Skinning the cat

Before I am deluged with angry responses, probably written in violently hued ink and with appalling grammar, let me assure everyone that no cat was harmed in the making of this post (well, not by me – I have no idea what WordPress might get up to).  Felis catus may be a menace to our smaller indigenous wildlife, exacting a terrible death toll each year, but I really don’t think I could could kill one.  In fact, if I had to kill what I eat, I would be even more vegetarian than I (mostly) am already – except for fish: I reckon I could kill a fish (well, I reckon I have the stomach for it but cannot guarantee that I have the necessary physical skill).

No, we return to one of the primary purposes of this blog: me showing off.  Many, if not all, of the non-essential activities in which I indulge (those towards the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) are performed with but one objective in mind: amusement (usually mine, but I’m willing to share).  Often, this amusement arises from the incongruity of me (of all people) performing the action in question – generally, in the hands (or with the bodies) of others, the actions would seem far more “in keeping” and so much less funny.

As recent readers will know, I am trying to retrain as a gymnast as I have heard that there are excellent job prospects in this field with very good associated working conditions.  There are at least two grounds for amusement here: (a) that I have started rather late in life on this career choice (I believe most budding gymnasts start before reaching double figures age-wise) and (b) my innate clumsiness which means I usually struggle to make it through doorframes intact.  Nevertheless, I am making surprisingly good progress – though don’t think I will be troubling the GB Olympic Committee for their trip to Brazil (maybe the next Commonwealth Games?).

The L-sit is a doddle, my pistol squats are getting pretty good, especially on the right leg (the left is very much my foot-of-clay in this context), I am perilously close to achieving the front lever and my dragon flag will soon challenge Bruce Lee (though he is operating with a slight handicap, being dead these many years – and death does restrict one’s mobility).  So, my latest challenge is the back lever. If you have seen someone perform a back lever, it looks frankly impossible – unless you are part-gibbon – but I chose to remain only seriously daunted.  The gurus at Brightside PT suggested that a way to approach the impossible would be to learn to skin the cat.  Now, if we go back 40 years, every 8 year old girl could do this in the playground without any difficulty – however, I am 48 and 6′ 3″ and this looked pretty daunting to me and I’m wasn’t very good at hanging sufficiently inverted to achieve the position (I worry about falling off or snapping my arms somewhere important – which I think is everywhere when it comes to arm-snapping).  So, in an attempt to conquer my fears and move ahead I did a little research on the internet and came across GymasticsWOD – which offered a route which didn’t look totally impossible.

So, this morning I took to the rings and attempted to follow Coach Paolo and move toward a flayed feline of my very own.  As you will all have guessed by now, I did it – almost immediately – and I can reverse the process.  After a few attempts, I can even control my speed through the manoeuvre and hold station at pretty much any point. I will admit that on my first few attempts the downward phase was fairly rapid and did leave me decidedly dizzy – but my inner ears seem to have learned to compensate quite quickly.  To me, as well as being amusing, this ability is little short of magical – if you told me even a couple of months ago that I’d be doing this, I would have laughed.  However, there does exist video evidence of me skinning the cat (though hopefully this will never become publicly available) – in fact, the first attempt at video failed and so a re-take was required.

Several hours later, I can still move all the important parts of my body – though my forearms are a little stiff – so I’m hoping this splendid situation survives the night.  There is a non-zero risk that my shoulders or upper back may be virtually immobile in the morning – but that will be a small price to pay.  The back lever looks to be within my grasp and I can then perhaps move on to the iron cross (I already have some of the basics here – but lack a high enough ceiling).  However, the end objective does remain the human flag so that I can molest every lamppost and street sign I pass – well, it was the target until I started researching images of the back lever to link to, and found you (or at least one person) can do it with only one arm!  This is, of course, one of the great things about starting gymnastics late in life – there is always something more difficult to aim at.  You also learn a whole new, and much less restful, meaning of the word kipping.  However, I shall leave that particular range of exercises until my return from festival frivolities in Edinburgh.

I have found that there is a potential downside to all this foolishness.  As a result of the training to perform such idiotic moves, I think I probably won last month’s gym challenge.  I didn’t mean to, it was just used as part of my training and (as it transpired) I was quite good at it.  I was 5% ahead of the nearest competition, but on Tuesday I moved to 55% ahead.  This may not seem a bad thing to you, but I have now been asked to form part of the team for a “tough mudder”.  As I believe I’ve made clear in this blog, I am not at all keen on getting my hands (which generally are exposed to the world) dirty, let alone my entire body.  It also seems to require running the best part of 12 miles – and I try to avoid running unless absolutely vital, e.g. when pursued by a bear.  I am capable of walking quickly and if more speed is needed I have three bicycles or use public transport.  So, unless we can replace the mud with some suitably warmed sparking mineral water and I’m allowed to use my bike – I shall try and resist the clamour for me to get tough and muddy.  Should I fail, you, dear readers, will be the first to know…


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