I’m sure it will surprise none of you to find that I was a very good student at school. My hand went up first if the teacher asked a question, I always handed in my homework, I re-did pieces of work where I was unhappy with the grade. At 14, few things made me happier than bringing home a glowing report – rows of A’s and B’s. School was a thing I was good at and I would have done anything to maintain my spotless record – or so I thought…
Then, as I started Year 10, something happened that resulted in an ‘F’ grade, a letter home to my parents and a black mark on my academic record. Yes, I spent one lesson each week, for an entire term, sat outside the headmistress’ office – sent out of class for my behaviour. ‘What could have prompted such a change?’ you ask, ‘Had I fallen in with a bad crowd? Started experimenting with drugs?’. No – the answer is much simpler. In September 1997, my PE teacher told me to jump on a trampoline in front of the rest of my year group. And I flatly refused.
‘Trampolining?‘ you ask, bemused, ‘but that’s just bouncing up and down!’. And then it dawns on you, for a girl with massive body image issues, the idea of wobbling about on a platform in front of 60 of her peers (including that boy who she secretly fancies even though he never even acknowledges her existence) is like some kind of nightmare. Up in front of everyone, boobs, bum and thighs all flapping in different directions – like a walrus doing a bungee jump. I couldn’t imagine anything worse. They could write to my parents, they could kick me out of school even – I was not getting on that trampoline.
When I started alphabettering myself I knew that I was going to have to face my catapedaphobia at some point and, in fact, booked trampolining in several times (B is for bouncing, J is for jumping…) but when the time came to go and do it, something always came up. I always found an excuse to do something else, or a reason I couldn’t go. Even after ‘N is for Naked‘, even with my confidence high, I still felt my bouncy body would be too much for others to bear. Last week, crossing the finish line of the race (another on the long list of things I thought I couldn’t do) I resolved to stop making excuses. I booked in for an urban rebounding class and didn’t give myself the opportunity to find a way out.
Urban rebounding is an exercise routine based around jumping on a small trampoline (rebounder). Created by martial arts expert J.B. Berns, in 2000, rebounding is said to provide a high-energy cardio-vascular workout that is gentler on the joints than traditional exercise classes – the rebounder absorbing the shock of impact much better than a traditional gym floor. Unlike traditional trampolining, rebounding involves bouncing just inches off the surface of the mat; no backflips or somersaults involved.
I was feeling nervous before I left the house so I took some preparatory steps to try to keep my wobbly bits in check. Sports bra was an obvious first step (mine is industrial-strength, much needed for all the running I’ve been doing), then tight vest-top (strapping my stomach in), running skins (to make my bum and thighs behave) and then a t-shirt and shorts over the top. Yes, I might faint from heat-exhaustion, and it was quite hard to move, but there was no chance anyone would be bothered by my flailing flab.
The class I went to in Cambridge was held in a village hall. I walked in to find rows of tiny trampolines being set up. As the other members of the class filed in, the instructor Lee gave me a quick tutorial. The object of rebounding is to jump only a couple of inches of the surface while completing exercises (star jumps, high knees etc). Lee made it look easy and so, as I stepped on I felt alright. I started moving only to find the rebounder was much more bouncy than it looked – I was wobbling all over the place, in front of a roomful of strangers. Rubbish. I stepped off the rebounder, down-hearted, feeling just as I had feared I would and contemplated making a break for freedom. I’d given it a go, hadn’t I? I was eyeballing the door when THIS came on over the speakers and I knew things would be OK. If nothing else I could spend an hour listening to my beloved WubWubs- dubstep saved the day again.
The class started with a quick warm up, small bounces and stretches performed on the rebounder. I started off out of time, and bouncing much more slowly than most but, as time went on, I found my feet. By the time the main exercising started I was sorted – hitting the beat and changing in time with Lee’s instructions. So focused was I on getting the moves right (and on not falling off) that I barely thought about my bouncing boobs at all! And the class flew by, it felt like we hardly started before Lee told us to warm down.
All in all, I really enjoyed it. There is something really funny about a room full of mums concentrating really hard as they bounce on tiny trampolines in time to Flux Pavillion’s ‘Bass cannon‘; it’s worth the admission fee as a spectator sport alone. Having said that I’ve enjoyed other fitnesses classes (specifically Bhangra and Hula hooping) more so I’m not sure I’ll be back. It is nice to think that I’ve managed to let some skeletons out of the closet, finally facing a longstanding (albeit irrational) fear. But I also feel, if I’m going to truly put this to bed, I need to do some actual trampolining. If I start up again once I get past Z, it will be high on the list.