Thursday, January 31, 2013

the journey to flying out of lines

Flying OOL has been on my list of goals for every IFW I have ever participated in. During the requisite goal-setting discussion at the start of each workshop an instructor would ask “What goals do you want to set for yourself?” and I would promptly reply, “I want to fly out of lines.” The note was marked in the long-term area followed by a quick transition to a longer discussion of “short-term goals”. 15 months ago, 12 months ago, seven months ago – each time the goal of flying out of lines still seemed so far in the distance, as if unattainable. But then, all of a sudden, something changed – it’s hard to give credit to one specific moment or activity, surely the progress developed over time – but four months ago at the start of my Fall IFW, my instructor wrote “OOL” on the goal-sheet before even asking me the question and then my instructors began asking about my progress in my Log Book. This was finally becoming a reality!

Last summer I trained for a Tough Mudder and, as a result, I saw a change (read, vast improvement) in my core, arm, and back strength. Suddenly, I could do a pull-up. That was certainly unexpected, as this was where I saw my biggest challenge and assumed that the pull-ups would be my final step to flying out of lines. By mid-September, with my Tough Mudder behind me, I started doing short workouts whenever I could fit them in and Pinterest was a great resource for ideas. I found myself mostly focusing on these two routines; World’s Fastest Workout and Do This 3 Times. Before I knew it, I was doing three pull-ups!

When I saw progress with my conditioning and realized that my instructors kept checking in on my progress, unsolicited, I knew that it was time to make the investment in trampoline classes as well. After all, the journey to flying out of lines is a huge commitment. It is a financial, emotional, and physical commitment –you cannot get there without A LOT of hard work and determination.  At first, trampoline was a lot of fun (and it still is) but it quickly became a lot of hard work. Each time I started a new class there was a hesitation I had to overcome and a comfort level that I had to build back up to, every single time. But once I was there and in it, I was a fast learner and seemed to grasp the new skills with relative ease.

By early November I thought I was ready to try my conditioning test. I was comfortable doing three pull-ups and was excited to get signed-off on this requirement. Unfortunately things didn’t go as planned. Three pull-ups, 15 push-ups, and 17 v-ups later my body gave out. The uncontrollable trembling and pure exhaustion I was experiencing prevented me from completing those last three v-ups. While it was disappointing to attempt and not complete the conditioning requirements, it was a learning experience because it put into perspective that this was not something to be taken lightly and I shouldn’t rush to get everything signed off. I had to put in the effort to reap the reward.

A few trampoline and trapeze classes later I was up on the board! I really enjoyed working the board – the enormous grin plastered on my face serves as adequate evidence. Surprisingly, this gave me the greatest insight into what it would feel like to jump off the board without a belt on. You see, one time the bar was dead and I had to lean out even further with the noodle to retrieve it. I was leaning and not quite reaching it. The instructor up on the board with me reminded me that every time I fly I stick my hips out, so simply do that; grab the rail, lean out, and retrieve the bar with the noodle. I was terrified and there was so much hesitation in my leaning that she eventually opted to hold my belt. That was the biggest dose of reality for what I had set out to do. It was definitely enlightening and little scary, but it did not make me second guess my decision or affect my enthusiasm for flying out of lines.

When I left that class, my instructor told me “See you next week. Are you ready to do your conditioning?” Well, it was time to put up or shut up, “Yes”, I responded and what I did next was unexpected and unplanned, but absolutely necessary. I set up daily requirements to not only perform 2 sets of 10 v-ups and 15 push-ups (I don’t have a pull-up bar at home), but also other exercises that would work the same muscle groups. Essentially, I put myself into “Out of Lines Bootcamp.” Of course I got some support from a community of online flyers…

By day two I was able to do the 20 v-ups and I decided to increase each set by 1 for each day going forward. When my next trapeze class rolled around, I felt ready to go and confident in my abilities. Then my nerves set in – the shaking made it much harder to keep my legs straight during v-ups. But in the end, I did it!! I DID IT! It was an exhausting, exciting, and memorable experience and I was so thankful it was over.

That same night I signed off on my conditioning requirements I also remounted to the board for the first time, completed my board requirements, and got three stamps in my Log Book… What a night that was! The next night I had a trampoline class. Maybe it’s because I was on such a high from the night before, but I nailed the last three skills I had to sign-off on. About halfway through class I actually completed all of my requirements to fly out of lines! From the trampoline to the front desk, and everywhere in between, I was skipping – in excitement – around the rig.

My first class in the new year and it was finally here… time to have the safety talk! Brian sat down to talk to me about the new levels of responsibility I was taking on. We discussed the dangers of flying out of lines and what to expect. A few minutes later I was signing the last of my waivers. And just moments after that I was climbing the ladder without ladder lines, standing on the platform without being hooked in, and eager for my first jump. Not for one moment did I experience fear or hesitation. I had given so much time and energy into this journey; I couldn’t wait for that golden silence of my first swing out of lines. And you know what? It lived up to all of my expectations!