Zoe introduced me to Fitball at the beginning of this year. She called it low impact hilarity. She wasn't wrong. While she's pulled back for more exciting pursuits like soccer and inter-campus bike-riding, I’ve kept going because it's the first exercise class I've ever been to where laughing is not only encouraged, but absolutely mandatory because it’s impossible to take yourself seriously when you're jiggling about on a large inflatable ball. The instructor (J) is eye-candy, the room is padded, and the music is now excellent, thanks to my introducing said instructor to the joys of arty fufkin and DJ Moule et al. J is hooked to the point of buying a broadband connection to cope with his joy, and we now bounce in mash-up heaven.
I'd like to introduce fitball to those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about.
Noddy (who had a bit of a rough day with a purple pen a few years ago. In our family he stutters in a very effeminate voice)
Funky the Lion (who used to wear a khaki safari suit and hat – what sick brain thought of that?!)
An odd imp dude (whose name escapes me. In fact he may not be named. For he is not one of The Four Who Survived Toddlerhood. He is temporary.)
Bertram (aka Ernie, but who has been renamed in an ongoing bedtime puppet play)
Bertrand (the pretender Ernie, found at a garage sale a few months ago, and briefly substituted for the real E. But discovered quickly, for there are no substitutes for a child’s first love)
The cream flannel sheets on Bumblebee's bed, in the hope that the various bits of fluff and detritus will echo the wrestling mat at the Strine Insetute of Sport, covered with wrestlers' bellybutton lint and leg hairs. Yes, ew.
The Arty Fufkin Workout Mix, 25 minutes of convoys, Daleks and other retro/po-mo delights.
We all choose a ball according to our tastes. Balls vary in size and softness, depending on how hard they are blown up. If you arrive late, you get the biggest/smallest/hardest ball. We all have our favorites, which can be spotted from a distance as they are released from the storage net, despite the fact that they are all large and silver. If you're not careful, blood can be drawn in the rush.
We start with bouncing up and down, side to side, and star jumps. If you're new, this is the first time you fall off.
"Thank you Noddy, wonderfully gentle bouncing." "Oh, oh, oh... th th th thank you, Miss Duck!"
Then we start balancing: lifting one leg, boths legs, looking at the ceiling, lying back, each working up to our own levels.
Noddy is learning to kneel on his ball.
Standing on the ball is pretty advanced. As is walking on the ball and bouncing around in a circle. I can't do those yet. I can, however, balance on the ball on one knee and one hand. This practice time is when most people have splendid falls off their ball. And laugh.
Now Noddy is showing us how far he has come since his first class.
Now, of course, Noddy is just being a smartarse.
Usually after this we do exercises in a group, or we start the more deadly circuit. Today we will do a small circuit. Here Noddy is trying to lie on his back and hold the ball up in the air with his ankles. Unfortunately his head is too big.
"I I I I'm doing my best, Miss Duck!" "I'm sure you are, Noddy."
Here Noddy is in the throes of an exercise whose name escapes me, but involves lying face down on the ball and raising your legs up behind you. Zoe used to crack me up during this by chanting 'I am a beautiful dolphin. I am a beautiful dolphin.'
And here is the infamous pyke, an exercise so horrid it makes grown women cry. Roll across the ball until it is at your calves, place your weight on your wrists, and push your arse towards the ceiling. Do a pushup. Repeat.
"It h h h h hurts my wrists, Miss Ddddduck! Can I stop?" "No, only four more to go!"
The last five or ten minutes is made up of the most blissful stretches, and this makes all the pain worthwhile.
Then, at the end,
you collapse gratefully and crawl home to a hot shower and a good lie down. Then a spot of tea and toast (with marmalade) and a boiled egg. And lashings of ginger beer.
"Oh, I say, Miss Dddddduck! How spiffing! Can I invite Bertram?"