Category Archives: health

At the Toronto Circus School

I arrived at the Toronto Circus School well before the start of the drop-in class. Good thing, too. I got to see this juggling pair. They're probably both in their seventies. I liked watching the two of them stand side by side, occasionally swapping juggling balls or throwing them to each other.

The other thing I ended up doing was help take pictures of a wedding party. I guess the bride and her entourage made this their bachelorette party! =) One of them remarked that trapeze was the perfect training for a wedding: dealing with butterflies in one's stomach and all that...

Michael McGuffin and Mike Tsang should be here soon. Looking forward to seeing them!

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I’m going to run away and join the circus

When I thought about what I would do if I had all the money I wanted, I realized that trying out the flying trapeze was one thing on my to-do list. A Friday drop-in class at the Toronto Circus School costs only $25. Why not? It was going to be worth it, even if only for the stories.

Bobby and Adam were our teachers and safety crew. After a few instructions, they had the first ten participants strap on their belts. I was #14, so I settled on the mat and started stretching.

The first one up was clearly experienced. She launched herself off the platform and swung gracefully through the air, tucking her knees in and over the bar in the smoothest of motions. She let go, pointed her toes and arched her back. When Bobby gave the signal, she whipped back up, grabbed the bar and untucked her knees, and let go. She landing on the net with a gentle bounce and swung herself over the side of the net.

Right. She made it look so easy, which naturally meant that it was difficult and I was going to embarrass myself big time. Fortunately, I had decided not to take any friends along. I was glad I'd gotten there a little late. There were twelve other people before me, twelve people to learn from and twelve chances to visualize what should be done before I actually had to get up there and remove my toes from the comfort of the ground.

The next two people up inspired great confidence, though. They couldn't get their knees up to the bar. At that point, I decided that even the experience of swinging on a trapeze would make it worth it for me, and that any sort of trick would be chocolate fudge icing on a double-chocolate cake.

The rest of the students passed in quick succession. Some had clearly done this before. Others were obviously first-timers. My fellow first-timers generally made an undignified scramble for the bar, but that was okay—at our level, just touching the bar with one's toes could be considered an amazing achievement.

And then it was my turn. I climbed up the aluminum ladder, which swayed with every step. I visualized the first person's performance, while giving myself permission to do the frog scramble that other beginners did. It was going to be okay. It was going to be fun.

On the platform, Adam tightened my harness and hooked up the two safety lines that Bobby controlled. He told me to stand with my toes off the edge and lean forward to grab the bar with my right hand. And then I was somehow supposed to trust this guy to hang on to me as I grabbed the bar with my left hand, leaning forward so that my center of gravity was over thin air. As part of me started thinking ahead to the things that might go wrong and how I might deal with them (hands slipping because of sweat or surprise? safety person not paying attention), another part of me though, "What the heck, I'm up here already. I want to see what it's like. Let's go!"

"Hep!", he said, and off I went.

That first swing is a rush. I'd like to say that the only thought that was running through my head was "DO NOT LET GO DO NOT LET GO DO NOT LET GO". But it wasn't. It was just too much *fun* watching the world whiz by. And at the height of that swing, Bobby gave me the signal to get my knees up there.

Right. Time to haul myself up. So I hauled.

You must understand that the last time I did anything even remotely like this was when I was five years old and doing gymnastics. No, wait, I also made a habit of hanging upside down by my knees in the low-branched kalachuchi trees of my high school. But it had been a very long time since I had climbed a tree or played on monkey bars.

No, I did not have this flashback while I was up there. I was too busy hauling. Crunch, scramble, get those knees up and over.

Whee! And then to let go of the bar—and point my toes—and arch my back—whee!

It was over far too soon. The toughest part was figuring out how to get back on the ground. I squawked, bounced off the net, clambered to the edge, and tried to let myself over gracefully. Nope, I used up all of my grace points doing that trapeze trick. But I did manage to get myself back on terra firma without breaking anything.

And then we were taught another trick: somersaulting on the dismount by tucking our knees in and leaning back. Piece of cake!

I'm going to sign up for circus classes this fall. I probably won't go for the trapeze right away, although I'll drop in for classes once in a while. I think I'll start off with flexibility training, because that's something I can keep practicing on my own. But I've found something I enjoy doing. Now I have even better reasons to develop strength, endurance, and flexibility. I could always *see* these tricks in my mind's eye, and now I can remember the exhilaration.


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Flew a kite today

We enjoyed a long weekend because of Canada Day, so we had enough leisure time to make a kite out of bamboo sticks and plastic. We had a hard time flying it in the chaotic breeze, but it was good fun anyway. I also practiced on the devilsticks. I'll get the hang of it yet.

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We sometimes do high-five pushups during krav maga exercise/self-defense classes. I haven't gone in a while, but feeling an itch to do something active today, I decided to do some of the warmups. This time, however, I incorporated the book that I was reading. For example, I turned the high-five pushups into page-turn pushups, turning the pages with one hand. I did leg raises while reading, situps while reading, side leg raises while reading... you get the picture. This made the exercises a little more interesting.

Hmm, maybe I should revive my iPod and speech-synthesize some text files...

I still haven't worked up a sweat. It would be better to do this in clothes that I don't mind sweating in. I did manage to get my heart rate up, though.

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We hiked part of the Bruce Trail near Caledon this morning. We started at Belfountain and hiked east toward the Forks of the Credit River trail, but it was closed due to construction. We saw the waterfall, though, and had an... interesting... detour picking up the trail again after we lost it on the way back. Hooray for boots and mossy rocks on steep inclines. =)

I enjoyed feeling the ground yield beneath my hiking boots. Walking on paved sidewalks all the time is just not the same as getting out there. The weather was pleasantly cool, and the mosquitoes hadn't yet clogged the air. What I liked the most, though, was chatting with W and J about the different things we saw along the path—the blue blazes, the trees, the pine needles that covered the forest floor—and the stories that connected with them.

I saw a garter snake sunning itself beside a rock. W had mentioned that he'd never seen a snake, so I pointed out the garter snake to W and J: a little black and white striped snake that slithered away before I could take a picture of it.

What a wonderful day: conversation, nature, physical exercise, cooperative problem-solving, and most of all, the weaving of old stories and new experiences into new stories.

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