Monday, December 17, 2012

Overcoming Obstacles

Overcoming Obstacles: also known as The Whole Fucking Point of the Game
Borrowed from

So what you may or may not know about me is that I have depression. I would like to refer to this as "crippling depression" since it is so bad I take a heavy-dosage antidepressant to prevent me from quite literally throwing myself off a bridge, but considering the fact that I have a job, friends, a stable home environment, an elaborate exercise routine, and a (somewhat) healthy diet, I guess I can't exactly refer to myself as crippled. That said, the stress of the holidays and the horrific oppressive darkness of the shortened days have really taken it out of me this week. So in honor of all athletes who sometimes sob into their pillows for several hours feel a little disappointed when they fall short of their goals I'd like to offer 2 tips for overcoming the psychological challenges if getting and staying fit. (Might be more to follow this week, but I'm out of time atm).

1.) Remember the power of "YET." On Wednesday at the gym I wanted to curl up in a ball and start crying. It was one of those days when I wondered why I even fucking do this, when I'm never going to be as good as the professionals. I was practicing a new move on the trapeze and failed to invert when I was hanging from my shoulders. "I can't do it!" I cried, collapsing in a lump of sad broken ruin on the mat.
"YET," my friends corrected. "You can't do it, YET."
Yet is a very powerful word for anyone with goals (which should be everyone). Just the way my BL2 Siren can't YET gain healing from kills in Phaselock (SERIOUSLY WHY CAN'T I GET THAT FROM THE BEGINNING THIS IS BULLSHIT!!), we can't walk into a new sport or exercise and expect to do everything. In fact, two years, five years, and even twenty years after working on a skill set, there will be things we can't do YET. That's because we still have goals and we are still working towards them. I can't do it yet. But I'm working towards it, and some day I will be able to. Trapeze inverts, you're on my motherfucking radar.

2.) Don't be scared. Tell me if this sounds familiar: I gather up my stuff and head out of the office, making sure that I have my shoes and my bag and everything's in order. Good. Off to gym. A few minutes into the drive, my heart starts beating faster. Soon I find that my breathing is short. I feel antsy and scared and start to wonder if I forgot something. What if something goes wrong at the gym? What if I fall or fart in front of someone or I do something else embarrassing? What if something horrible happens? I try to breath normally and calm down, but I can't help but feel anxious.
My genius father psychologist explained to me this weekend that this isn't anxiety. On your way to the gym, you know you are about to exercise, so your brain, being extremely helpful and eager to get its workout on, prepares your body for fight-or-flight, quickening your heartbeat and breathing pattern. Then another part of your brain, which we'll call the Douchebag Part for this scientific discussion, notices that your body is prepared for fight-or-flight and decides that you must be panicking about something. Being a Douchebag, it doesn't want to admit that it missed something, so it just starts making up shit for you to be panicked about. And suddenly, oh look, you're in the locker room, staring at all the skinny girls, scared out of your fucking mind because you're at the gym and it's basically The Worst Thing in the World and THIS IS WHY EVERYONE HATES THE GYM SO MUCH.
So if you feel antsy in the car or the locker room or right before you lift a set, take a deep breath and let it wash over you. This is your body, preparing to help carry you to greatness any way it can. It's increasing your power level and making you even more awesome than you already are by pumping some extra blood and oxygen into your muscles. It wants you to succeed with your New Year's Resolution. And the Douchebag section of your anterior lobe can goddamn suck it.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Codename: Kamikaze* Kate

*Apologies to WWII veterans and those of Japanese descent who may be offended by this reference.

So every day that I do silks, I make four climbs to the top (about 18 feet in the air) before beginning to work on other moves. This builds muscle and endurance as well as improving your comfort with heights and so on. I almost always do difficult climbs in order to further increase my performance, and therefore, on Wednesday night, climbed up 18 feet of silk in a standard wrap on my off-foot. Not satisfied with this challenge, I decided to invert (i.e. go upside) and descend in a same side wrap. Unfortunately, my arms apparently had had enough and suddenly I found myself falling upside-down back to the mat. In a quick, desperate attempt to catch myself, I pinched the fabric in my right armpit, thereby righting myself so that I was falling feet first in a more controlled fashion. I am pleased to report that I only had one injury.

This photo preceded the most painful shower of my life in which I uttered borderline sexual screams of agony washing that thing out. No I did not cry. Yes it still hurts like fucking hell.

Anyway, so the rest of the class went without incident. Oh. No wait. Jesus Christ, no it didn't. No, you see, putting appearance before my own personal safety, I insist on wearing a pair of cotton yoga shorts over my unitard when I do silks because I hate the way I look in the Just Unitard look. So after my fall, I dusted my hands and climbed back up to the top and then tied up my aching armpit and performed a few tricks. I was finishing one of my favorites when for some reason I didn't drop as far as I was planning.
"Oh," someone said, "Your shirt is caught."
But I wasn't wearing a shirt. No, no. I was hanging twelve feet in the air by my bootie shorts which were now at level with my fucking eyes. If your thought right now is, "my God, that must have been the biggest wedgie," then CONGRATULATIONS. Your thought merges perfectly with my friend Tini's statement of "Oh my God, Kate, you have the biggest wedgie." Yeah. So, after my instructor stood beneath me and allowed me to stand on her hands, I was able to untie myself and return to the earth.

So I'm not sure about the status of the shorts, but I walked away with two injuries, armpit and pride. Not the worst, really. This brings me to the wonderful subject of injuries (WHICH IS THE POINT OF THIS POST, NOT MY HORRIFICALLY SAD MOMENT OF SHORTS BINDING, OK?!)
Anyway. Injuries. Some may disagree with this, but it is my humble opinion that injury is an inevitable aspect of training. My worst injury is that of my left ankle. I was playing soccer at 8pm one sub-zero February night (yes it was outdoors) when I misplaced my step and my toes curled beneath my foot as I was landing. A tumble and a roll found me on my knees, screaming dramatically into the night sky and trying not to tear up as a circle of men surrounded me, staring helpfully. I tore two ligaments, the second of which tore straight off of my shin bone, taking a small fragment with it. As a server I had to be back on my feet, crutch-free, in two days. My insurance at the time wasn't spectacular, so I had to rehab it myself without and physical therapy support, and the results weren't spectacular. Almost two years later, I still have problems with it, including re-spraining it this past August so badly I was on crutches for 48 hours. Essentially, the injury has gone chronic. It will likely always give me problems, it will ache, it will creak, it will be stiff, it will fail me. It will never fully recover. Soccer players also often face the dreaded ACL injury, which can put an athletic career on hold or terminate it entirely, even for professionals, as well as a lot of head injuries, sprains, and breaks. Needless to say, aerialists and traceurs face some similar problems.

Now, when I say that injuries are inevitable, I do not necessarily mean the sort of thing described above. But I do mean things like this.

Those are permanent scars on my back from sliding down the silks. The thing on my arm will likely scar as well. But like every athletic injury I earn, I'm proud of these nasty things. Every injury is a Red Badge of Honor; it is the sign that an athlete has pushed themselves to their limits, has pushed themselves beyond their limits, and taken a hit rather than backing down from a challenge. We should work on our parkour rolls to prevent avoidable injuries when vaulting; we should focus on proper technique from the beginning and throughout training, we should always, always admit when we're not quite comfortable trying something outside our capability. But scrapes and burns and an occasional ligament tear are part of the process. They're something to train through, something to learn from, something to display on your blog. 

Of course the punchline of this advice is that I re-earned my name Wednesday night of Kamikaze Kate. Meaning, I don't really focus enough on self-preservation. So maybe I'm not a good one to ask.