Thursday, June 09, 2011

My Danciversary

I'm feeling very righteous today, as I have already done a rather thorough workout. I guess going back to ballet class for the summer got me motivated. It is possible that I'm competing with some teenagers in the class. Actually, I think it's more accurate to say that I'm motivated by seeing the teenagers in my class. I'm not trying to be more fit than they are or to be able to make my body do everything they can do, but I do think I can be in better shape than I am now, and if aiming for the physical condition of girls young enough to be my daughters gets me part of the way, then I'll be ahead of where I am now. I'm also doing more cardio -- at least half an hour on the jogging trampoline (since I don't have a treadmill) a day -- so I'll have more lung power for singing. We'll see how long the enthusiasm lasts, but so far I feel enough better that I actually want to do this instead of whimpering about not wanting to do it and then finding excuses not to.

I started taking ballet three years ago this summer. Starting it was kind of scary because I wasn't sure what I could do and I thought I'd look silly. Now I can't imagine not doing it and I embrace the silly. That's what I usually tell new people in the class, that we're doing it for fun, and looking silly is part of the fun. I am a bit of a perfectionist and I really try to do things right, but if it doesn't look right, I just laugh about it and go on.

I hadn't really thought about this until the other night when I was driving to class, but I haven't had nearly as many bad knee days since I started dancing. I do wear an elastic brace on the really bad knee during class because it doesn't like to bend and have weight on it and has been known to do scary things during class, but in non-ballet circumstances, it works a lot better than it used to. I can sometimes even make it down a flight of stairs without hanging onto the rail. I have really bad knees, for no real reason (basically, a design flaw, I think). I had knee surgery when I was in my mid-20s, and the surgeon told me that, in technical terms, I had a bad knee. He said my knees were "old," like what he saw in more elderly people, and the problem was in the joints themselves. The surgery put a knee that had pretty much dislocated itself back into place, and then it was up to physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around the knees to keep the joints in place.

It turns out that ballet seems to work better than the physical therapy exercises did. I still had a lot of pain, I still couldn't go down stairs without holding onto a rail, and I still had days when I just had to stay off my feet and keep a heating pad wrapped around whichever knee was hurting. But I don't think I've had one of those days since about three months after I started dancing. I haven't had to take any painkillers because of sore knees since then, and I realized the other day that I was going down the stairs in my house without putting a lot of my weight on the rail with each step on the really bad knee.

So, I guess I'll keep up with the dancing. It also helps keep my weight in check, which is something I'm under doctor's orders to do, as these knees can't handle any extra weight. The less weight they have to support, the longer I can go without knee replacement. When I put on a few pounds, I can feel it in the knees, and that's a wonderful incentive to maintain my weight. I've been wearing one of my leotards from seventh grade to class (my mom found it in a drawer), so I guess I'm doing okay if I can still wear clothes I wore when I was twelve. Yes, I'm the same height I was then. I hit my full growth early.

The other benefit of this class is the fun. I've made friends there, and it's like a little support group. I like the multigenerational aspect of it. One of the teenagers is taking the class with her mother, and the other is taking the class with her grandmother. I'd love to be in the kind of shape to still be dancing when I'm old enough to be a grandmother (okay, so I have high school classmates who are grandparents, so I suppose I am old enough to be a grandmother, but I don't consider myself old enough to be a parent yet). Then there's the stress relief -- it's a great way to work out frustrations -- and the creative expression (where a lot of the silliness comes in).

Tomorrow morning I'll be making an excursion because I need to buy new ballet slippers. I've actually worn out a pair.

No comments: