Stories

Hsin: On discovering Ballet … and glutes

Tennis was never meant to be. When I tried as a child, the coach suggested I try something else. As a parent of two boys learning to play, I had an idyllic vision of playing tennis with them, before they got too good. And so, foolhardy I started tennis lessons in the summer of 2014. That summer, I was on a ‘fitness high’. I was enjoying running again, and for the first time in 15 years, completed a half marathon in 2 hours. By spring 2015, my tennis coach worked his magic and I graduated to returning some rallies across the court. Then one evening, I tried to turn for a cross court shot, and my knee collapsed. It was sore, but not a disaster. I could still walk home from what was my last tennis lesson, ever.

The tenderness and swelling in my knee carried on for weeks. An MRI scan showed the joint was inflamed; and that surprisingly I no longer had an ACL, hence the knee collapsing during tennis. I then remembered a skiing injury in my early twenties, but had managed to recover and continue to run, cycle, hike and ski since. Sadly, injury recovery is slow in one’s 40s. I had physio rehab for 3-4 months and was able to start cycling and Bikram yoga. Then one day during yoga, I suddenly had a stabbing back pain, which had me bedridden for a few days. But, good things come from bad.

I saw a different, and amazing, physio. Nathan assured me it was not a slipped disc. He found various muscular problems aggravated by compensating for my injured knee, a badly set up bicycle, and a general weakening of muscles from no longer running 20-30 miles a week. Eventually the physio sessions ran out, and Nathan suggested that I should try Pilates as the next stage of rehab.

I never really got on with Pilates, but I was prepared to try anything to be able to run again. Desperation and curiosity about the Reformer and various machines kept me interested for a couple of months. Although my instructor Nicky tried to make the exercises interesting and increasingly challenging, I was struggling to stay motivated. One day, we tried an exercise Nicky adapted from an arabesque. This sparked a conversation about Ballet – which Nicky has loved since her childhood, and I have never considered learning being ever the tomboy.

One evening, by the magic hand of misaligned diaries, I had to miss my usual Pilates lesson. Nicky suggested trying a Ballet lesson at her home studio instead. Although I was intrigued because I had enjoyed the new exercises, I was also very apprehensive about demonstrating how uncoordinated I was and being a total embarrassment.

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After just 10 Ballet classes: penché arabesque!

A few months in, Wednesday evening Ballet lessons is one of my week’s highlights. I come out of the lessons energised and smiling. Starting with balance and strength gained from yoga has helped, but within the first couple of lessons, I began to realise Ballet moves present a whole new kind of physical challenge. More surprisingly is how much I have come to enjoy the mental challenge of remembering the steps, while trying to stay coordinated and vaguely graceful. By the time we complete warm up, I have already had to push aside work and other stresses.

I am so grateful that under Nicky’s patient tutelage and encouragement, I have discovered the enjoyment of ballet, and rediscovered my core and glute muscles. Not only is this in itself rewarding, it has helped me slowly return to running. My aim was 3-4 miles on a sunny day. Last week, I ran 5 miles, and completed a 12 mile hike. Now, the next challenge is to be able to complete a full pirouette.