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Wednesday, 25 May 2016

My First Time... Bell Ringing

On Campanology

"Bell ringing", I thought. "That'll be good exercise" I thought...

I have a really nostalgic, sentimental attachment to the sound of our local church bells, and how they ring out every 15 minutes, not to mention the joyous sound they make to accompany such occasions  as weddings. I'm not at all religious, but these ancient sounds speak more to me of community than worship. 

I had in mind that bell ringing would be great physical exercise, and a bit of a challenge to the part of the brain that learns patterns and timing, much like playing anything musical is.

bell ringing for exercise
The church bells inside this tower are huge!

I intended to write this post some time ago, after my first session bell ringing. But, to be honest, I was slightly perplexed after that first hour and didn't know what to make of it- as a craft or an exercise. 

However, I've been to a couple of sessions now, and I am beginning to get a small understanding- despite not having actually heard myself ringing a bell as it has been silenced to save the neighbours any annoyance.  

Is it fun?

Well... sort of. I suspect bell ringing is a lot of fun once you have reached a standard of competency and can understand enough to work in a team and create beautiful patterns. This takes time though, and if I am honest I am finding the learning somewhat frustrating. 

bell ringing for fitness
The bells are all hung at different angles,
because they actually move the tower when they ring

on campanology for fitness
Church bells: nostalgic, romantic... complicated!

Is it good exercise?

Given that I have only rung for an hour at a time, my interpretation of this is a little bit limited, but my impression is this: if you lead a sedentary lifestyle, I would imagine that standing on your feet, engaging your core to balance yourself, and raising your arms above your head to pull down continuously would be a welcome challenge to your fitness. 

I, however, have not found bell ringing physically hard work. If anything I have a tendency to over-pull, but this in itself is a challenge to me to learn how to be more controlled and precise, as I come to understand more about the rhythm of both of the strokes of the bell. 

Precision and coordination are also involved in moving the rope in such a way as to give it a smooth movement up and down- if for no other reason than to be able to catch it when you want to. 

church door

Do I recommend it?

Given that bell ringing is by its nature a team exercise, I would say that if you can find yourself the right teacher and a social crowd, and you have some time to dedicate to learning about what is a really complicated craft, then I think you are likely to enjoy bell ringing.

Personally I have not made up my mind whether I will stick with it...

Sunday, 1 May 2016

My First Time... on a Pony

First Time

Following the success of my last 'First Time' post (about yoga inversions), I have decided to make this a series, as I embrace my newly-discovered adventurous spirit and hope to discover some fresh ways to stay active in the process.

Next activity on my 'to try' list, then, was horse riding. This is not strictly speaking my first time in the saddle as I did have a go on a few friend's ponies as a child, but it most certainly was my first time as an adult, so I think it qualifies.

pony at Polmartin riding
Meet Mr. Little 

Polmartin Riding

Just as you would expect a Cornish riding stable to be, Polmartin is found down a beautiful lane where friendly dogs greet you as you open your car door, and chickens hop around quite unworried by hooves. Steeped in atmosphere, the welcome we got was warm and there was none of the snobbery associated with some stables. I borrowed a hat and boots at no extra cost. 

We stayed in the covered school, but I imagine riding out from this location would be simply idyllic. 

A Little Magic

Trainee teacher Laurie (who also imparted a lot of knowledge to me) introduced me to my mount, Mr. Little. At 17 and just under 14:2 he is a safe set of hooves, and has a beautiful character not to mention the most unusual blue eyes. You can probably tell from the picture above that I adored him! 

Irish cob pony
my mount

Learning from an Expert

I had done no research into Jane, and if I had I may have been a bit daunted, as she definitely is not just a run-of-the-mill teacher: horsewoman extraordinaire since childhood, she is a stunt rider in films and TV, an exceptionally clear teacher, and funny and engaging to boot. 

She is also, to use her own word, a 'hawkeye' (which was a tiny bit unnerving for me, knowing that I knew nothing, but which ultimately makes for a better rider of course). I found out exactly what I shouldn't do as I tried to work with Mr. Little, and I am very glad of that. 

The content of the lesson surprised me a little: Jane is very much a kinaesthetic teacher, and at various times I was riding with my eyes shut, no reins, and no stirrups (yup, even when attempting my rising trot). However, she is sure to back up all of her directions with explanation, which really helped me come to a better understanding of what riding is about. 

I was most surprised to find that I could give Mr. Little instructions with just a breath. Who knew that this was possible? I certainly had no idea! With my interest in yoga this was a pleasant revelation. 

What I will remember the next time I am on horseback remains to be seen, but I feel as though I was given some of the key building blocks for beginning to ride.

indoor school at Polmartin
In the Saddle

Riding for Fitness

I was warned that my adductor muscles (inner thigh) would ache, but being used to the cycle of working out and recovering I wasn't too concerned. They did ache a little bit, but oh goodness, one of my quadricep muscles has never ever screamed with DOMS quite so much as in the few days after riding (you may know that the quads are not one muscle, but rather a group of four). 

I was conscious of needing to use my core muscles a-plenty through the hour, but they didn't ache at all- which hopefully is a sign they are already strong. But I would deduce that for me personally, riding really would add something extra to my fitness regime. 

The Verdict

I paid £30 for a private lesson, and the experience that I had was well worth the price. The exercise that my legs evidently did and the knowledge I obtained, combined with the sense of wellbeing I got from just an hour on horseback make the cost seem extremely minor. 

I plan to take further lessons, and I would thoroughly recommend Jane at Polmartin if you want to learn how to ride properly. And Jane, if you're reading, please don't emigrate! 

You can also connect with Polmartin on Facebook.