i took barre class last thursday night. as i do most thursday evenings, in fact. after over four years of grippy socks, tucks, and spandex, i can all but do the routine in my sleep. for those who have never taken a barre class, there’s a formula of sorts -warm up, thighs, seat, abs, stretch. within each section, however, the choreography can change from class to class, instructor to instructor. and it’s that element of unknown that keeps you and your muscles guessing week after week.
anyway, the class was a great class as always. tough as always, but nothing my conditioned body wasn’t capable of handling. sweat poured off my forehead. our instructor, suzanne assured us that it was the butter melting off our bodies. i liked that analogy (though i don’t eat a lot of real butter, i think my sweat is actually made of almond butter). with a mix of rap, hip hop, and bubble gum pop acting as our soundtrack, we flew through the first-half of class like buttah (yep, the same buttah we were melting off of our arms, glutes and thighs). before i knew it, we were transitioning into abs, objectively my favorite part of class.
i’ve been blessed with fairly good core strength (thanks momma), so most evenings, i can perform these exercises with ease. it also doesn’t hurt that the abs section is performed while sitting down. after 45 minutes of standing, i’m always pretty pumped about being sedentary for the remainder of the workout. now i’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but there are many ways to torture your abdominals. the traditional crunch is just one of a myriad of positions you can put your mid-section through in order to achieve six-pack status.
on this particular evening, suzanne picked one of the more difficult ab routines in this quarter’s repertoire. essentially you stick a small bouncy ball beneath the balls of your feet (think like how circus animals balance on a tiny ball), and then hollow out your abs and lean back as far as you can go. the main objective is to get low enough to lay the small of your back on the mat below you. this position ensures that a) you’re protecting your lower lumbar region, and b) you get the most bang for your buck and leave class with washboard abs (oh if only it were that easy). i began following the cues, squeezing my legs together, trying to position all ten of my over-sized toes on the surface of the grey orb. back an inch, up and inch. after each eight-count, the choreography became increasingly more difficult. in addition to crunching our abs, we were asked to move our legs out and in ever so slightly in unison. essentially we were lengthening our entire bodies, only to close them up again, like a slow-moving accordion. i’m not sure if it sounds that difficult from my description, but it is bloody hard, y’all. probably one of the hardest ab sequences we do in studio barre, in fact. but never one to give up on account of something’s difficulty (except for that one time i tried to play golf), i persevered, grimacing and wincing through nearly every crunch.
then i heard my hip pop. and my hip flexers began to burn with the fire of a thousand suns. while i’m a pretty strong subscriber to the whole-mind-over-matter methodology, the immense discomfort i felt in those moments was no match for positive thinking. so i stopped. i paused. i never pause. but i paused. other parts of class we are taught to push through the pain, but in this instance, i knew this was more than just my body reaching its point of exhaustion.
i became frustrated, discouraged, embarrassed, angry. i looked around at my fellow tuckers and saw them performing the ab exercise with ease. i took a deep breath and pushed my legs out again. my hip popped again so loudly, that i swore the ladies next to me could hear it. i grabbed it in pain. rubbing it gently for reprieve. i half-assed my way through the rest of the series, comforted by the fact that we were at the very final stretch of class. despite my despondency over my ill-performed ab routine, i finished the last minutes of back-dancing (essentially lie on your back and thrust your pelvis in the air, i swear it works your glutes and hamstrings) with vigor. following our cool-down and stretch, i caught the gaze of one of my barre “buddies” and shook my head in disappointment. “i just can’t do that ab track” i confessed sheepishly. “gosh, me either!” she cried in agreement. there we were, so-called “veterans” and masters in our craft (so to speak) and yet, there were still certain exercises that were our own achilles heel. i took comfort in the fact that i hadn’t been alone in my inability to do the roll-the-ball-beneath-your-feet-while-crunching-your-abs choreography. while a version of myself would have dwelled over my poor performance for the rest of the evening and into to the next day, my current self took the hiccup with a grain of salt and bit of perspective.
while i most certainly would love to believe that i’m superwoman (if for no other reason than that title comes with a cape), i am realizing, and furthermore, embracing the fact that my body has limits. i have a threshold that even years of practice and hundreds of classes cannot budge. i am human. and my body wears, tears, and reaches its breaking points just like everyone else. despite my innate desire for perfection, i must accept that i am perfectly imperfect. in all aspects of my life. even in my workout routine. i need to give myself just as much grace in class as i do in the midst of nursing a broken heart or after a bad day at work. it seems silly, but i believe God can use even the most unconventional circumstances to remind us of this lesson. i hold myself to a standard higher than anyone else’s expectations of me. i am my own biggest critic and the first one to point out my own shortcomings. but i’m learning. to give myself grace. in the bigger moments like when i can’t seem to shake feelings of inadequacy in the wake of a break-up, and in the smaller moments, too. like when i can’t seem to master thursday night’s ab routine.
my body is a miracle in so many ways. instead of criticizing it or being ashamed of what it won’t do, i need to focus my efforts on celebrating it for what it can.