Your body is not your enemy part 2
(Miss part 1? Here it is!)
My arrival in Vermont was the crest of my Dunning-Kruger curve. I thought I knew it all! I was at the peak of Mt. Stupid, and I fell. Hard.
Now that I had the opportunity to work with coaches who knew what it took to achieve the career that I aspired to, it was clear that I was physically unprepared for what I wanted to do.
And they had no qualms about pointing out my shortcomings. I had so many bad habits built over years of practicing skills without any technique, and without having the foundational strength I needed to support the work I was trying to do. And I got picked apart mercilessly.
(To be clear, this is not meant as a criticism of NECCA; it’s a wonderful school with excellent coaches! If you have the chance to train there, you absolutely should! Just…. learn from my mistakes.)
Over the course of a month, I went from being confident, enthusiastic, and excited, to being humiliated, embarrassed, and ashamed. It was devastating.
I felt lost, and unmoored. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be there, that I was just wasting space. That nothing I could ever do or make would be worthwhile. I was a fraud.
Rather than give up, I threw myself into training. Working harder, longer, with more intensity than I ever could have imagined before- if I wasn’t training 5 or 6 days a week, it wasn’t enough. I worked out at the gym, I made conditioning dates with friends. Trained handstands and acrobatics, stretched my splits and backbends.
When I was at home I was either rolling on a lacrosse ball or eating cake in bed. And it still never felt like I was doing enough, because all around me I saw people pushing so hard they cried.
I would literally eat cake in bed, ask my roommates
Everyone was a little injured all the time. Someone always had an ice pack or a heating pad on. Training so hard they’d throw up, and then going right back to it. Asking a friend to sit on them to get deeper in their straddle. Getting a spot to do 5 more skin the cats. If you weren’t in pain, you weren’t doing it right. And I could never work hard enough to feel like I belonged there.
By December, my left shoulder stopped working.
By necessity, I slowed down. Started paying more attention to the way my body was working.
I managed to limp my way through the year, graduating with a solo act that I truly believed was garbage, but without any other major injuries. My shoulder recovered enough to allow me to get back to somewhat normal training. But the whole time, I was filled with this anger, this frustration, at myself! At my body, for letting me down. For being weak and fragile.
My body was my enemy, and I had failed to conquer it.
I returned home feeling defeated and directionless. Should I keep working towards performing? Should I walk away from circus? Where did I belong?
Same, Moira. Same
I was lucky enough to be able to return to teaching at the studio that I had taken my first lesson at, and it was there that I started noticing something: nearly everyone there was just like me. Disconnected from how their bodies worked, struggling with fundamental strength but still working on really hard skills. Focused on getting a trick without also working on the quality of their movement, or how to make it more efficient. It was like looking back in time and seeing myself before I’d left for school.
I started asking why so many of our students have these same common issues? Why are we getting injured? Why are we struggling? And how can we do a better job of teaching?
This led me to start getting educated. I signed up for an online course and got my personal training certification. Shortly after that, I started training to become a pilates instructor.
I became obsessed with human movement and anatomy, and devoted much of my teaching time to working with beginners and students who struggled. And this is what I learned:
We can’t teach people tricks without also teaching them how to use their bodies.
Most of the students we had were regular people; not professional athletes, people who needed to develop strength and body awareness so that they could train successfully. It didn’t matter if their goals were to become a professional performer or just to have fun; those foundations were the key to master basic skills, make progress in more complicated skills, and stay safe. I realized that I needed to re-learn how to teach, and shift my focus from teaching tricks and skills to teaching my students how to move and connect to their bodies and how to apply that to the skills they were learning.
With this new lens I was able to identify these fundamentals skills that are now the focus of both how I teach and of my personal practice.
Wondering what these fundamental skills are? Read part 3 here!
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