfortunately, my 9-year-old nephew Ben has a drill sergeant living inside him that comes out when I take breaks.  I'll do a few jumping jacks and lean down to get a drink of water and I'll hear "Caaaaaaaaaaatchyyyyyyyyy!  You're already stoppiiiiiiiiing???"  And that continues throughout the class.  After we put on our gloves and start doing punch and kick combinations, my nephew keeps a close eye on me.  If I decide to take a breather during one of the combinations, I'll hear "Caaaaaaatchyyyyyy!  He didn't say stop yet."  There's no hiding from him.

There's also no looking "put together" and that's a problem for me.  You see, tennis is a sport where you can play a great, hard-won game and look graceful the whole time.  That's impossible for me with boxing - I just cannot box and look good at the same time.  My hair inevitably gets in my face while I'm punching and, because I'm sweating, it sticks to my forehead and hangs in front of my eyes.  So I find myself pawing at my face with my boxing glove, trying to get it out of my eyes and tucked back behind my ear.  But I can never get the hair to cooperate so I just keep pawing, looking like a cat cleaning itself.  It's super cute.  And when it's all said and done, I still have strings of sweaty hair stuck to my face.  Plus, I'm throwing punches and every ounce of fat on me is jiggling - and I mean EVERY ounce.  It takes a good 30 seconds to stop shaking when I stop punching.  It's awesome - a real confidence-booster.  I look around hoping that there aren't any potential suitors in there.  And, if there are, I try to keep my distance, lest they be knocked out cold from a post-right-hook backlash of my upper-arm flab.  

My proudest moment to date, though, came during a class I attended with Jo Ann.  I was really in a groove on my punching and had worked up a good sweat.  I was out of breath so I decided to take a quick breather.  Since Ben wasn't around, I figured I'd be able to do it discretely.  As I caught my breath, I took a few steps back from the bag to admire my handiwork - did I actually see a dent in the bag from my mad boxing skillz?  As I was about to pat myself on the back, my heel caught the bottom of the bag behind me as I was stepping back and I fell.  Not a cute little graceful fall - this was an arms-flying-up, hair-flying-up kind of fall.  I jumped up as quickly as one can when one temporarily has clubs for hands and hoped no one noticed.  Aaaaaaand then I began trying to paw the hair out of my face.

But, despite my utter and complete lack of talent or grace when it comes to boxing, I am enjoying the classes and am getting a great workout.  So I will keep going, will keep getting called out by my nephew, and will keep pawing the hair out of my face in vain. I may leave there feeling like I'm all thumbs but at least I leave there feeling like I got a good workout.

And I always have my 6th grade MVP trophy to comfort me when I get home.