Upside Down

This post is a re-write of a story about my first solo handstand against a wall. I’m at a new gym these days, challenging myself to keep an open heart and mind as I re-learn how to workout hard and try to shut out the nagging little demon that whispers to me about how I’m going to fail.

This story is a reminder to me that I can do it — and you can, too. Whatever it is… we just have to show up and believe.


I almost stayed home from my workout that morning. I had an annoying, but not health-threatening sniffle. It was cold outside. And there were handstands in the workout-of-the-day posted online. I was 42 years old, and I’d never kicked up into a handstand against the wall. Seemed like a fine morning to hit the snooze and roll over.

But getting fit — and life — isn’t always about want. Sometimes it’s about need. And commitment. And “I really want to fit into that black fringe dress as soon as possible so I better get my ass out of bed.”

At the gym, I did that thing I hate that I do: I asked Coach questions in a voice that was so incredibly tight and whiny that I wanted to grab the words from the air and shove them back in my mouth.

“I can’t kick up into a handstand against the wall yet… I mean, I’ve been trying for, like, three years, and it’s really scary, and I know I’m strong enough to hold myself in a handstand, but I can’t kick up into a handstand. I can’t… I just can’t….” I trailed off in embarrassment and general what-the-fuckedness.

Coach said she would spot me. She made it sound like no big deal.

I explained to her in completely convincing, eloquent language that I positively could not, as she suggested, put my legs in a wide lunge, reach my arms overhead, and donkey kick up into the wall.

She just looked at me and waited for me to get into a lunge. I looked at the wall.

I put my arms overhead and kicked with my right foot. She grabbed my legs — hard! — and held them against the wall. I was upside-down.

“Don’t panic,” I said inside my head. “Breathe. Tighten your abs and thighs. Sqeeze your shoulder blades together. STOP BEING SUCH A BABY.”

After a while, I kicked my legs down. I was alive! All my limbs were attached!

Coach wandered off to help someone else.

I glanced around to make sure no one was watching, then I put my left foot forward and my right foot back. I stretched my arms overhead. I committed, and I kicked over and… ppffftttt… nothing… my foot didn’t even make contact with the wall.

I took a deep breath and tried again.

The world flipped over. I was upside-down. With no spotter. Just me. The wall. My breathing. And the delicious absence of fear.

These are the lessons I learned that day:

1. Show up. The first step to success is simply being there. Sure, just getting your butt to the gym (or class or work or your relationship) isn’t all it takes, but you sure as shit are not going to accomplish great things if you don’t literally and figuratively get out of bed.

2. Trust your advisors. I kicked up into the handstand that day because I trusted my coach’s knowledge, advice, and helpful hands. Surround yourself with people on whom you can rely.

3. Trust yourself. When I was whining about handstands that day, I said, “I know I’m strong enough to do it,” but I let my fear drown out the validity of that statement. I am strong enough to do it, whatever it is. And so are you.

4. There’s a time to retire your spotter. I absolutely would not have been successful that day without my reliable spotter to get me started. But eventually, we all have to face adversity on our own.

5. Turn yourself upside down once in a while. A new perspective can open up a whole new world.


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  • Evan says:

    I completely agree! Feet in the air, head to the ground. 🙂

  • Eek! I have been crossfitting for a year now and still can’t kick up into a handstand against the wall. Think my problem is that I don’t know if I am strong enough to hold me, in fact I don’t think I am. Sounds so negative I know!
    But I keep going, keep trying and try not to panic when I attempt it. Don’t know why I can’t, I’m not afraid of being upside down but I guess unless I believe I can I never will! 🙂

    • It took me a few years to get it so don’t give up! Just keep chipping away… having a spotter REALLY helped. I felt a lot more secure the first time with her hand on my leg. Kind of like “DON’T LEAVE ME HERE.” 🙂

  • Roni says:

    “I did that thing I hate that I do: I asked Coach questions in a voice that was so incredibly tight and whiny that I wanted to grab the words from the air and shove them back in my mouth.”

    Best line I’ve ever read in a blog post. 🙂 Ever.

    I think I wanna be you when i grow up.

  • betty says:

    I recently moved, and joined a new crossfit gym after a 3 month hiatus. I’m familiar with that little voice, the first warm up of my first class was a 30 sec handstand hold. I was pretty sure I’d forgotten how to do it and convinced I’d fall in front of my new class. I held the handstand for 30 seconds, and i didn’t fall…or die, and no one noticed a thing about my inner- awkwardness. You’re right, “Turn yourself upside down once in a while”!! Thanks for sharing your story, Melissa!

  • Suzann says:

    Kids make handstands look so easy. But they are NOT. Love your perseverance and honesty. You go!

  • Tristy "Mac" Stephens says:

    I still remember that day like it was yesterday! The look on your face was priceless! It was such a good day:)