Corrective Exercises

Every month the structure of the workouts at the gym is different. Some are definitely more strenuous than others. We’ve gone back to longer work times and less rest this month. Most definitely miss the shorter rounds, but hre we are, 45-15, six minute rotations, on just another Wednesday night.

My trainers purposeful stride reaches the far end of the gym floor. “So, let’s get started. Here ten knee tucks. Then rest. Speed skaters. You’ll need the rest. Just ten. Over here, hip thrusters and double rack squats.”

“Hmm.”

“Chest press and-” My trainer picks up the resistance band. She sits on the bench and secures her feet underneath the loop. “Back row.” She tugs up quickly and releases. “Here.” She walks across the room. “Windmills.”

“How did I forget those on my recent least favorite list?” I ask myself.

“And here, bicep curls.” My trainer grabs each of the TRX handles. “Triceps.” She steps to the side, indicating the next rotation. My trainer lowers herself to the mat and steadies herself on one elbow and secures the other to her side. “Keep tension and rotate back as far as you can. It’s harder than it looks.”

Everyone gazes around the artificial turf dotted with equipment. We are unsure where to start, as if one place might feel slightly nicer at the beginning and/or end. “Where’s the corrective exercise this time?” I ask.

She points to the mat. “The rotation.”

Since January, entire rotations or at least in part, had included corrective exercises. More than once the discomfort caused by the slow, intentional movement was more frustrating and inconvenient than one of the power stations. I had always been better at accepting hard when it was all out, fast, then done. I glance around the room one more time, deciding. She already said it isn’t as easy as it looks. I’m sure it isn’t.

Often times those of us in class laugh and tease each other about varying levels of flexibility or range of motion for the corrective exercises. Some struggle due to age, others just from lack of building in the practice. We laugh, but it’s not really funny. They are gaps, blind spots really, in our own perception of our bodies. That’s why the corrective exercises are so difficult to even want to do. We'd rather avoid the inconvenience of paying attention to the underlying systems in our bodies. It takes special effort, something we'd rather avoid believing matters. Except, it does.

“Is this right?” I’m whining. I’m not sure I care if I'm doing it right, another symptom of the problem, because only someone watching me very closely would notice. I'm the one that has to hold myself accountable to the imperceptible movements.

My trainer walks over and moves my arm for me. She indicates where the limit of the arm extension should reach and where my elbow needs to stay connected. I want her to stay and continue to guide so I don’t have to pay attention. This is not the first time I want an outside tool to do my inner work. Only last week, I fell into my normal back row posture, which is a pattern of misperception.

“Straighten,” she had corrected when she looked up from another participant to check on me.

“It feels bent.” I overexaggerated my perception of the movement.

“You’re arched. Humped. Lengthen.”

“I want a mirror,” I complained. “I can’t tell.” The reality was always uncomfortable, both mentally and physically. I was so used to the bad position that the correct one felt like an intrusion.

This time, I left the corrective exercise until last. It hadn’t been so bad, I didn’t think, but I also recognized, I might not have done it so well. Sometimes I pretended to stretch after class, but it was hard for me to make time for that unseen priority too. Tonight, I don’t bother pretending. I rush to my car to join the zoom meeting on my phone. The topic of the Courageous Conversation is 'Critical Race Theory: What it is and isn’t'. I listen while driving, while washing my dishes and having a snack. Towards the end of the session, the moderator responds to several participants’ responses in regard to the resistance to thinking critically about race. “When you’re so used to the inequity, equity feels like something is being taken away from you.”

I swallow and set down my piece of toast. I stare away from the phone and shift in my chair so that my tired muscles find a new position. “It’s uncomfortable,” I think, "but so important, to do corrective exercises.”

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