To The Mat

After our flirtation with a larger gym, it was only a matter of time until we caved in. We lasted two whole weeks. Last week we discovered that Defined Fitness was offering a “sign up for $4” sale, and we jumped off the edge and into the world of the “super gym.”

Upon arriving, we discovered that I could have been a member for free this entire time. Aargh.

Wiping the egg off our faces, we sat down to explore the offerings of our new gym/home. There were classes ranging from yoga to Tabata. Not knowing a whole lot about many of these subjects, we decided to ease into the whole class thing, and picked the friendly sounding “Intro to Mat Pilates.”

Estrogen Immersion

I didn’t know a whole lot about Pilates. In my head, it was sort of “yoga for old people”, with lots of stretching. However, I did remember an article from years ago where Jason Kidd talked about Pilates being a regular part of his workout routine. I figured that anything good enough for an All-Star point guard was probably worth looking into.

Turns out Jason knew what he was talking about.

The classroom itself was very non-threatening. It was filled with yoga mats populated by 20-odd women. If there was another male in the classroom I never saw him. Because I am not real bright, I took this as another indicator that the class must not be terrifically physically challenging.

Lor scurried around the room gathering up the accessories we apparently needed for the class. A plastic ring. A deflated plastic ball. A pair of 3-pound dumbells. How she knew we were going to need these items is a mystery to me – certainly, no one ever made an announcement. But, because she is who she is, Lor was gracious enough to even bring me a full set of the Pilates accessories. After a couple of announcements from our 60-something instructor, the instruction began.

A Rude Awakening

Pilates, it turns out, is a core-strengthening discipline developed by a guy named Joseph Pilates, who initially named it “Contrology.” He released a pair of books detailing the system in 1934 and 1945. The idea was to strengthen the body not through weight-lifting, but through a series of postural exercises.

Yeah, I would say it succeeds in that.

See, the whole idea is the isolation of the core muscles – the muscles in your trunk, that all other muscles in your body eventually attach to. So, within minutes, I was being forced to do things like “tabletop position.” This is a torturous pose where you lie with your back flat on the ground and hold your legs up off the ground. The thighs are at a 90-degree angle from the pelvis. Then the calves are at a 90-degree angle from the knees, parallel to the ground. A series of exercises begins from this position, including extensions and bicycle kicks. I was barely successful at holding correct form, much less performing exercises.

Think it sounds easy? You go try it. Go ahead, I will wait.

Not as easy as it looks, is it? I was feeling the strain and trembling in muscles I didn’t even know I had. We were required to do things like forward and reverse planks. Rows incorporating dumbells. (Who knew 3 pounds could feel like it weighed so much?) And several hideous, torturous poses that required incorporation of opposing legs and arms. I have enough trouble walking, for goodness sake. I was so busy trying to keep my balance that I never really learned how to perform the exercises properly.

My Appointment With Humility

And, of course, all around me were women, on average 20+ years older than me, performing the routines flawlessly. Lor was positioned directly behind me, so I didn’t get to see if she was making me look bad as well. But I’ll bet she was.

After an hour of this, I was ready to die. Muscles across my body were twitching and throbbing. My butt felt like 2 burning globes sitting on top of my thighs. I was barely able to hold my arms up. As the class ended and the class members erupted in spontaneous applause, I felt utterly and completely spent.

Several friendly class members made a point of coming by to verify that I had never done this before. Apparently, it was that obvious. All of them had the same thing to say: “Don’t give up!” Chastened by my original assumption that this class would be easy, I went to the front of the class to thank the instructor for my experience in humility. While chatting with the instructor, I asked her about other class times.

“Well,” she told me “I do teach this class for beginners, and a couple of more advanced classes as well.

“But I think you’re in the right class for now.”

Yeah, no kidding.

Still Sore Two Days Later,




Leave a Reply