Saturday, February 28, 2009

Don't Forget To Breathe

I heard that phrase a lot the past two days. I was volunteered (read mandated by the boss... with "or else" implied) to attend a 2 day training with a new co-worker. We were to learn how to teach an exercise class to people with arthritis. It's sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation and offers lots of helpful hints. Aiding the seniors in enjoying life is part of what I enjoy about my job. Learning new things is always good. But one thing remains the same.

Role play sucks.

Granted I'm fortunate not to suffer from any of the 100 forms of arthritis. (No, I didn't know there were that many either). I don't mind learning new terms, finding better ways to do things which are more effective and easier on the body. But dear Lord in heaven, spare me from being a guinea pig in front of a crowd.

Especially a guinea pig who's been asked to do odd things on the spur of the moment in the middle of a circle of strangers.

Yesterday we spent 7 hours learning the varying forms of exercise. We did 59 of the 72 approved exercises. Thankfully, we were spared the humiliation of lying on the floor for the rest. But that's where humiliation ended. The problem with me, you see, is I'm happier being an Indian than being the Chief. Oh with my group, no problem. I've known them for years and I'm allowed to sprinkle in humor. The more, the merrier. The sponsor, however, is utilizing tried and proven methods with scientific evidence to back it up. Every other word we heard was, "Stick to the book! Don't deviate." It's not just an ego thing (theirs), it's an insurance thing. If you do something not sanctioned by the sponsor, you can personally be sued if an injury occurs. This includes allowing folks to discuss the weird remedies they've heard for arthritis during your class. Afterwards, however, they can compare notes to their heart's delight.

I went to sleep last night mumbling, "Stick to the Book!"

The worst part of role play is, as introverted as it makes me feel, there's always someone worse at it than me. And I feel bad for them. I can make myself perform like a trained monkey when it's absolutely necessary, but I'm not gonna volunteer. I muddled through my 3 assigned exercises with humor. Okay, so it was more for me than them but they laughed at the right times. My first one was the "Thigh Firmer", not a fond subject for any woman over the age of 12 or 100 pounds. So I smiled and said,"Great, give the thigh exercise to the chubby chick," at which point everyone laughed. And relaxed. The good thing is these exercises can be done standing up or sitting down. Mine included a chair, which is good. Then no one would have to watch me fight the urge to shift from one foot to the other in discomfort.

It was embarrassing, however, to watch someone old enough to be my grandmother stammer through a sentence of instruction not because she was nervous, but because she didn't understand what she was asking us to do. That's when the trainers stepped in and I will concede that they did so politely and with grace. We had a co-ed class, making it funny to watch the men look perplexed when one student instructor said,"Okay, now stick out those chests, boobs up high." One guy looked lost, one appeared embarrassed and the last one...I think he was checking out boobs.

We finished with a three hour session today, complete with our "homework" assignment. I understand the benefits but I to sit all of my "students" in a chair and have them use their legs and feet to trace the letters of the alphabet in the air. Really.

Today I have bounced a ball, thrown it in the air, clapped while it was in the air and finally thrown it in the air again so I could smack my butt before catching said ball. They swear there's a benefit to that. I'm guessing kicking myself in the butt is what I'll do later....for being so damned dependable that I get assigned this kind of stuff. We marched through the building like demented Marines as our "Drill Instructor" called out, "I don't know but I've been told, exercise is good for the soul." And yes, we had to "sound off" and repeat.

We used disco music, which was all they could find, to do non-jumping jumping jacks. I had to bite my lip at the irony of being sung to by K.C. & the Sunshine Band as rain angrily pelted the windows. Then again maybe it was just keeping time to the music. Who knows. We did the "Hokey Pokey" with um....different motions than I learned as a kid. For any of you unfamiliar with this great American childhood ritual perpetuated by elementary school music teachers, it's a silly kid's song with hand/leg movements. "You put your right foot in, you take your right foot out, you put your right foot in and you shake it all about. You do the Hokey Pokey and turn yourself around. That's what it's all about!" Unlike Hanky Panky, the Hokey Pokey is merely raising your hands in the air and wiggling your fingers as if you've just had a religious experience you want everyone to know you spin yourself in a circle. This continues with the leg, etc. I'm guessing the last line is just so you'll know when to stop.

We made figure eights with our arms, which looked like drunken hula. There were balloons and ribbons, but not tied together...although at one point I certainly thought a pair of the older ladies were going to have to be unraveled while standing too close.

And on it went. A lecture. An exercise. Public humiliation. A cheerful,"Well, what did you think about that?" from the instructors. All this was interspersed with "Stick to the book!" Then came the ream of paperwork to do before and after class, which confused over half those assembled, even with an outline listing page numbers.

You know what stuck with me? The very first thing we did; how to shake hands with someone who has arthritis. You don't go for that firm handshake. You gently clasp a person's inner arm, just below the elbow, with your hand and lean your arm against theirs, which makes that person instinctively do the same. Great! I thought. This will be easy to remember. I can just tell my class to envision two Roman soldiers clasping forearms in greeting. It wasn't just a greeting, I will explain, it was the original metal detector: soldiers shaking each other down for hidden weapons. And in my head I hear....


My biggest fear isn't teaching this course to my seniors. It's that I'll wander off book... making the book breathe deeply just before it tells on me.


Matthew S. Urdan said...

Hey, I DO have a pulse! Thanks for checking....I haven't been blogging much, I've been slammed at work, focusing on Inside Government (, and moving the International Whitewater Hall of Fame website to a new server and starting a new blog for it. MTMD will get it's act together in the next week or so. I haven't participated in EntreCard, or even read Ken's blog more than once a week lately....ah, it's good to be employed. Especially in this economy. I hope you're well, and thanks for checking!

Susan said...

Oh Hope, wouldn't you know it, I have one of those 100 arthritises and now that it's gotten bad enough for physical therapy, my first session starts on Tuesday?! LOL Now I'm going to go in worried of being told to slap my own *** while tossing balls.

If I laugh my way through the whole hour, thinking of your post, I'll have you to thank---and will be sure to let you know how it goes. I'm looking forward to hearing how your group deals with this regime, too.

Don't forget to breathe, now! And STICK TO THE BOOK!

Poetikat said...

Years ago, I worked with a Down Syndrome boy in a kindergarten class and he was all over the Hokey Pokey! He loved it! I can only envision the scenario at your place. I like that you offered yourself up as the sacrificial lamb with the "chubby chick" remark. Good thinking.
That last paragraph was magic.


hope said...

Matt, I'm glad you're just busy...if that's a good thing. I'd sent you a website for checking on the Stimulus Watch by state. If it didn't go through, check here:

I like that you can pick a state, then even click on the project to see how that money will be spent. Thought it might come in handy for your other site.

Ah Susan, I thought of you the very first day! We were discussing Fibromialgia as one of the 4 most common. Gee, when I wade through the 4 BOOKS of info they gave me, I'll be glad to pass on any info which might be helpful to you. Some of the exercises are a hoot! [Okay, it's been a long day but I got this visual of you, smacking your *** while Radge and Terence both told you not to toss balls in the air if they belonged to a male therapist]. :0 Let me know how things go. I do care.

Kat, this version of the Hokey Pokey is hysterical! You even "jut your jaw in". If I wouldn't get sued, I'd make a video for YouTube.

Thanks y'all for helping me laugh at really does make life better.

Poetikat said...

Hope - Check out the latest at Invisible Keepsakes. I'm curious to see who you'd be.