I planned the whole day yesterday around a class called Bosu Body. Figured I would try something new and different. I’ve used a Bosu before. It’s like a half ball on a platform. A little tricky and challenging, it forces you to balance. Not as easy as it looks to even simply stand on it. Anyway, I cleaned the apartment, wrote, coached, went to the grocer, cooked dinner, walked our dog Walter – and at 6 p.m., tossed my new Vibram Five Fingers shoes and a bottle of water into my gym bag and was off.
Five Fingers look like canvas socks – each toe having its own special place on a firm molded sole. My son David says they make me look like “some sort of sea creature” – an apt description. But here’s the thing – they force you to hold in your core, demand balance, and allow you the freedom to perform athletically as though you are barefoot. I love them.
As I signed in for class, the woman at the desk handed me a plastic card on a coiled rubber chain.
“The class fills up quickly,” she said. “Hang on to this because it secures your spot.”
The class did fill quickly – with barely enough room for all of us to place our mats, body bars, weights, and the Bosu. I’ve become accustomed to being the oldest one in the studio. Based upon my calculation, I bring the average age of the class to roughly 25. But I just look straight ahead, and figure that no one is paying attention to me when I stop to stretch out my joints or assume the Child’s Pose for my aching back. When the instructor asks if anyone has any injuries they’re working with, I no longer bother to respond. It would be like giving a lecture: Yeah, well, my right Achilles tendon acts up, I have arthritis in my right hip with a touch of sciatica, my knees sometimes pop, my neck is a bother and I get numbness in my left hand sometimes, both wrists hurt… Enough. My body, depending on the barometer and how punitive I’ve been in terms of trying new fitness classes (and taking old ones), is frequently in a free-flowing state of pain. I just don’t bounce the way I used to. The best thing I can do is to keep moving. In the morning, I feel like The Tin Man.
I took my place in the rear of the classroom. Usually, I stand up front because without my distance glasses (which I have worn since I was ten), I can’t see the instructor. But last night, I figured that I would just follow those in front of me, and since the instructor wore a miked-up headset, I could hear her.
The class began with familiarizing ourselves with the Bosu since at least ten hands raised when asked if anyone was new to the practice. Up and down on the Bosu I went – feeling an ease after several tries. Got it, I thought. I can still do this. Then we began with dance stretches. Got those, too. First position, second position, plie, isolate the rib cage, move side to side, flat back, curved back, forward lunge. I was loving it. The instructor (in her twenties with a ponytail) wove her way through the studio, stopped at my “station” and stared at me.
“This is right, right?” I asked as I mounted and dismounted the Bosu.
“You have to wear sneakers in my class,” she said.
“But these are better than sneakers,” I said, breathlessly. “People actually run outdoors in these. Trainers even wear them.”
She cupped her hand over her mike. “You need to leave. Now.”
“You’re joking,” I said, stopping the exercise and feeling my heart rate. “OK, what if I don’t use the Bosu and just march in place?”
I figured that compromise can’t hurt.
“Leave now,” she said with a growl. “People wear only sneakers in my class. Go!”
The last time I was thrown out of a class, I was around nine. A shy, scrawny and obedient kid, I was reading All-of-a-Kind Family behind an arithmetic workbook and suddenly (I don’t know what came over me) broke out into a rendition of Duke of Earl. The teacher made me stand outside in the cinder block corridor facing the wall. I remember the feeling that day: the heat that came over my face, the deep red blush I felt rise from my neck to my forehead, the uncomfortable stares of the other children who were trying not to laugh, and the tears that burned in my eyes. The feeling last night was no different as I grabbed my gym bag, pocketbook, coat – and fumbled with my boots – then slipped out of the room in my webbed feet. I saw headlines: Middle-Aged Woman Thrown Out of Classroom! I pictured an accompanying photograph of me in my leggings and sea creature shoes standing in a classroom of “girls” wearing T-shirts that said things like “Orientation ‘06” (there were a few of those around me last night).
The gym manager listened to my tale with sympathy. Not only would she correct the instructor as to my more than acceptable footwear, but she gave me a free personal training session.
My husband was home when I returned from Rejection.
“What happened?” he asked. “Is your hip bothering you?”
The ambassador should have left it at simply “What happened.” Now, I felt old, old, old. Right. I’m home early because I tripped over my “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” alert chain.
“My shoes,” I explained, pulling the Five Fingers from my gym bag to show him. “The instructor said you can only wear sneakers which is crazy because these are exactly for core work and…”
“And you who are so diligent about exercise,” he said, looking at me with pity, and then he laughed – kindly, but he laughed.
I felt my face redden again and my lip start to quiver. “These are great shoes,” I said. “She knows nothing about them.”
So, I poured myself a glass of Chardonnay, turned the heat up under the chicken stew, called the gym and made an appointment for my free personal training session (to which I will wear the Five Fingers) – and hummed a little bit of Duke of Earl which dates back to 1962. And, alas, not even my husband can boast that he has shoes older than that — though several pairs older than my instructor.