by Melissa “I refuse your helmet” Urban
There’s been a lot of talk in recent posts about “training so you can do cool things in real life” versus just “trying to be really good at exercising”. I like to think the stuff I’ve been doing in the gym has been preparing me for challenges I may face in the real world, or athletic adventures I choose to pursue outside of the gym. At least, that’s been my working theory. This weekend, that theory was put to the test, and money met mouth in a very cold venue.
Dallas, my sister Kelly and I were having a chat about weekend plans when Kelly mentioned that she recently went ice skating. See, Kelly and I both took skating lessons as kids. I only stuck with it for about a year, and frankly, I was never any good. Kelly was much better – coordinated, strong, and fearless to boot. I was awkward, all skinny long legs, with no grace to be found. But Kelly said it was fun to get back on the ice, and I hadn’t been skating in probably 20 years, so I mentioned I’d like to go skating again sometime. Then, the conversation took a turn for the worse.
Me: You know, I bet I could still do a waltz jump if I tried.
Me: You know – that little half-turn jump? I bet I could still do one.
Kelly: No. You. Could. Not.
Me: Um, really? You don’t think so? I remember how to do it in my head. It’s like riding a bicycle, right? Except on ice. Which actually sounds kind of hard…
Kelly: You are high on drugs if you think you could still do one of those. You’re 35 years old. You haven’t skated in 20 years. And you weren’t even that good when you were taking lessons. So… no. I do NOT think you could do a waltz jump.
Me: (All dumb and stubborn) WANNA BET?
Kelly: Really??? YES. Yes, I would like to bet. A bottle of wine at Wine Steals says you can’t do a waltz jump.
So we shook, and I got all kinds of excited, because (a) Wine Steals is my favorite wine joint in San Diego, (b) how hard could it be to pull off one tiny little jump? and (c) I like being better than my sister.
Fast forward to this past weekend, and Public Skate Saturday at a crowded ice rink. I strap on my rental skates, take a few shaky steps towards the rink, plant my left foot firmly onto the ice and push away from the railing. And immediately think, “Oh, sh*t.” Because while my brain still remembered how to glide and use my edges and cross over, my feet apparently did not. After five endlessly long minutes on the ice, I was beginning to regret refusing Dallas’ constant offer of a helmet.
But eventually, I started to feel more comfortable, and moved to the middle of the rink. Sure, I was the only adult out there, amongst a dozen cute children all more graceful than me. Sure, I took a ton of messy spills (can you say, “toe pick“?). But I was laughing my butt off, determined to prove Kelly wrong… and eventually, I started catching some air and landing on one foot. The jumps weren’t especially pretty, but they all met my sister’s specific criteria: jump off one foot, turn while in the air, land on the other foot without falling. Done, and captured on video. Ha.
Emboldened by my waltz jump success (and not intimidated by the 10 year old Asian girl literally skating circles around me), I started playing around with other stuff – edge work, arabesques (called a “spiral” in skating) and a move called “shoot the duck”, which is essentially a pistol on skates. Again, none of these were pretty. But a pistol on the ice is considerably harder than it is on the ground, and I was a little hampered by three butt-protectant layers of pants, so I’ll cut my form some slack. (I did half the Zamboni’s work trying that move.) All in all, I spent a good 90 minutes playing around on the ice without cracking my head open. Success.
Which got me thinking… Maybe there’s something to this “training for real life” stuff after all. After all, I can’t remember ever being able to do a shoot-the-duck when I was taking lessons, and I was way more comfortable on skates back then. (More flexible, too.) There is no other explanation for why I’d be able to pull that off now, other than this – I’ve been training for it. No, not waltz jumps and pistols on ice, specifically… but real life things that require strength, coordination and balance. Like our friend Robb says, “It’s almost like this stuff works!”
Now, silly (and poorly performed) ice skating moves aren’t exactly the kind of important real life activities for which our Marines, police and firemen are training. But we’re not all in the business of protecting lives, are we? Soccer Moms, business men and not-particularly-athletically-inclined nutritional coaches have just as much use for staying strong, fit, flexible and healthy. And your training should make you better prepared for whatever it is you need or want to do – whether that’s carrying people out of burning buildings or donning some ice skates and keeping up with your 10 year old. It doesn’t matter HOW you use your gym training – only that you DO, somewhere outside of the arena of barbells and medicine balls. Train, then go put your training to use and DO SOMETHING!
When was the last time you tried to pick up an old skill, took on a new one or used your training in an everyday task? Post thoughts to comments, or better yet… put your training to the test and commit to trying something new here. (And then film it and send it to us. We love stuff like that.)
As for Kelly, thanks for putting me up to it, because that Public Skating session was a ridiculous amount of fun. And save your pennies, kid, because there’s a bottle of ’04 Paraduxx with “Chairman M.A.U.” written all over it. Holla!