Friday, June 7, 2013

I Am the Girl in the Splits

There was a time when I believed I would never be able to do it. My body just wasn't shaped right. I would never be able to do wide second splits in dance class, no matter how much I trained. I was forever doomed to be merely hunched over, with my legs spread out and my back curved, hovering pathetically several inches above the floor. I didn't think I could ever "pancake" my upper body flat on the floor the way my dance teacher and some of the women could.

As I got older and started lifting weights more, I learned to use my increased body temperature and warm muscles to increase my flexibility. Certain weight lifting exercises put significant stress on the lower back (and no, I don't wear a weight belt). So, wide second stretches turned out to be a great way to relax the lower back and calm my strenuous breathing.

There was also a time when I was embarrassed to do dance stretches on the weight floor, especially dropping down to touch my toes for a hamstring stretch - as if I was "presenting" to anyone behind me. I had written about that before, when I had first started blogging. Funny how writing about certain fears and insecurities helps to diminish them, once you see it in print.

"Live here," I tell myself while in certain stretch poses. Not forever, just for now, just to give myself some patience to take enough time and stretch slowly. I would picture the girl from the 1980 movie, "Fame" (pictured above), the one who was effortlessly in the same warm up stretch during the dance audition scene. She was relaxed and casual, and so flexible that she could prop her elbows on the floor. I wanted to be like her.

Going to the gym regularly has taught me that it helps to pretend to be other people when I am feeling too weak or limited. Lat pulls are especially hard for me, but I've gotten better at them by pretending that I am Jackie Chan or Jet Li. In certain Pilates poses and exercises, I am Jane Fonda from the 80's. (Have you seen her lately? I'll take being Jane Fonda from this decade!)

I will always have role models, it seems, no matter how old I get. When I feel discouraged, when "being Peter Varvel" isn't good enough, I put on a persona, someone who inspires me, whether they're real or imagined. Just for now, until I can absorb it enough to feel better about myself.

I'm putting on costumes, playing different characters, even when I'm not on stage.


Regina said...


You look amazing! I am inspired and not a little jealous of your flexibility! xx

Peter Varvel said...

Thanks, Regina!

I miss running into you at the gym (even though Bally's is no L.A. Fitness out here on the west coast).