I failed the Physical Education (PE) exit exam in my sophomore year of high school.
The PE exit exam was given to all sophomores – it tested your ability to do push-ups, sit-ups, your mile time, and other basic measures of physical fitness. If you passed the exit exam, then you didn’t have to take PE your junior or senior year.
The instructor stopped me while I was doing the sit-up portion and told me I wasn’t doing them correctly. And that was it, I failed. I was among a handful of students that didn’t pass the exam out of the 300+ students in my graduating class.
I was fifteen, and my dad picked me up from school that day. I held the tears in all day long. As soon as I got in the car, I burst out crying. I was so hysterical with shame; my poor dad thought one of my friends died.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t physically fit; I was in great shape. I ran cross-country in high school, and although I was the slowest person on my team, I was faster than most of the other students in my PE class. I’ve always had super strong legs; I could run for miles and miles in high school (before I got a knee injury that has prevented me from running ever since).
However, I’ve never had a strong core or strong arms. Never. It hadn’t really bothered me until that day in high school that my very weak core prevented me from passing the exit exam.
Honestly, I had always had difficultly with sit-ups and push-ups, and I kinda, sorta cheated whenever we did them in PE. It was my fault, really.
I’ve never been what you would call an athlete. Although I swam for my local swim team in elementary school, played soccer for a few years in elementary and middle school, and ran cross-country in high school, I was never the best. In every sport I played, I was the one of the weakest players on the team. Sure, I always had plenty of team spirit and met some amazing friends from the sports, but I never enjoyed the actual sport at all. I didn’t enjoy the sports because no matter how much I tried, as much and I practiced, I wasn’t ever very good.
I was good at something though. Really good. The best in my class.
That something? Ballet.
My mom put me in ballet as a little girl and I fell in love. I loved everything about the class; the stretching, the bar exercises, and the dance routines. In elementary school, I was dedicated to ballet, and was promoted to the “pre-pointe” class before all of my peers; I was the youngest in the class by at least one year.
In our performances, I was usually given a solo or duet; I just loved performing. And even more, I loved the music. Ballet taught me such an appreciation for classical music; an appreciation that turned to love.
I’m not sure how old I was, maybe nine. I came home from ballet one day and told my mom I wanted to quit. The other girls in my “pre-pointe” class were mean to me and it made me hate going. I don’t really remember what exactly happened, but it was my first (of many) exposures to cliques, and being the rookie, I wasn’t in the clique.
So I quit. I quit ballet and continued (unsuccessfully) with sports. I had never really looked back.
Until recently. After years of being incredibly unhappy with sports, I decided to go back to my first love.
Well, sort of.
In my quest for Operation Love Handle last fall, I started regular attending my gym’s spin classes. I started noticing results and I was pretty pleased.
But then it occurred to me; I still wasn’t really building core or arm strength. Sure, spinning does help with core and arm strength, but that’s not what you’re targeting.
I decided to look at other options. I had heard buzz on Twitter about something called The Bar Method. I wasn’t really sure what that meant; all I knew was it was an intense workout that used ballet bars.
Wait. Ballet bars? Sign me up.
I tentatively took my first class in November; and frankly, it kicked my ass. I already knew that all of the arm and core exercises would be difficult, but I didn’t realize that the leg exercises would be so hard.
My “super strong legs” failed me. I could barely get through the quad exercises. I actually thought my legs would fold under me. Quads are only maybe 3-5 minutes of a Bar Method class, but it feels like 30 minutes. (And still does).
After my introductory period ended, I waited to return until after the holidays and the “New Year’s Resolution rush”. I started regularly taking classes in the end of January and have been taking them regularly ever since.
In just over two months, I’ve noticed results. I don’t know if I’ve lost weight, but I do know that I can comfortably fit into pants that I had to stop wearing over a year ago.
The arm and core exercises are very challenging, but I’ve noticed progress (as small as it may be). I’m confident that I will be able to do at least 10 real push-ups by the end of the year.
Surprisingly enough, the quad exercises still are the most difficult exercises for me. I discovered it may correlate to my knee injury, but really I think that the exercises are so targeted and my muscles haven’t ever had that type of targeted training before. My goal is to “stay in the muscle” (a Bar Method term) for the entire exercise; it’s a challenge that I’m trying to achieve.
And while there’s technically no dancing or “ballet” really, it does feel like I’m taking a dance class; there’s great music, technique and skill. I just love it.
And, the studio I go really feels like a community; the instructors are knowledgeable, friendly, and know every client’s name. Seriously. You tell them your name once and they know it. It’s unreal.
Maybe one day (after I continue to get in better shape) I will try ballet (or some version of dance) again.
But for now, I’m very pleased with The Bar Method, my studio, and most of all, my progress.
And the little dancer in me is very pleased.