How do you get better at something for which you have very little aptitude?
I have always been a klutz at sports. One of my legs was slightly misshapen when I was very small (I have very early recollections of wearing a brace), and although it was more or less fixed the two legs don’t always work together very well.
Of course, the doctors warned me that I was supposed to wear nothing but lace-up, supportive shoes for the rest of my life to keep my legs in line. But I’m a sucker for high-heeled mules, ballet slippers, and clogs so I haven’t paid any attention to those warnings since I was eight and bullied my parents into buying me my first pair of heels. (I was only allowed to wear them for dress up at home, but I adored them. They were red!)
I made my legs and balance worse a few years back by slipping on the ice TWICE in the same winter and banging my right knee both times.
In addition to the leg issue, I have poor depth perception (my glasses help a little but don’t solve the problem) and pathetic hand-eye coordination.
The only game I played with any skill in my youth was tennis. The racket was big enough to give me a good chance of hitting the ball even if I couldn’t see exactly where the darn thing was. I wasn’t a great tennis player, but I had fun. Ironically, I mastered the form well enough so that in high school I taught tennis to the other girls in my physical-education class. My pupils could beat me at the game almost immediately, but teaching them gratified me nonetheless.
In general in my adult life my sports of choice—if one doesn’t count bridge as a sport, which I really think one should!—have been walking with the dog and swimming. I don’t do either very quickly, but they keep me moving and breathing. Let’s call them physical activities rather than sports.
Unfortunately, this hasn’t been a good summer for either activity. My little dog finds it too hot to walk. Since her car accident last year she walks even more slowly than I do when I manage to get her out onto the street. (I’m the slowest human walker I know.)
And my usual swimming hole, the Dam down the road at Singing Brook Farm, was hit hard by Hurricane Irene at the end of last summer. We hope it will be fixed in time for next year, but the process of getting the proper permits to do anything in a waterway is cumbersome and lengthy. So swimming more than a couple of strokes is out.
With fewer walks and fewer swims I have hauled out the Wii fitness program I purchased a couple of years ago.
The Wii can drive me nuts. It loves to weigh me (never my favorite activity) and to administer little tests that allegedly determine my “Wii Fit Age.” Depending on the tests the machine chooses, that age can vary by as much as 30 years. I have learned to ignore it.
Many of the tasks the Wii prescribes to correct my balance and hone my coordination remind me of the difficulties of my youth. I gave up skiing after a few tries because it was almost impossible for me to move smoothly on the snow. And skating … well, the last time I went roller skating I spent more time on the floor of the rink than on my feet. My roommate informed me that the black-and-blue marks made me look as though I had a REALLY abusive boyfriend.
Still, I keep at the tasks. Each day I get ever so slightly better. Most of the time the Wii still tells me that I’m “unbalanced,” not precisely an adjective a girl likes to use to describe herself. My scores are improving bit by bit, however, and in some of the games I have graduated from “unbalanced” to “amateur.”
Despite its critical tone the Wii is easier to handle than some of the classes I took in my youth, in which I had to watch everyone else get better while I stayed the same. (I took beginning ballet for years, with no hope of graduating to toe work.) I can work at my own pace with no competition but myself. And I can try again … and again … and again until I more or less get the hang of the tasks at hand.
I’ll never be a candidate for the Olympics. I am learning to learn, however. And that’s an activity I can enjoy.