Thursday, October 18, 2012

It's Just You Against You

Okay. My first blog post for "Blood, Sweat and Cheers". And I am going to be completely honest:  I find training for this show really intimidating!  

It's not because I'm adverse to hard work. It's not because I don't like physical activity. And it's certainly not because I lack the will or the drive.

For the past 10 years, I've had a complicated relationship with my body. I realize that’s a pretty common thing for anyone, especially a young woman to say. As a child, my body type was consistently in Olive Hoover range, not skinny, not fat, just a little chubby and soft. I was young and I never thought too much about how I looked. However, I can recall the specific moment that I became hyperaware of my body image.

When I was 11 years old, I attended my friend, Taylor's, cheerleading practice. Her mom offered us sodas, but teeny tiny Taylor obliged because she “only drank diet soda because regular soda makes you fat.” When I learned that “fat” was not only something I might be, but something no one wanted to be, I became obsessed with reaching perfection. 

Through my preteen and teenage years, I struggled with various misguided and masochistic attempts at achieving the “perfect” body. During this time, I was also a competitive tennis player who trained 20 hours a week with private coaches and elite teams. I was in the best shape of my life, but I couldn't appreciate it because I loathed what I saw in the mirror.

I feel like I’ve weathered the worst of the body-image storm. As an adult, I can’t fathom going back to the teenage self-loathing. But although I’ve worked through most of these issues, I’ve long avoided anything that remotely resembled a regimen for dieting and exercise for fear of self-discipline devolving into self-destruction.

Because of my experiences, I’ve been an advocate of realistic, healthy body images for women. However, these values often leave me feeling guilty or hypocritical whenever I’ve contemplated wanting to make a change to my exercise routine or improve my eating habits as if "realistic and healthy" left no room for positive change! 

And it's all of these fears of who I used to be and doubts about who I should be that intimidate me as I start to train with my team for this show. 

But in all honesty -- I want to be self-disciplined and train my body for this show. I want to be fit, athletic, and toned. I want to work my ass off, both figuratively and literally. I want to be mindful of what I put into my body. I want to work hard and see the results, just like any other creative or professional pursuit that I commit to. 

I’m confident enough to know now that the decisions I’m making about my body and my fitness no longer come from fear of an outside observer or pursuit of an imagined ideal. They come from me.  ... And it feels awesome!


Saturday, October 13, 2012

After One Month in Training...

Howdy, Kaci here!
Today is the official first day of having this group blog, but I went and added a post from my personal blog to the original date I wrote it (September 15th, 2012), so people could know what this is about. Go cheer show blog, go!

We've been training for almost A WHOLE MONTH now!

What does training for this look like? Well, so far it's LOTS of stretching, splits-specific stretching, push-ups, sit-ups, running, jump builders, squats, and more. Basically, we need to be very flexible and have an extremely strong body to do the gymnastic-like moves in the cheer routines.

We train on our own individually every day, and then have been getting together as a group on Saturdays to work out together. Soon we'll start learning important cheer poses, moves, terminology, and more. Halyn is heading all of that up, and I'm getting to a place with my training where I'm starting to feel ready!

It's pretty exciting to me, actually, all of this training. As a kid I was asthmatic and a bit uncoordinated, so team sports and exercise always felt like punishments more than anything else. I *did* like to dance, so I did that (but not always very well). As I got into my teens I started exercising more, and when I graduated from college I started doing Jillian Michaels workout DVDs as well as Nia, Yoga, and a good amount of free-form dancing.

But personally, I've never been very strong or super-fit in my life. But I am getting there!
I've been doing the Couch-2-5K program the past 3 weeks, and I've never taking up running before. This alone should be a jaw-dropper for some people who have known me for a long time.

 The first few weeks of training I felt physically great (working out really gives you energy and happy vibes), but I knew I had a loooong way to go with it. Slowly but surely, I've been improving. I can reach further, push harder, and do more with every passing week.

Halyn doing a T-Kick
And today, I had a breakthrough! All of us were working out together at the park pavilion near my house and we had ran around the track, stretched and worked on our splits, did push-ups and sit-ups, and we had moved into the jump building exercises. There is one we've been doing where you put your arms out in a V, with your hands made into fists. Then, you kick your legs up (one at a time) behind your arm. As I was doing this today Kayla exclaimed, "Kaci, wow! You're kicking your leg up so high!"

"Yeah! That looks so good!" Karen agreed.

I looked as I kicked and I couldn't believe it. My foot was up near my face! Never in my life have I had this kind of flexibility. I wanted to cry tears of joy. I just couldn't believe it. Somewhere inside I still feel like that student in the jazz dance class who is put in the back during the shows. The girl who doesn't know how to move her body. The girl who was told she had "two left feet".
But guess what? Bodies change. People change.
I am doing this thing! I am doing it!

WE are doing it.

I love this.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Cheer Show BEGIN!

I've had a project in mind for a long time, well, a couple of them. 1) I wanted to create a show around the subject of cheerleading, and have full-out cheer numbers in the show. 2) I wanted to to use improv to create a scripted play. 3) I wanted to create and be in a show featuring lots of talented and strong female performers from Austin.

After todays first official meet-up of the main cheer leads for Blood, Sweat, & Cheers, I can tell you - these project dreams are going to come true!

Blood, Sweat, & Cheers is a new comedic play Amy Gentry and I are developing, set in the world of teenage Competitive Cheer Leading, at a fictional cheer gym called Austin Cheer Depot in Austin, Texas. The play centers around June, a 16-year-old girl who is forced to return to her old gym after a 2 year hiatus. June meets up with old friends and rivals at ACD and tries to find out where she fits in this bizarre world of fake smiles, extreme athleticism, and expected perfection. The show is set to go up at the Salvage Vanguard Theater main stage at the end of May, beginning of June, 2013.

The ladies you see in the photo above will be making up the main cast of women who will be playing the teenage cheerleaders the audience will get to know and see perform throughout the production. The play will be written in large part from scenes and dialogue developed through improvisation (and I know all of these women through our work in improvised theatre).

In addition to developing the script throughout the process of creating the show, all 5 of the women above are taking on the challenge to learn how to cheer in the competitive style over the next 9 months. This means developing extreme strength, flexibility, and perfecting very specific techniques. What am I talking about when I say competitive cheerleading? Take a look at this.
But it won't only be the 5 of us cheering, Halyn Erickson is getting 20-25 actual high school aged cheerleaders to be apart of the production, for all of the big cheer numbers throughout the show. There will also be several other cast members - parents, boyfriends, friends, and coaches to round out the world.

This is not going to be some cakewalk, by any means, which is why I've been working on this since last October, and will continue to dig into this project until its debut late next Spring.

We had our first rehearsal/meeting this morning, and Halyn gave us a low-down on competitive cheerleading and the stretches and exercises we'll need to do every day in order to be ready to tackle the physical aspect of the show.

I sincerely love all of the women in the cast so far, and I'm excited to be pushed to my limits in a hundred ways with this show. Wow. I'm so excited that this is happening!