By Lisa P.
Folks like us often think we have a split personality: at least partly male and partly female, even when we lean more heavily in one direction, or consider ourselves one gender but are forced to express ourselves in public as another.
In that sense, I have been working on “the split” between my two selves for as long as I can remember (at least since I was 8 years old when I first became acutely aware of my “assigned at birth” gender and wasn’t happy about being so limited). Since that time, in addition to living in the gender the world assigned to me, I have consistently (and with great determination) also explored the gender that feels most authentically me.
One aspect of that exploration happened with I faced turning 60. If you haven’t reached that age, you may not realize just how old it makes you feel. My back in particular reminds me of my age every day, much to my chagrin. One of the many ways I have fought back is to push my exercise routine to a higher level and make sure I do a lot of stretching after exercising. Another way I have fought back is to try new challenges.
That is how I decided to try to learn to do the splits at age 59-1/2, with the hope that I would reach my goal by age 60. How many adult men (other than professional dancers) can do the splits? I don’t know, but it can’t be very many, as I have never seen any. How many men at age 60 attempt to learn to do it for the first time? It must be even fewer. Perfect, I decided. Game on!
As a child of the Internet Age, I decided as a first step to find a virtual “teacher.” I quickly discovered many tutorials on YouTube. The ones I found particularly helpful were created by teenage girls and young women, which added to the fun of learning this “trick.” On the internet you can find anything, including an old man doing the splits, but I was seeking an opening into the feminine world. I would only caution others by adding this disclaimer: I am not endorsing any site – you should be careful when attempting any new physical activity and consult with specialists before you do anything that is beyond your abilities. In any case, here are two YouTube examples:
I began working on the “front” splits. The so-called “side” splits are more difficult. I did them for an overall stretch, but have only gotten as far as you see in the photo below:
That didn’t deter me from my goal of getting the front splits down. I started doing a whole series of floor exercises that stretched my hamstrings and added to my overall flexibility. As an aside, these exercises have helped with my back problems too, because the stretching enhances my flexibility.
One stretch that I found particularly rewarding involves lying on my back and then pulling first one leg and then the other leg up toward my head. I started with a 90-degree angle and every day pulled a bit more. If you have someone to help you, they can push each leg in that direction. I also found it useful to do “half splits” and then put a pillow underneath my middle section, allowing me to “settle” into the splits.
Did my daily stretching work? To be honest, after six months of stretching every other day, I found that I was still about an inch from doing the complete splits. It took me well beyond my 60th birthday to comfortably get into the full splits. Even then, I can’t do it unless my body is warmed up. I had a couple of overstretch situations during the year of preparation, where I had to lay off for a month or two due to pain in my tendons. Now, I “go slow” (befitting my age) every time I am attempting the splits. My body really needs to be warmed up with calisthenics, and I usually can do the splits only on one side (although I have gotten down to the floor on both sides, only one “side” — with my right leg forward — works well for me). Note that this still is only the “front” splits. Every time I try the side splits I get too much pain. I can get to maybe an angle of 140 degrees, as in the accompanying photo, but that seems to be my limit. It could be a structural limitation, so even though I am now three years into my splits routine, I accept the fact that I may never get there with the side splits.
Below are a couple of pictures of me in the splits at age 60. Please don’t make fun of my knobby knees: they are arthritic and have been hacked on by doctors, but they still hold me up! I also apologize in advance for the relatively poor imagery, but it isn’t easy to set a timer and run back and get into the splits comfortably within 10 seconds! At least one of the photos shows my nicely manicured nails (a fundamental element of any good splits regimen – hah!).
You can’t tell, but I was so incredibly thrilled when I finally got all the way down into the splits. I kept saying to myself, “you did it, Lisa, you really did it!”
By the way, I continue to do my stretches and can still get into the front splits at age 63. Although the side splits still elude me, I continue to work on them too.
One basic lesson for Lisa about being TG and living life fully is that learning to do something quintessentially feminine is great fun. Like everything else in that category, learning the splits required me to practice with patience and perseverance. For anyone with a “split” personality, that isn’t anything new!