Days #10,955-56: Mr. M and I decided to celebrate some magnificent weather with a weekend stroll through downtown Manhattan. Walking and getting lost in new corners of the city- any city, really- is one of our favorite activities, and this particular morning was especially fruitful.
We cut through the shopping hoards of Soho, stopped for peanut butter sandwiches near Washington Square Park, wound our way through hung-over brunchers in the West Village, and ended up skirting the Hudson River up towards Chelsea.
The Hudson River Park is a magnificent swathe of grass right along the piers and overlooking New Jersey, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty. Bike trails and patches of recreation stretch all the way from Battery Park up to 59th St.
When we first moved to the city and I was feeling a bit out of sorts (“There’s nothing but concrete! Why, Mr. M, whyyy?!”), he took me to the Pier 25 beach volleyball courts overlooking the Statue of Liberty and the kitschy mini golf course next to it and the soccer field, and the sunchairs all lined up at the end of the pier to feast upon the river and the glorious view.
It was the most peaceful I had felt since we became New Yawkahs… I had found my little corner of the city.
On this particular meandering walk, Mr. M & I wandered much further north… past the grassy fields and carousels and skate parks and even trapeze school to parts heretofore uncharted. Just beyond the bowling alley, we happened upon this:
A full-size gymnastics studio! Who knew? We stood at the window with our noses pressed against the glass like creepers gawking at kids somersaulting and swinging off the uneven bars, and I had an epiphany, which spewed out verbally, as most of my thoughts do:
“That’s what I want to do! Gymnastics! Maybe I can become a late-bloomer Olympic gymnast!”
“Do it!” Mr. M encouraged. “I bet they offer adult classes, you should check it out.”
I sometimes wonder how he doesn’t tire of supporting this woman who has a new Life Calling, weekly.
And because we were in New York City, where everything is available at any time of day… they most certainly did offer adult gymnastics classes, the very next day. I made plans to attend and started practicing my cartwheels in the living room.
Mr. M and our dog Charlie were scared.
Truth be told, I did gymnastics in my youth. Although I was never that good- I hit my peak with a wobbly back kickover on the low beam- I loved it and was pretty bummed when I got too tall and… bootylicious, for lack of a better word… to be a real gymnast. Here was my chance to restore my former, albeit possibly imagined glory.
From the description, the beginner floor class seemed far too basic: introducing you to the ‘freedom of movement’ and other such nonsense that sounded like a euphemism for senior citizen calisthenics. Beginner/Intermediate was clearly where it was at: practicing handstands, cartwheels, roundoffs, and walkovers, and working up to handsprings and flips. Watch out, Flying Squirrel, there’s a new…uh… squirrel in town. Yeah.
Despite all my bravado, I was a little intimidated when I showed up for class. Tiny warriors were chalking up and flinging themselves off the vault. A classmate also there for the Beg/Int class ‘warmed up’ by doing a front flip. Did I miss an important memo?
Apparently so. I couldn’t even make it out of warm-ups with my dignity. My “splits” may well have been a lunge. (Are the splits something that most normal thirty- and forty-somethings can do these days? Friggin’ yoga.) I was so dizzy doing somersaults that I got nauseous and had to put myself on time-out. The instructors lugged a giant foam roller out of storage so that I could even attempt a back “handspring”… and I promptly got stuck on it like a beached whale in black spandex.
When the class geared up for standing back flips (What?! Just… What?!), I concluded my abilities were best suited for cheering enthusiastically from the sidelines.
I recently read Gretchen Rubin’s fantastic book The Happiness Project, in which she has a whole section on “the fun of failure.”
As cloyingly optimistic as ‘the fun of failure’ initially sounds (I know, my finger was slowly headed down my throat when I first read it, too), I actually kinda got it. Failing frees you up from fearing failure, which is way worse. Once you’ve beached yourself on a giant foam roller in front of the ingénue 10-yr old gymnast doing flips off the beam, there’s nothing left to lose. And opening yourself up to failure just might mean you end up with a few random successes, too.
My rendezvous with adult gymnastics would have been a failure… except… it wasn’t. I suited up and actually made it to class. Miraculously- thanks to the extra-springy floors that made me feel like Superwoman- I did my first front handspring ever like a boss. No foam roller necessary!
And most important of all, I had a blast.
All thirty-year olds should be forced to cartwheel once in a while. Although you’ll find *this* one doing them in the straight-up Beginner Class next time.
Details of the Day:
The Field House at Chelsea Piers offers adult gymnastics six days a week. Unless you’re an ex-Soviet gymnast or the lithe blonde muse who insists on setting her yoga mat directly next to mine in class- no doubt to inspire side-by-side comparison- might I suggest starting with the Beginner Class Wednesday at noon? There’s also an apparatus class Wed at 8:30pm that’ll get you up off the floor and onto the uneven bars, vault, and beam.
A single 90-min class is $28, and if you decide you really ARE cut out to be an adult phenom, take advantage of the 10-class package: 20 sessions for $200.
Remove all jewelry before attending, and wear tight-fitting clothing- it makes it much easier for the instructors to spot you.
**A huge, heartfelt Thank You to all who stopped by after I was Freshly Pressed!! And an even bigger I’m Sorry to my new readers who were faced with kindergarden pole-dancing straight out of the gate and who, hopefully, will stick with me anyway.**