Learning to fly

It’s amazing what blowing air can do to combat gravity and this past weekend I got to experience it firsthand.

Indoor skydiving it’s called.

Imagine a 12-foot diameter clear vertical tube that goes up three stories…and then imagine 140+ mph winds whipping through said tube…and then imagine flinging your body into this wind tunnel and going for a ride!

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Trying to get the hang of things on my first flight. As you can see, the instructor enjoys his job.

Until recently I have always exceeded the weight limit for several experiences on my “things I’d like to try someday” list – zip lining, dog sledding, rappelling…indoor skydiving.

When Darlene (my brother-in-law’s partner) called to see if we’d like to join her and Chris (brother-in-law) on an indoor skydiving adventure my instinctive reaction was “Aww, bummer…I’d love to but I can’t because I weigh too much.”

You see, I still subconsciously think of myself as the 300-pound version of myself.

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Because I’m still the same person on the inside…I sometimes forget that my the outer packaging has changed.

I still seek out the disabled stall in the women’s bathroom because it is the only one I’ll fit in. I still head to the plus-sized clothing rack when I need a new pair of pants. I still panic at the idea of being assigned the middle seat on an airplane. I still agonize over what to order in a restaurant for fear that the server will make “that face” in judgment of the unhealthiness of my choice.

I often don’t realize that I still carry this identity around with me everywhere I go.

So sometimes it sneaks up and surprises me. It took me a few minutes to realize that I could, in fact, give indoor skydiving a try. So, we made arrangements to join Chris and Darlene in Bay Area (California) to learn to fly!

It was great fun. If you’ve read about my Aha! Moment, you know that I used to be an avid skydiver. The flying principles are the same but I must admit doing this in a controlled environment (without the possibility of death) was much less stressful and, as a result, more enjoyable than doing the real thing by flinging myself out of an airplane!

The experience included two one-minute flights – which doesn’t sound like much but trust me when you’re being blasted by 140+ mph winds it is plenty long enough. On the second flight you had the option of the instructor flying with you and taking you for a ride up and down the column of air while spinning in circles. It was like an amazing amusement park ride (check out the video below)!

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By the time I got done flying and spinning to the top of the three story column air, I was dizzy and my goggles had come off – but as you can see I was having a blast!

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Glenn was having a blast too – making funny faces for the audience.

This was a weekend of many firsts for Glenn and me.

In addition to the indoor skydiving, we also had the new experience of going mountain biking. It had been over 20 years since I had ridden a mountain bike off road and Glenn had never done it before. Chris and Darlene helped us rent some amazing bikes and took us on an 18-mile biking adventure into the hills outside of Santa Cruz (California) in an area called Wilder Ranch.

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Modern day mountain bikes are amazing…full suspension, hydraulic seats that raise and lower with the touch of a button. It feels like you are riding on a cloud (although, my butt still hurts).

I saw a side of Glenn I have honestly never seen before – which is saying a lot since we’ve been married for 14+ years and known each other for nearly 30 years. It appears that my quiet, gentle Glenn is a beast when you put him on a mountain bike. He was flying down the hills, through the trees and over the rocks and roots like a fiend. It was all I could do to keep up with him.

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Glenn making his way down into a canyon.

The biking was very demanding physically. We had to conquer the steep uphill sections that made my heart beat so hard I thought it was going to come out of my chest (and where I learned to “kiss the handlebars” to keep from flipping over backwards on the bike). And, we had to hold on for dear life while screaming down the downhill sections of trail – its amazing how exhausting adrenaline can be!

Several months ago we joined a new gym that focuses on “functional fitness” (training the body to handle real world situations) with an emphasis on building core strength.

We were tired of the treadmill, elliptical, weight machine grind and were looking for something new to try. Since starting at this gym we have both noticed remarkable benefits from this new workout regimen and I think our confidence with the mountain biking is a direct result of that.

Case in point, I decided to walk my bike through a particularly muddy section of trail unknowingly covering my shoes with a slick gooey sludge. Without thinking I climbed back on my bike and started flying down the hills again – having a great time. The next thing I knew my feet had slid off the pedals and I was close to losing control of the bike and crashing. I thought I was a goner for sure.

But, in the end I had the core and upper-body strength needed to maintain control of the bike and get my feet back on the pedals…all while flying over rocks and dodging trees. It was a harrowing experience and I couldn’t help thinking “I’m going to do a bazillion planks and squats when I get home. They just saved my life!”

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Walking my bike through the mud – a decision that later came back to haunt me.

The video below is of Glenn and me coming down a steep hill. It doesn’t look like much in the video – but at the time it felt almost vertical.

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Darlene and Chris were excellent instructors – full of encouragement and helpful strategies to ensure we were safe and that we had a great time.

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Pausing to enjoy the view of Monterey Bay.

We spent the remaining hours before returning to the airport getting in a beautiful hike – although my quads were pretty sure they would have preferred sitting in a nice movie theater.

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Me, Chris and Glenn hiking through the hills outside of Union City (California).

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Chris, Darlene and Glenn – the hills were alive (with the sound of me huffing and puffing up the trail).

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Finding geocaches is often a group effort (shh…don’t tell any muggles).

It was a wonderfully adventurous weekend – full of new experiences and great company. Check out Chris’ blog for more pictures and videos (indoor skydiving and mountain biking). But, please skip the video of Glenn and me attempting to bellydance – no one needs to see that!

4 comments on “Learning to fly

  1. thanks for sharing about your new awareness and your adventures. I was never very active until my 40s when I lost 30 pounds and got moving. I still struggle to believe I can run, even when I’m putting in real miles on a regular basis. (Unfortunately I’m on a temporary hiatus,)

    Looking forward to your next installment!

    • Thanks Marie! It’s amazing how we continue to carry these old identities with us. I hope you can get back out there again soon.

  2. You have forced my hand. I must get my Apple TV hooked up and working today. I want to see Belly Dancing on the BIG screen.

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