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Taking a Stand

My current gym contract is for three times a week. That works well for me, because it gives me more control than I had at my previous gym. The workouts are posted in advance. I can choose days to fit my schedule. I can choose workouts I am excited about. I can choose the lesser of evils, if that's what the week is offering. I can choose when to show up. Within the workout, I can also choose to make my case for the number of weights or reps even though it's my body that wins that argument, most days. I can choose how I show up.

I chose to attend Wednesday because I knew it would be a stretch. I read the workout on the white board. 8 squat cleans. 24 toes to bar. 8 squat cleans. 24 toes to bar. 16 wall walks. 8 squat cleans. 24 toes to bar. 8 squat cleans. 24 toes to bar. I would adjust the weight for the squat cleans. The toes to bar would be singles, because I did not yet have the shoulder flexibility and strength to kip. The kipping motion used the momentum of a swing to more quickly complete the ab movement. I could not will others' definitions of success into being. It was not a matter of mind over matter, because I needed flexibility, form and understanding of the movements themselves. The skills were ones that I was still learning and building stamina to complete.

My eyes settled on the section in the middle. Wall walks. I stared across the room at the wall and my eyes dropped to the gray line across the black floor. It was a few inches, maybe more inches, away from the wall. My hands needed to reach that line. To touch it. Perhaps cross it. Standing on my hands on that line was what 'counted'. Could I stand? How many times? The question was a metaphorical and philosophical one with all the obstacles of a physical one. It was not merely will that would determine the outcome. And yet, somehow it was determination of another name.

It wasn't hard to start moving towards the line, especially when everyone was around me. Each individual focused on themselves. Their hand placement. Their balance. Their movement. And ultimately, their position in proximity to the line. No one knew what number I was on, how far I had left to go. No one could know based on my current position, if I had just finished a complete handstand, if I was still moving towards it, or if I had given up. . .

Plank position, hands under shoulders, brace and push. The start was the second hardest part, because I knew all the hard to come before I was back to a resting position on the ground. I pushed and I braced.

I reminded myself how important it was for me to create a solid plank position from the beginning. If I didn’t inhale and tuck in my car, I would soon bow in the middle. Once I was in this precarious position, it was almost impossible to correct my form.

Hand backwards. Feet up. Hand aligned with hand. Feet up. The fear started to build but I kept my head tucked down. Looking outward would affect my position. Success was about finding my own center and my confidence in that space. I pressed my eyes to the line as hard as my hands to the mat.

Hand. Feet. Hand. Feet. The line was there. It was so close. Inches, less but more. My stomach was upside down and yet the fear wouldn’t pour out. The sensation of unsteadiness remained pushing resolve down.

Hand. Feet. Hand. Feet. Fingers grazed the line. What about my other hand? My mind said my body was wrong. I shouldn't be here, in this position, everything upside down, standing on my head. To truly stand. To count this handstand my other hand needed to move. But I couldn’t trust it. Not the strength of my arm nor the stability of my position. I could fall. I would fall with no one there to catch me.

Hurriedly, I released my position. I fled. Scrambling for the safety of the floor. I walked my hands quickly out and my toes skidded down the wall. Officially it was a ‘no rep’. Still, I convinced myself I had no choice but to continue in this position of almost. This was the position in which I was living. I made 16 attempts. Still, I never officially took a stand.

The next day I approached my trainer. “My hand, this one, was here on the line.” I placed my hand on the floor. “The other is just here.” I added my second hand just in front of the line. “Is it in my head? I mean, that I can’t move this second hand. Am I strong enough to balance here, but it’s in my head?”

She nodded, confirming my suspicion. I was the tiniest gap away from the position I knew was my goal. I sighed in resignation at a just missed opportunity.

“And, widen your hands.”

Widen my hands. If I gave my position the space it needed, if I provided my strength its base, I would be capable of a true rep that would count. I could stand. I was my only excuse.

I stood up, shoulders broad, the metaphor of confidence. I examined my hands and the wall on the far side. Next time, I would move my hand, just one more time, across the line and take my stand.


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