Monthly Archives: January 2013

Parkour

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What is Parkour? “In the strictest sense as defined by David Belle, Parkour is the art of moving through your environment as swiftly and effectively as possible using only the human body.” –(Parkour Terminology & Definitions)

In other words? Free running–or being bad-ass and climbing walls, flipping off of buildings–or leaping over objects.

I can barely feel my legs–and I’ve still got a good five to ten minutes left in the parkour warm up.
“Everyone’s going so fast,” I say out loud, as I finish a spider crawl a good 10 seconds behind the 8 men in my class.

One of my classmates turns to me in support, “Go your own pace–this is about you getting better–don’t worry about us.” He smiles a hopeful–and helpful–grin.

We transition from backward spider crawls to front-ward hops. My body feels worn. I stop mid-way to the finish line. I hear my friend Matt begin to cheer me on. Then the other guys join in. Instead of being intimidated or embarrassed by the cheering–I breathe it in.  It’s like being back on a team again.  “I can do this,” I say to myself. “I can get to that finish line.” And I do.

After ten more minutes of warm up–some struggles–and a quick game, Matt turns to me and says, “I don’t think we are supposed to be winded after the warm up.” He’s not trying to mock me. He is tired too. Huffing and puffing, but also laughing, I nod along.

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After refueling, we head back over to the mat for the parkour portion of the class. Now, barely able to feel my legs, I try and mentally prepare myself for what’s to come. Before coming to class, I imagined them teaching us how to step off of walls and do basic jumps. I was wrong.

As Matt and I arrive back over at the mats, we realize that there is a four and a half foot vaulting box sitting in the middle of the floor. My jaw drops and I begin asking myself,  “How the hell am I — at  5′ 2″ — supposed to make it over this thing?” And now every excuse is going through my head as to why I should just stop now: “I think I hurt my legs during the warm up.” “This isn’t for me.”

I continue staring at the box–and then I make a motion as if  I am going to attempt to clear it. And then I stop myself.

My instructor watches me as I indecisively go back and forth between going for it and not going for it. He walks over to me. “Libby, part of parkour is seeing an obstacle and just figuring out how to get over it–any way possible.”

He’s right. — Of course he’s right, he’s my instructor. And naturally, as a writer, I begin comparing what he has just said to me about parkour — to life. I think about the past year and how I made my way over, under, and around all my obstacles—how I didn’t let fear stop my perseverance, dedication, or determination–how I took on fear on a number of occasions and for lack of a better term–kicked its ass. Why I am even so fearful now–at this exact moment–I’m not sure–as the worst that can really happen is that I don’t make it over the vault–in which case of course, I’d get back in line and try again.

Matt is clearing the vault in what seems like an effortless manner.

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I thank my instructor for the push–and accelerate toward the vault. Right foot up. Left hand down. Right hand down. Left foot up. Jump down.

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It doesn’t look graceful. And it’s not quite exactly what I am supposed to. But I make it over the vault and in that single moment my confidence surges from a 2 to a 7. I whisper to myself, “Don’t look at the top of the mountain Libs–look at all the parts you need to get there.”

My confidence stays high and I go to jump the vault again–this time in what feels more like one swift motion. And then again–and again–and again. Though to be honest, sometimes, it feels as though I am going in such slow motion that my parkour name could be “Freeze Frame.”
DSC00133 The others are moving quickly through the vaults–the jumps–the moves–but I am taking my time.

I remind myself that this is my first time attempting this sport and that it’s just fine that I am still getting down the basics while others are twisting and turning themselves over one–even two boxes.

With each jump, I can feel myself exponentially getting better–I can feel myself getting more comfortable with the approach, the jump, and the landing. And I can feel myself smiling as I watch the others land their trick moves–my friend Matt gain some serious air–and my instructor cheer everyone on.

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A young girl joins our class toward the end and as we are taught one last move (one that asks us to hold ourselves up on a wall spiderman style) she watches a bout of doubt appears on my face. She yells to me, “Believe in yourself.”

The doubt diminishes–and I am now overwhelmed with courage. I reach one leg out–grip my hands to wall, and lower myself into the Spideman like position. I am supposed to count to ten, but I make it to 2.5. My classmates–turned teammates–cheer.

By the time class is over, I feel exhausted. Parkour to me feels like it should be called parksore–and my legs are ready to come out from beneath me. As we go to pack up our things, my friend turns to me and thanks me for inviting him–he says that he had a lot of fun and that it was a great pick me up–for a down day. I smile and thank him for joining–for seeing what hobby hoarding is all about (Which is pushing through mental challenges–overcoming fear–mixing up daily routines–and challenging oneself).

As we walk out of the gym, I glance back at the mats and think to myself: We may not have done every move perfectly–but we did get one part of class right. We believed in ourselves.

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Photos Courtesy of Elyse Mueller
http://www.elysemueller.com

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BKLYN BEAST
bklynbeast.com

DJ Libs

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Like the dance moves? Got your own? Good cause I am having an 80’s/90’s dance bash at The Alphabet Lounge (Professional DJ–not me though I know you loved my beats). See the invitation below:

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T’ai Chi: The art of relaxation

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6340244044_26476c4537_b  Photo Courtsesy: Landahlauts FLICKR

I’ve been unusually stressed lately. I feel insecure as I’ve gained what feels like a significant amount of winter weight; my current freelamce job comes to a close at the end of the month; and my personal endeavor also approaches a giant transition as I  complete my first hobby year. The combination of the three has caused a less than smooth ride since the turn of the calendar year and I am searching for balance once again – the balance I found during meditation earlier in the year. I imagine we all have these moments- where the waves keep knocking the ship we’re on–despite several previous months of smooth sailing.

When my friend asks me if I’d like to do a t’ai chi class with her, I don’t think twice . “This will be perfect- right before my long work trip to Arizona.”

As Kim and I arrive at our introductory course-, I already feel calmer. There is a silence in the room – and our instructors are so zen that I begin to believe that t’ai chi must secretly be some sedative type drug- and not an active class-despite always seeing people doing the exercises in the parks.

We watch as our set of instructors simultaneously go through their routine. Seven minutes later-after just watching- I already feel a weight off my shoulders. It feels as though a silent dance with relaxation is gracefully puiretting in front of me. It’s really quite beautiful.

Then it’s our turn. We begin to drift into our first movement- thoughts enter my mind.

I know – I’m not supposed to be thinking, but I am.

I feel as though this is the first time I’ve done something so relaxed in weeks. I feel like it’s the first time my thoughts have come through without white noise- without distraction- without a block. Normally, I would chase thoughts away – but instead, here and now, I welcome them – and I step, sway and breathe into them. We seem to be speaking to one another — the thoughts and me that is. I breathe again into them as though I am meditating on them.

As we pivot on our right foot and bring our arms up, I recognize the stress I’ve endured the last few weeks. I work on a reality crime television series so rarely there is a break in the action- but tonight there is.

I’ve already broken my resolution of not worrying about that which I cannot control – but t’ai chi let’s me focus on how I can face that resolution and make a comeback. Right here , right now- I  am centered.. I know, again, I shouldn’t be conversing with my thoughts – but I am. I am calm. I am cool. I am collected. I hear a song play in my head – I feel the moves smoothly transition from one to the next and like meditation, I begin to a feel a greater sense of grounded-ness– a greater sense of balance–a greater sense of “it’s all going to be okay.”

Shift weight left- return to center , arms on strings – I continue to follow effortlessly— this is definitely what calm means.

As a teacher fixes my posture- I remain still while my inner dialogue continues . “You’re going to be just fine Libs — no you’re going to be great .”

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Special Thanks
T’ai Chi Chuan
School of T’ai Chi Chuan
www.taichichuan.org

Pon De FLO

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“You made it through!”

My new friend Jimmy laughs and takes a sip of his water as our Pon De Flo class comes to an end. I giggle, “Yes I did. That was a lot of fun!”

As some may remember, I kicked off the year by taking two group dance classes–pole dancing and hip hop.

On both occasions, I brought a set of nerves with me. With pole dancing, I was hoping to overcome difficulties accepting my self-image, and with hip-hop I was just trying to overcome the fear of being judged in a group setting. The truth is that prior to this year, group dance classes scared, for lack of a better term, the shit out of me. On a scale of 1-10, my fear of group dance classes ranked around an 8 or 9. To put that into perspective–when i jumped out of an airplane, my fear level was around a 1.5.

I always worried that I’d be judged for stepping the wrong way in Zumba–or for not wearing the right “dance attire,” (please see jazz dance to see what I mean). So if my friend, Tory of LIfe Vest Inside, had suggested the dance craze Pon De Flo before this year, I am pretty sure my response would have been “Pon De NO!” But instead, I jumped at the opportunity for another dance class.

(Sidenote: Pon De FLO is a combination of Caribbean and reggae dance that requires a willingness to have fun!).

As I arrived at Ripley Grier for the 3:00 class with Heather Fay, I didn’t think twice. I slid off my sweat pants to reveal my Princeton field hockey shorts and grabbed a spot on the floor. I looked around and noticed that this class had attracted a great diversity of people. There were men. There were women. And there were people of all sizes, smiling and getting prepped for the next hour and a half of high energy dance. ‘People must really love this,’ I thought to myself. And for a few minutes, I decided to mingle with some of the veterans.

“Get ready to sweat a lot,” said one. “You’ll definitely get hot,” added another. “Just go with the flow,” mentioned Jimmy.

Before I knew it we were flowing right along. “Left, right, left, right, shimmy, left, right, left, right, shimmy.” I kept reciting what Heather was doing in front of the class, in my head. I moved my hips every which way, bounced my booty, and waved my arms. About a quarter of the way through the class, Heather told everyone to move up a bit because the people in the last row didn’t have room. As a member of the last row, I joked, “It doesn’t matter, it’s not like I know what I am doing quite yet anyway.” My back row companions laughed along with me. Just a year prior, I’d be too scared to even speak to another person in a group dance class. Now I was making friends.

A few minutes later, when a step caused us to turn around, forcing me to suddenly be a part of the front row  of the class, I momentarily panicked. However, instead of losing my composure, I just began to bust a move and hope it was right. I can definitely tell you this much: It did not look graceful–but it didn’t matter: It was very easy to see that no one was judging me–not even myself.

I didn’t realize this of course until half way through the class when I had an epiphany–or a hobby breakthrough: As I began giggling to myself while I messed up another dance move (sorry Heather!), I noticed that I didn’t care if people thought I was America’s next best dancer–I didn’t care if people saw me mess up–and I didn’t care if my right foot accidentally went when my left foot was supposed to. Eventually, I felt tears begin to fill my eyes. I wasn’t in pain–and I wasn’t ready to run out of the room screaming. No, instead the tears had developed because a great amount of pride had come over me. I realized in that moment, that the fears and worries that I had carried with me just 11 months prior had now dissipated completely. While it may sound insignificant when written down, it was one of the highest points of my hobby year, because it had meant that the hobby year was coming full circle–revealing bits and pieces about myself and how far I’d come, without me realizing that it would.

After clearing out my eyes, I came back to the present moment and realized that the moves were much faster now. I laughed some more. “Just keep dancing like no one is watching, Libs,” I thought to myself. Then I shook it out. “This feels pretty freaking good.”

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http://www.pondeflo.com

A Penny a Day: A newly created hobby

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Who are we kidding? If we thought I’d make it through this year without inventing my own hobby, we’d be off our rockers…

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Some people have recommended coin collecting to me as one of my 52 weeks of hobbies–but I’ve decided to do the exact opposite. In addition to the hobby project, I’ve created a new project called A Penny a Day, in which I will be leaving one heads-up penny each day–somewhere–for someone, to find, in hopes that it will bring good luck or at least a superstitious smile. And for each one, I will take a photo to share. So I guess we can call this hobby, “Penny Leaving.”

You may be wondering where I got the idea. So here’s the story:

A couple months ago, at the Grey Dog in Union Square, I dropped a penny. When I looked down, I noticed that it was tails-up. While I’ve never believed a tails up penny to be bad luck-I’ve always gotten a kick out of a heads-up penny, so I picked the penny back up and shoved it in my pocket until it was ready to give someone good luck.

That morning, I brainstormed the penny project–in which I would leave a heads-up penny every day in a different location for someone to find, beginning on
January 1, 2013.

The truth is that I personally believe that something as simple as a heads-up penny can trigger a shift from negative thoughts to positive ones. I couldn’t prove that to you scientifically–but when was the last time you found a penny and didn’t automatically check to see if it was a heads–or a tails? And what did you do when you discovered it was a tails…or a head? To be honest, I’ve read that many people don’t pick pennies up at all– “too small.” But I want to believe that the kid in us will still get excited over something as simple–and small as a heads-up penny. Besides–Remember when a penny could buy one swedish fish?—Those were the days!

Alas, when  I woke up on January 1, the penny project didn’t come to mind–and I had almost forgotten it all together–that is until I stepped onto the L Train–and saw a gleaming piece of copper on a lonely bench:

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As I examined more closely, I discovered that the gleaming piece of copper was a heads-up penny.

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In that moment, I knew that I had to start the Heads-Up Penny Project as I had intended to.

So I picked up my fortune and placed a newer, 2012, penny down on the bench–the first penny of the year.

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And then I smiled.

“If a heads-up penny isn’t a good sign to start to 2013, then what is?”

Oh–and that penny I found–I used it to scratch a lottery ticket just a half hour later: I won 10 bucks.

And that my friends–is the power of a penny…and how the Penny a Day hobby came to be.

I’d like to invite you to leave pennies too–and submit them via email to libbysegal12@gmail.com    —

Please include: a photo,  one sentence about the penny, your name, and your site (optional).

Looking forward to the adventures of our pennies!

Pennies up!

onepennyaday.wordpress.com

Happy New Year: The Polar Bear Swim

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I figured the best way to kick off the new calendar year, hobby style, would be to head out to Coney Island for the annual Polar Bear Swim. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t more nervous about polar bear swimming than I was about sky diving. If followers might remember, I admitted to being terrified of the ocean in my surfing post a couple months back. While I overcame my fear that day, I suddenly felt an anxiety about jumping into waters that were no more than 38 degrees Fahrenheit.

In fact, I had nearly talked myself out of it as I paced back and forth across my apartment. “You can’t back out. It’s the first day of the new year.  You can’t back out. This is a game changer” In reality, it probably wasn’t, as I have a couple other hobbies also planned for later in the week, but I’d heard the encouraging phrase enough in television and film that it seemed appropriate–and it in fact was, as it got me out the door and into the cold.

“It’s not THAT bad out,” I tried to tell myself and I made my way to the subway. “At least it’s the warmest day of the week?” I giggled, and began to talk to myself again, “Oh Libs, it’s cold, get over it. You’ll be in your batman gear–and it’ll be fun…frigid…but fun.”

The good news is, I wasn’t doing the Polar Bear Swim alone. A producer that I have worked with in the past–who I also consider a good friend–had promised her son, Lucas, that he could do the Polar Bear Swim with me, after he came along to watch and help video my shark dive back in October. And I knew in the back of my head that he was much more excited about this than I was–so it was another encouraging reason to get my butt down to Coney Island and all my other body parts in the water.

I arrived at Stillwell Ave. around 12:15PM–just in time to meet up with my friend, her son, Lucas, and the rest of their family. While Lucas got dressed, his dad turned to me and told me how proud he was of me for what I had done this year. He then told me that Lucas had said he wanted to be like me and go on adventures. I couldn’t help but to smile. It was one of the greatest compliments I had received this year. It was in that moment that I began to let my anxiety about the cold water dissolve.

—That is until of course we were all on the beach slowly de-layering in unison with over a thousand of other individuals. “Brrrrrrrr.” I could feel even the lowest blowing winds running through my batman boxer briefs and cape.

I laughed out loud to myself. “What would Batman do?”

Suddenly, people started running past us. And then a burst of energy rushed through Lucas and myself as we both began to run toward the water. Before I even had a chance to look back, the cold water struck my ankles and my calves and my thighs and finally my waist.

“Holy crap, Holy crap, Holy Crap, Holy Crap-It’s cold.” I tried to censor my language around the 8 year old as I shivered through a number of virgin swears.

And then after about twenty seconds, I proclaimed that I was “All set,” and began running back toward the shore.

My brave companion followed, but the Atlantic Ocean beckoned to him and he made his way back out two more times before finally calling it a day. I watched as his dad continued to video with a giant smile on his face. I could see the pride in each of the family member’s faces as my polar bear teammate wrapped himself up in a towel. It warmed my heart–enough to take the focus off my endless shivers.

After changing into some warm clothes, Lucas turned to me and said, “Can we do more adventures this year?”

“Why…yes…yes we can, as long as your mom and dad say yes” I responded. And then I thought to myself, ‘And…as long as it doesn’t involve jumping into the ocean when it’s below 70 degrees outside, sans wet suit.’

His mom then told me that Lucas would be doing the shark tank at the aquarium, as I had done, for his 12th birthday. That’s about three years away, but there’s nothing wrong with planning hobbies in advance–at least in my opinion.

Cheers to another year!

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Special Thanks:
Abby, Jason, Lucas, & Natasha
Happy New Year!
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