I’m pole walking. Not to be confused with pole dancing, which is beyond me by thirty years and thirty pounds – okay, forty.
A line of people striding through the park this summer gripping what looked like ski poles had me rubbernecking down the main drag. Then I read a timely article on the benefits of this exercise. Aha! My enthusiasm swelled. I could burn 46% more calories walking – something I enjoyed doing anyway – with poles. Count me in.
A new friend had walking poles and offered to teach me. How hard could it be? We agreed to meet the next morning. Even the misty rain didn’t dampen my excitement.
Just carry the poles for a bit, she instructed. Even though they’re lightweight, she needed to remind me to keep swinging my arms as I walked. Then I progressed to dragging the poles behind me. Seriously, that’s part of the training. Sounds laughably easy but I wasn’t laughing. Somehow, I’d started swinging the wrong arm with the right leg. She stopped me. Well, she tried to stop me. I heard her the first time but I was determined to coordinate my stride and swing. Her third ‘stop’ was more insistent. I came to a halt, my poles perfectly positioned behind me. She wasn’t impressed. Three times I told you to stop, she said in a tone honed from years of teaching grade three. You’re thinking too hard, she told me, try again.
I was grateful for the rain, which was more than just a mist now. It kept people indoors. But not for long. As my friend was drilling me with ‘left … left … left…’ and I was focusing on swinging the alternate arm – normally a natural motion even for me – a man came out to his front porch, laughing. I wish I had a video of this, he said. Yeah, this is a real knee slapper, I thought.
Though my friend’s kind voice said many people have trouble learning the poles, her eyes questioned my ability to chew gum and walk.
I continued dragging my poles, correctly I thought, until my friend asked to see me walk without them. I could hardly blame her for sensing that she should have tested my mobility before we began this arduous training.
Just then a dog walker commented on her way past, Is it really that hard? You have no idea, I shouted after her. Exasperation was taking hold. My friend suggested I was over thinking. Relax, she said. Loosen Up. Just walk. It was too late. I was afflicted with the centipede syndrome.
The rain was falling harder. The session was over. She knew it. I knew it. The neighbours peeking through their blinds knew it.
I traipsed home, rain-soaked, carrying the poles that my congenial instructor loaned me for practice. My mind whirled. I didn’t want to just carry my poles – or drag my poles. I wanted to dig in, push off, and work those muscles as I strode around the park, arms swinging, shoulders back, head high. It’s easy.
Then a long ago memory popped into my head. I almost laughed out loud. My son was four or five when he started hockey. He was so eager. When he realized the training that went into learning the game, he was ready to quit. He expected to step onto the ice and play a game of hockey. It’s easy, he’d said. I’d always wondered from whom he’d inherited that impatient and unrealistic trait. That mystery is now solved.