The sound of dogs barking could be heard at least twenty feet away from the green welcome sign door. Upon only a crack, two curious little noses poked out, pushing eagerly to meet the new stranger. Her high tops clicked against asphalt, the noise softening as she made her way across the carpet of the small front room. Her footsteps toward the open gym door matched her quick heartbeat as she contemplated what to expect. Suddenly, the ceiling expanded to over twice the height of the humble room before it, as if entering a canyon from a cave, and she was greeted by a tall man with an inviting smile.
Five wooden weight lifting platforms stood in a row creating a focal point in the bustling gym, nearly all of them in use. Her footsteps timed up with the repetitive clacking of heels to wood as athletes made lift after successful lift. The tall man gestured this way and that, excitedly rushing about to give explanations for equipment and exercises. She liked this man and how passionate he was about coaching, happily guiding each girl through the technique. Her footsteps drummed heel to toe on the hard rubber flooring. She watched the other athletes mesmerized, wondering how they could make such a complicated motion look so simple. There was one girl in particular that had bulky blue plates on her bar thicker than a telephone book, and yet she flicked it up as if it were as light as a feather.
Soon, the new girl found herself in the same position. Her footsteps came to a stop in front of the platform, ready to begin the process. She bent down to retrieve the shiny silver bar from the floor but the man stopped her and instead handed her a PVC pipe. She was confused, wondering how such an unassuming object could possibly pertain to such a complex skill. However, she did not question his reasoning out loud; just took another glance at the impressive lift the girl with the blue plates continued to stick over and over. The man told her that she would be learning the same thing, called a clean, and swiftly moved into directing her.
Learning was a progression that was slow like the melting of ice, it happened in little droplets at a time. She had to build the movement from the ground up, perfecting one baby step and then another. One drop, rocking back onto her heels and then forward onto her tippy toes. Two drops, a jump pieced into the puzzle. The lessons began to stack up. Three drops, a shrug of the shoulders was added on top. It was a slow burn and she could feel her mind wandering, but she refocused the best she could on the task at hand. Four drops, flick the PVC pipe up using the momentum of the swing and catch it by her collar bone. Five drops, making sure her elbows were pointing forward for the catch or risk dropping the real weight later. Six drops, bend the knees into a half squat at the bottom to cushion the imaginary weight. She repeated this procedure over and over like her footsteps hitting the floor.
Soon enough, she grabbed a bar much more substantial than the PCV pipe and began again the repetition of this same process. It was infinitely harder than she thought it would be to string all the little details into one cohesive action. Again and again she struggled to complete the move, her footsteps knocking on the floor in a pacing motion. Weight was added. Beads of sweat dripped down her forehead like the water droplets of an ice cube. She was frustrated almost to the point of tears as she arduously repeated the action, never quite getting it the way she wanted it to be.
The new girl waved goodbye to the tall man after this difficult day, but was determined to return. She arrived at her next workout and again, cleans were on the agenda. It was the PVC pipe, then the bar, then the weight. Lift after unsuccessful lift the ice cube continued on melting, tiny corrections were the tiny droplets gradually paving a way to the goal. The bar felt defiant in its weight, like it didn’t want her to be able to do this clean. The tall man was an assuring voice but her frustration was too loud to be bothered. This persisted, week after week, month after month, droplet after slow melting droplet.
Her footsteps ticked across the street into the small front room as they had so many times before. The clean stood in the way once more. She did as she was taught, rocked back and forward swinging the bar into motion, jumped and shrugged her shoulders, and came down under the bar, but this time there was a difference. What had felt so impossible seemed familiar, the bar didn’t feel like such a dead weight, and her body finally cooperated in motion to make the harmonious action she worked toward for so long. Her footsteps crossed the hard rubber floor, almost floating now.