Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Persistence or 100%?

The other night, I apologized to my instructor for skipping class a few times in a row (I always try to go once a week, sometimes more, but sometimes even once a week doesn't quite work out) and admitted that sometimes lately it's been hard to push myself to come to class.  For one, I can't always participate in everything anymore, and that can make me feel left out.  Also, I often have to dial back or stop early when we are working on something particular -- if we are in the middle of a highly aerobic exercise, for example, or if we are devoting an entire night to kicking routines -- and that makes me feel like I'm not trying hard enough.  I'm also taking more breaks: snack breaks and bathroom breaks.  I swear, this week, every time I stand up, I discover I have to pee again.  It was funny for about ten minutes, then it became super annoying.

My instructor told me that every time I come out onto the mat, I am an inspiration to the other people in class, because if I can come to class pregnant, then everyone else's excuses for missing class seem lame by comparison.  I was surprised to hear this.  First of all, it's not hard to COME to class as a pregnant lady -- showing up is the easy part; it's doing my best that's getting more and more difficult.  Or, perhaps, my "best" is just less and less as the weeks go by.

This brings up a lot of issues and ideas for me.  First, let me acknowledge that the standards for my performance are stunningly low compared to anyone else in class.  If I'm working out with everyone and an instructor is walking around offering tips or corrections, they never tell me anything anymore.  It's as if they pass me over as long as I'm still upright and breathing.  I realize that it might be a little harsh to tell the pregnant lady she's not kicking high enough, but I didn't expect the standards to be SO LOW that I could basically perform like a buffoon and everyone would just pretend they didn't notice.  Some of the male instructors, quite honestly, still ask me every time they see me if I'm OK doing the stretching exercises or the warm-ups.  I don't want to be snarky, but YES, I'M OK and if I'm not, I'll stop, I promise, you don't have to check in all the time.  Maybe this is because my gut keeps getting bigger and, as guys, they are all waiting for it to explode into labor at the drop of a hat.

Second, before I got pregnant, I never really wanted to go to class if I didn't feel my best.  If my muscles were sore from a previous workout or I had a cold or I was tired, I would skip class thinking that I needed to save it for when I was in peak condition.  I'm still not sure how I feel about this on the other side -- since, now that I'm pregnant, every time I go to class I'm not in peak condition.  Which one is more important, giving 100% or simply showing persistence?

My instructors have been pushing hard on the persistence angle recently, possibly because the classes have been smaller over this past winter.  They want us to come no matter how we feel.  They tell us that, for example, if you've hurt your knee or ankle, you can still come to class and do arm workouts.  The idea seems to be that skipping is for sissies and that real martial artists would just come to class every night no matter what.

But, the other side of that is that those same instructors hardly ever want to hear about excuses or injuries when we come to class.  If someone shows up with an injured wrist, it's pretty likely that an instructor will ask, "How bad is it really?" or "But you can still do self-defense [or whatever the workout is for the night] anyway, right?"  I'm not sure they understand that when we come to class feeling less than great, we feel bad when we have to bow out of an activity, especially when they are pushing us to do everything anyway.  Sometimes skipping class when we are injured is the only way to gracefully opt out of these weird, uncomfortable conversations.

I've discovered my own voice in this since I've been pregnant.  I don't feel so bad standing up to the instructors anymore, but I know it's entirely because I can "blame the baby."  Technically, it's someone else's fault that I can't hold the kicking pad today.  But even so, sometimes I'm still super uncomfortable saying what I can and can't do to someone else, especially someone else who outranks me.  When there are exactly enough people in the class for a partner drill, but I have to opt out because I can't hold the pad, I feel like I'm ruining class for everyone.

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