html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Shift

Friday, September 07, 2007

Shift

My father and my brother and I are clumsy. I regularly knock things over and walk into doorways. I stand well back from delicate things because they break at my touch and sometimes just from my presence. I have thought for a very long time that it was only the years of precise practice, of choosing where to put my kicks and punches that gives me the coordination to pass as an ordinarily un-clumsy person. I think of myself as a clumsy oaf who passes.

My body fails me and I concentrate to correct it. I don't trust my ankles, so I walk with my head down, watching to make sure that I only step on flat surfaces. When I was ten or eleven, I decided I don't like gaits where the feet point outward and I concentrated for several months until I walked with my feet pointing straight forward. A few years ago I realized that switching my feet to forward is why my knees now face inward. At tkd they told us to make no sound when walking or running, and I will never thud my heels again. Good posture is hard for me, with large breasts and a history of nearsightedness, but I remember and pull my shoulders back and I do it again and again. I have always thought that my will is the only thing that brings my body up to adequate.

I have recently started to wonder whether that is necessarily true. A couple months back, Chris tossed me something. I saw it late and snatched it out of the air near my head. "Oh yeah," Chris said. "I forgot how fast you are." What? I'm fast? I asked Chris and he said that I've always had very fast hands, especially to block or catch things. Really? That counts as fast? It wasn't fast among the tkd team, who could all do that. But it is true that while I often will knock the lemons off a display, I will also sometimes catch the lemons before they hit the floor. I am fast?

I just started weight training again, this time at a serious weight training gym, and a couple people have told me that I am strong. I am not strong, this is how I've always been and I am not in shape right now. I'm not the sister moving railroad ties around her backyard by herself. But no. The trainers come by, eye me and say that I am strong. I am strong? This isn't impossible. My dad and brother and I may be clumsy, but my Dad was ridiculously strong in his youth and my brother promises to be a beast. I got the strength too? I am strong, with quick hands? I could decide that I am strong and fast now, at 35?

Who is this compared to, that I should be relatively strong? Am I stronger than women my height and size? I always figure that we are about the same. I have trained my whole life with athletic men. I am not usually the slowest or weakest person in the room, but I am surely weaker and slower than most of them. Is my perception skewed from that?

I might have quick hands. I might be strong. I might be coordinated enough to compensate for my clumsiness. I might be too hard on myself.

16 Comments:

Blogger jens said...

"Good posture is hard for me, with large breasts and a history of nearsightedness"

Maybe I am misunderstanding this...but your posture is bad because you just don't get tired of staring at your own breasts without wearing the right glasses?????

Megan, SOME things you must learn to DELEGATE!

10:22 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

OK, that was very funny.

***********

Large breast pull your shoulders forward. Nearsightedness makes you crane your neck. I'm not still nearsighted, but I have the habit.

Your explanation was way better, though.

10:37 AM  
Anonymous ogged said...

Apparently this is a common identity crisis for bloggers.

10:57 AM  
Anonymous Peter said...

Who is this compared to, that I should be relatively strong? Am I stronger than women my height and size? I always figure that we are about the same. I have trained my whole life with athletic men. I am not usually the slowest or weakest person in the room, but I am surely weaker and slower than most of them. Is my perception skewed from that?

The only person with whom you should compare your strength is yourself. Are you stronger than you were three months (for example) ago? Then you're doing well. Comparing oneself to other people is usually misleading and/or frustrating. Which doesn't mean we all don't do it, of course.

11:27 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

About a year ago, I was messing around with this guy and he ran his hand down my back and ass and thighs and said, a little surprised, "You are incredibly strong." I didn't think much of it. If you spend your childhood in a deep lunge, you're going to have strong haunches.

But then! The next guy I messed around with ran his hand down my back and ass and thighs and said "Jesus you're strong.". Twice! It happened twice!

So I don't understand what is surprising them. Which is the contrast? Am I strong compared to other women they've encountered, or strong compared to how I look?

I don't really care and I only want to get stronger compared to me. But I do wonder.

11:43 AM  
Blogger jens said...

To be honest, I kind of FIGURED about the breasts. Didn't realize about the glasses, though, I'm farsighted. Not sure HOW I figured out the part about the breasts by myself, seeing how mine aren't THAT large.

IIRC, you've complained about insufficient male attention.

Now you're telling us about all these guys running their hands over your "back and ass and thighs".

Now I've touched a LOT of girls' backs (the backrub thing, you know). But you could count on the fingers of your hands the number of asses. What is happening? Are you intimidating these boys with your strength?

If that's the case, maybe you should try to steer them toward rubbing the FRONT until they are thoroughly READY.

12:55 PM  
Anonymous D said...

I think we look out the same eyes we always have, see the same bodies we have always inhabited, and only have a dim impression of how others see it...

So, it's really hard to take those compliments well... for that's what they were.

still, from the inside, I'm sure you will rely on your own rating of strength, because you know that is what you will depend upon. When you need to summon it, it'll be handy if there is more, but you know the minimum.

For clumsy versus speed... I believe clumsy is situational awarenes, and the other is pure reaction time. The awareness also has something to do with your body in space, and where it is in relation to other things. If it were terribly important, you could probably train your mind to be much more aware of it's space. you probably just don't need that. When you hurt someone by accident by not knowing they are there, then you tend to move a lot more carefully. Because there can be a price. What I've found anyway. I might add, that's no criticism on you, you are likely to be less clumsy than you think...

12:56 PM  
Blogger Jacqueline said...

"I regularly knock things over and walk into doorways."

Me too. I always feel like my body is a couple inches off from where I perceive it to be. Unfortunately the number of inches and the direction is not consistent so I can't just adjust.

I wonder sometimes if something is physically wrong with the spatial perception part of my brain. :(

1:37 PM  
Anonymous Mitch said...

But then! The next guy I messed around with ran his hand down my back and ass and thighs and said "Jesus you're strong.". Twice! It happened twice!

What a coincidence--a few of the women I've been with recently have said the same thing about me! Isn't that weird? Usually they just talk about how well-endowed I am.

12:26 AM  
Blogger Noel said...

I disagree with Peter -- comparing one's strength to published standards is useful, just because the body is capable of so much you'll probably peg your standards too low when you begin. Some standards are here and you can find more at Crossfit.com. They've been useful in my goal setting (and yes, ego boosting!)

And really, why not think of yourself as strong and fast? A positive body image sounds good to me.

Oh, and box squats are a good way to increase your vertical without endangering your ankles.

10:43 AM  
Anonymous Peter said...

I disagree with Peter -- comparing one's strength to published standards is useful, just because the body is capable of so much you'll probably peg your standards too low when you begin. Some standards are here and you can find more at Crossfit.com.

I probably didn't make my post as clear as it should have been. Comparing oneself to published standards like those ones you linked from Exrx* is fine. What isn't so good, and what I had meant to criticize, is constantly comparing oneself to other people at the gym.

* = the Exrx figures have an awfully large gap between intermediate and advanced.

11:04 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Noel, those were interesting, thanks. It is good to have a reference point.

11:43 AM  
Blogger Dizzy said...

This post really hit home for me. I think women are trained to think of themselves as prone to constant deterioration, unless we expend a great deal of effort. I mean, we pluck and tweeze and shave large amounts of our bodies every day. Everything, hair, eye shape, thighs, are always being reconfigured with product and makeup. We are not trained to see what's THERE, instead, we get in the habit of seeing what's-there-as-compared-to-the-media ideal.

We don't think of ourselves as just, ourselves. We look at ourselves and think only of what we need to do to be more acceptable.

12:46 PM  
Anonymous doctorpat said...

I'd also put some blame for the posture on ... TKD.

Typical TKD training involves lots of pushups, punches and other pushing type exercises. Result is stronger chest muscles compared to the antagonist upper back muscles.

(Note: Will also, to some extent, increase the visible size of your breasts. But that just increases the number of guys happy to run their hands over your arse, so not such a bad thing.)

Anyway, with the chest muscles being stronger than the back muscles, they will tend to pull your shoulders forward.

Solution is to do more rowing type movements, and rearwards shrugs.

8:15 PM  
Anonymous doctorpat said...

Addressing the "clumsy" side of things, I've often wondered if being stronger and tougher leads to clumsiness.

My theory is that if I walk into a doorframe, I just bounce off and keep going. But if (for example) my wife walks into a door, she has several seconds of sharp pain and a big bruise.

The obvious result is that I don't really care, and so walk into things all the time. While she pays a great deal of attention.

8:23 PM  
Anonymous Thelonious_Nick said...

One of the joys of adulthood for me is to find out how limited my views of myself were when I was younger. I never thought of myself as athletic growing up. I was terrible at team sports, and it never occurred to me that the outdoor things I did like to--ride my bike for hours, swim all day at the pool, climb trees, walk to school instead of taking the bus on nice days--might be athletic.

As an adult, I have gradually come to realize that though I may not be graceful or coordinated, I am possessed of real physical vigor. I trained for and completed a marathon in 2000, and for the past 5 years I have weight-trained on a regular basis (I'm closer to intermediate than advanced on Noel's scale).

I suspect that you too have underestimated your own physical adeptness.

7:07 AM  

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