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No Good Jig Goes Unpunished


Ok, I get it. I'm not 25 or 40 anymore and have no business teaching the Irish Jig to high school students. Oh I can “teach” the jig, I just shouldn't probably “do” the jig. I have written before about brain age vs. ligament age; how if you haven't played kick ball in 45 years, you should consult with your doctor and/or undertaker before getting out on the field and playing like you did in '68, but sometimes I don't listen to my own advice. Like most of us.

The jig you did at thirty isn't the same fresh, sweat inducing delight at sixty.

The Irish Jig is the most simple and effective exercise program around. Do the jig fifteen minutes a day and you can cancel your high priced gym membership. It is aerobics and strength training all in one neat musical package. But the jig, like many physical activities, is more of a young person's dance. The jig you did at thirty isn't the same fresh, sweat inducing delight at sixty.

Which isn't to say you stop doing the things you love just because you are taking the AARP discount. Like the motivational speakers say, “jig smarter not harder,”--at least that's what I thought I heard one  say at a teaching workshop where we were also instructed to call our students “clients.” But I get the sentiment...you can still bake cookies when your kids leave home, just don't feel obligated to eat all of them, “because you don't want them to go bad.” You can still swim across the lake, just say yes to your sister who insists on paddling next to you in a canoe should you need to take a break. (Full disclosure: I didn't need the canoe, but I did concede to borrowing her swim fins.)

“How did the injury happen?” Jim and I use that phrase a lot when one of us is doing something stupid like changing a light bulb while balancing on a rocking chair. We know people get hurt doing stupid things and sometimes those injuries can dog you for years. Sports injuries aren't included in the stupid category unless you are an old person competing in a young person's game. I see those graying weekend warriors in the park running full tilt after a soccer ball and I think, “Wouldn't you rather be playing bocce ball with the other eighty year old Italian guys?” At least they will still be on the court next week sipping their coffee nudges and ogling the gals in the tai chi class unlike the soccer players who will be strapping on knee braces and penciling in physical therapy appointments for the next six weeks.

The injury happened, like so many sports injuries, not by doing something extraordinary but by turning slightly while hopping from one foot to the other. That's all it took for my left knee to buckle and turn my life into a series of doctor appointments. It took two years to get the MRI I needed for the torn meniscus diagnosis I knew I had. In this, “the best medical system in the world,” insurance companies dispense protocol and doctors can only order what some alligator in the Florida office says he can order. While I waited for the MRI, I did my research, exercises and “alternative treatments” and now I'm in pretty good shape. When I finally did get to see a real physical therapist two years after the injury, I was advised to tone down the jigging. He didn't specifically mention kick boxing or competitive ice skating so I still have some dreams to chase in my sunset years.

I've read that Irish dancers don't move their arms and torsos because the English tried to suppress their culture. By keeping arms at their sides and rigid backs, dancers could surreptitiously dance while sitting at the table, legs moving to the music while they appeared to be merely sitting, perhaps eating and drinking. I can now see my way forward in my quest to continue jigging. I can eat those cookies while at the same time dance without further damage to my flimsy knees. Now that is working smarter!

Madeleine DeAndreis-Ayres still dances but does it safely and always brings a designated driver.