Getting a Grip – Catherine Wiggins

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As the semester draws to a close, I’ve found myself struggling to find stability and balance. The mountain of work that has been piling up has, despite my best efforts to wish it away, failed to magically disappear. Recent and impending travel has left me feeling frenzied, disoriented, and out of my routine.  And it feels like there are a million loose ends that requiring tying in the next few days, and simply not enough dexterous fingers to tie them.

So, I did what anyone facing such a predicament and seeking escape, rather than true resolution, would do – I procrastinated with some online shopping. But not just any form of shopping – shopping for barre accessories.  Specifically grippy socks.

If you’ve taken a barre class in recent weeks, you’ve probably noticed a new policy in which we’ve asked you to wear grippy socks.  Perhaps because I am 90 years old at heart, I love my feet to be encased in softness all the time and actually wear non-slip socks around my house.  However, for those of you preferring the freedom of bare feet (or simply non-geriatrics), you might have been a little confused or irked by this –why confine your feet to such stifling oppression?  It turns out that there are plenty of good reasons to wrap up those feet.

  1. Retaining heat:  In barre, we challenge the entire body by working various muscle groups to fatigue and then stretching to create length in the muscle. To be most effective and to prevent injury, building and maintaining heat in our muscles is extremely important.  Socks help to keep the body warm, especially during the colder winter months, for a more effective and safe workout.

  1. Hygiene:   In a communal space, wearing socks helps keep things sanitary. Without going into too much gory detail, they help to prevent the spread of dirt, germs, and more cringe-worthy things like athlete’s foot between the mat, barre, and ourselves.

  1. Balance and grip:  If you’ve ever had the muscle quivering pleasure of a 4-minute chair sequence with heel raises, you are all too familiar with the need for barre socks. Socks with grippy soles help to stabilize our footing during different exercises and prevent slipping, so you can get deeper into the pose, working those muscles more effectively. Now that we are relying less and less on mats for thigh and seat sequences, the right socks help to prevent that pesky feeling of your feet sliding toward the baseboard during chair, or away from one another during wide-second position.

If you are in need of grippy socks, you can pick up Shashi socks at the studio; but be warned, the latest glittery ones are enough to make you implode with joy.  I am also a fan of ToeSox, TractionSocks, and Crescent Moon’s line –all available on Amazon – if you want something a bit thicker for the colder winter months. As a general hint, I’ve found that washing all brands inside out on the gentle cycle helps to prolong their longevity. For Shashi, you should also wash them in the little mesh bags they come with.

As a grad student studying consumer behavior, I find myself constantly analyzing the underlying motivations and drivers of any purchase behavior, especially my own.  So it’s unsurprising that soon after wrapping up my grippy sock purchase (and spending an amount that is far too high to be admitted here), it dawned on me that maybe my little shopping spree wasn’t just about mindless distraction for a few hours (yes, several hours were dedicated to this endeavor).

Perhaps it was telling that the object of my online transaction was a tool to find stability and balance—to quite literally get a grip—at a time when everything seemed to be slipping.  And while socks (especially beautiful glittery ones) are a great way to literally achieve that grip during class, it occurred to me that the less tangible sources of security they represented – the challenge and fulfillment I’ve discovered in barre, and the amazing, supportive, inspirational community I’ve found in Blackbird in the process—were an even greater buffer against “slipping” during these times of stress and emotional disarray. Our nest has been and continues to be a place that I can always return to in order to find my footing, and I hope you all can find the same refuge from life’s slippery curveballs here as well.

See you (and your socked feet!) at the barre,


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