There are only a few things that strike immediate, heart pounding, sweating through clinical strength deodorant, fear in me. Easily making the top five on that list is exercising in a group setting. I totally blame school P.E. classes in the 70’s & 80’s and that jacked up President’s Council on Physical Fitness. For those of you not tortured by having to take the “President’s” test let me be your tour guide on a journey of self-esteem plundering, fat shaming and projectile vomiting.
The test starts out with your height and weight being recorded and barked out to the general population of the P.E. class like roll call in the prison yard. The humiliation continues when numerous athletic skills are measured against a national average. Things like the mile run, timed rope climbing, the 1000 sit up challenge . . . Wait, wait I need a minute I just broke out in cold sweat typing that and need to do some cleansing breaths while I go to my safe space (which is Bravo TV) for some mood elevation.
Okay, I’m back and I hope I can get through this next part. (Lord give me strength.) The P.E. teachers, in their infinite wisdom, would make you do some of the “skills” over and over again until you could the hit the national average. It didn’t matter if you were almost certain death was imminent if you were forced to run another mile.
My moment of ultimate mortification came when I was trying to climb a rope for the fourth time and due to what I’m sure was brought on by the pain from extreme inner thigh chafing I hurled and it wasn’t an everyday, common variety hurl it was a hurl so robust and massive that it became airborne and rained down like debris in the path of a F 5 tornado on the entire gym. There wasn’t a kid, teacher or bleacher that wasn’t gifted with remnants from my stomach smoothie.
For many, many years that remained the single worst day of my life and it also made me never want to exercise in the company of other humans again.
Decades later, to be precise a month ago, I ventured to where I never thought I would go again – a group workout class. It wasn’t my aging vanity that had me seeking out a class it was a simple life goal. I desperately wanted to be able to touch my toes.
That’s right folks, I have never had the pleasure of bending over and having my hands greet my feet. I knew there was no way I going to get this down without professional help. So, I sought out something called Club Pilates which is the first club I have ever joined (if you don’t count my Southern Living Christmas book club membership).
Sure I could have gone yoga or maybe even one of those hard-core boot camp classes. But I had friends brag about how a good class was one where you “ threw up” (been there done that) and then there’s this gaggle of icky muscle confusion fusion PTA moms that wear T-shirts that say “my warm up is harder than your work out” and I really couldn’t see myself getting through an entire class without possibly going rogue and maiming the lot of them with a five-pound Kettle bell.
As for joining up with the ladies who drag truck tires up hills well let’s just say I’ve figuratively dragged my children, my husband, co-workers, assorted family, you name it up mountains, so I’m all good with that whole experience.
That’s not to say when I went into the class for a free demo that I wasn’t having some serious PTSD. I felt like I was 13 all over again except worse because now I’m old and have a vocal colon. So, I was very concerned that this could be humiliation 2.0. Spoiler alert – it wasn’t. I survived the demo and I was super excited. I might have found my thing. Yeah, this might be an advanced middle-aged epiphany.
My husband and daughter were beyond shock that I was going to a Pilates class. Truth be told they both thought I was fibbing and really hanging out at Target (seriously I would call them jerks, but I can totally see myself doing that). I tried to explain to them why it worked for me and I think they kind of got it, but they’re both super athletes and they can touch their toes so I don’t think they really understand. But, you will. So here goes.
Let’s label this confessions of a underachiever. First, in Club Pilates you are spending a good portion of your working out lying down on a most nifty thing called a reformer. This means no one, besides the instructor can see what you’re doing. Why is this great you ask? Because there is no front line of preening, show off fitness addicts in their fancy workout wear making you feel like you don’t belong (or worse like you’re back in junior high and the cool kids are giving you serious shade). It’s just you and the reformer teaming up to get awesome.
Second, it’s hard, but you don’t know it’s hard until you’re too far into it to stop. Pilates tricks you. It builds your confidence and then bam you’re dying, but you go full Little Engine that Could and “I think I can, I think I can” to the finish. I did something last week called Cardio Sculpt and when I stood up I felt like Tipsy McStagger. It was the hardest workout I have ever done and back in the day I did the L.A. Marathon. (Full disclosure: I jogged/walked the L.A. Marathon. Okay, I walked half of the L.A. marathon and maybe jogged five minutes of it. There, are you happy now?)
Third, it’s always different. There’s the barre where I can fulfill my latent wannabe ballerina fantasies and even better tell my daughter that does ballet that I was doing plies. (Cue the teenage eye roll and sigh.) There’s long boxes, mat work, resistance bands, balls, springboards, and something called the TRX. The beauty in this is that you can’t ever tell yourself you don’t want to go because you don’t feel like doing “it,” because you never know what “it” will be.
Four, there are some super old people there that look great. Seriously, everyday I’m getting bested by septuagenarian and one octogenarian (P.S. They can all touch their toes). Sure, the 80-year-old woman took pity on me and said she was only in her “70’s” but I’m sure I heard her tell someone else she was 82.
Lastly, the instructors are not like my P.E. teachers at Albert S. Woodward Middle School circa 1978. They’re nice, funny and don’t do the over instruct thing where all your flaws get pointed out to such an extent that you know you’re going to leave the class and go the Whole Foods next door and drown your feelings of inadequacy in organic chocolate chip cookies made with fair trade flour.
I knew this whole Pilates thing was the real deal when to date I have not made an excuse to leave the class to use the bathroom. Yep, I have never wanted to use the old bathroom dodge to escape the agony of working out. That my friends is what I would call a Christmas miracle.
Can I touch my toes yet? Nope, but I’m getting close and that in itself could be classified as another miracle. I’m telling you 2017 will my year or at the very least the year of the toe touch, which to me is big deal, and after that who knows perhaps world domination or maybe I clean up my basement – both major.