It Wasn’t Pretty But I Did It

It seemed so scary and intimidating. Every time I would walk by the room I tried to avert my eyes but I couldn’t help but peek in. It’s weirdness called to me. What was this contraption and why did it have steel bars, pulleys and then two fuzzy things attached?

The whole thing looked like an old school jungle gym got jiggy with the hardware section at Home Depot. There were pulleys, springs, and steel bars all connected to what appeared to be a twin bed that would be considered luxury living in a torpedo room on a submarine.

 

The finishing touches were two furry objects that resembled extra large novelty dice from an 18-wheeler big rig convention. Yeah, it was that kooky with a bit of a creep factor.

I finally, after months of hemming and hawing came to the conclusion that I had to investigate. I was going into the belly of this best. Never mind that it could put me in personal peril and plunge me into abject embarrassment it had to be done. I had decided to go one-on-one with the frightening looking thing in the private sessions room at my Pilates hang out. I was going to conquer something called the Cadillac Reformer.

The Cadillac Reformer was invented by Joseph Pilates way back in the day. It’s a more, let’s say heightened, version of the basic reformer, which is a platform that runs on a track. Because I’m not that big of an idiot (and it also wasn’t allowed) I started my journey with a guide.

Her name was Olivia and she seemed unafraid.  This Pilates Goddess was the master of this large, unyielding apparatus and it appeared to obey her every command. She could flip on it. She could swing on, turn herself upside down on it and every step of the way she was in total control.

I tried to stall getting on the Cadillac for a long time. I chatted, I asked questions, I took a water break but the moment of truth had arrived. I had to get on the apparatus.

I know over the years I have shared with you how ungraceful and coordination challenged I am. (My whole P.E. career, I’m talking kindergarten through 12th grade I was picked last for every single team sport. Bonus – I’ve also never been able to touch my toes or sit crisscross applesauce.)

This reformer represented every athletic related fear I’ve ever had. Now add in that I can’t hide my failings because I’m one-on-one with an instructor and you have an all you can eat buffet of humiliation spread out before you.

I was shaking as I climbed on the reformer. When Olivia showed me how my lower half was going to be hanging off a bar I got so scared I couldn’t remember my right from my left.  But ever so slowly I managed to do it.

It wasn’t pretty but I got my backside some air. After that I was able to do some other stuff that I didn’t think would ever be possible and then for the grand finale I got to experience the thrill of the fuzzy dice which are really wool lined thingamabobs that help stretch your legs. I shoved my cankles into those bad boys and felt like Elastigirl. It gave me hope that one day I might even be able to touch my toes.

After my session I felt like a boss. All I can say is take that bad P.E. memories because I just did the Cadillac reformer. It wasn’t pretty. I was, at best, remedial, but hey, I did it.

This Could Be the Sign of The Apocalypse – I’m Exercising In a Group Setting And By That I Mean With People Not My Dogs

549769_258733117552583_173070229452206_569785_706763654_nThere 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.

 

Back Off Fitbit

1*PeaaVoTan_j2PiCCpcwVFw(This is an excerpt from a piece I did for a magazine.)

I don’t believe in working out in groups or even around other people. I’m now a proud, new member of the solo workout club. Just recently, I had the epiphany that I was better off exercising in solitary confinement. (What’s the sound you’re hearing? It could be a collective sigh of relief from the people who have had to witness me attempting to do a burpee.)

I think my long, meandering journey to cardio aloneness began in middle school P.E. If there’s anything that’s going to make you apprehensive about demonstrating your lack of athletic gifts in a group setting it’s the shaming ritual that is a co-ed physical education class held in the cafe/gym/atorium. Decades later, I’m still having bouts of PTSD.

Over the years, I’ve forced myself to steadfastly and enthusiastically embrace almost every kind of ensemble (or commingling in misery) workout. There was “friend Pilates” which I so thought was for me. I mean, come on, how could it not be? You’re laying down for all it. The problem is the thing that looks like a cot with some cool ropes and pulleys is really a rack stolen from some third-rate medieval museum in Europe or the examination room table from the office of a psychopath gynecologist.

Then, more recently, I signed up for a military grade boot camp where you wake up way too early and drag a tire from an 18-wheeler down the street while being encouraged to grunt your way to fitness. The pack of us, “tire pullers,” sounded like a herd of terminally constipated cattle groaning our way to the stockyard. And I was this close to doing some F word fitness (I think it was fusion or fission) until a friend told me most newbies vomit and/or cry during their first week of class. Hmm, tears and throw up, I think I’m going to have to take a pass on that.

As for the workouts described as being kinder to your body, like yoga, well, true confession time here – I have, what I will politely call, a very robust, vocal lower intestine and I don’t wish to share that in a serene workout environment. The one and only time I tried yoga I made my daughter go with me so if things got, shall we say, noisy, I could blame it on her. It did and I did.

All this exercise angst is why when the FitBit came out I thought I had finally found the perfect workout friend. My husband got one first and he fell in love, like love, love. He and his FitBit are inseparable. I’ve caught him, too many times to keep count, gently caressing it. I’ve even heard him talking to his FitBit. I called him on it and he tried to cover up his FitBit affair with some lame excuse that he was just “thinking aloud.” Yeah, right. Who thinks aloud by cooing love sonnets? One night, I, not so gently, suggested he take the FitBit off when he goes to bed. He gave me a look that said, “I’d sooner sleep on the couch.” I had no choice, for the sake of marital harmony, but to concede that his FitBit fetish is now a part of our relationship. I also thought two can play this game and got myself one.

My FitBitting couldn’t have happened at a better time. I had recently sworn off Spanx, well, really any sort of shape wear, due to a near death experience I had while driving  I found myself in the epicenter of a full-blown Spanx panic attack and while attempting to rip, claw, and gnaw off my Spanx I almost killed myself. The primary problem was that I was dual wielding Spanx. That’s right, I had done Spanx over Spanx and it was cutting off my circulation to such an extent that it had to come off ASAP.

I’m telling you it was one thing getting the Spanx tights off, not easy, but doable, especially if you let them rest at your ankles, but getting off a Spanx Power Brief with one hand on the steering wheel and the other crotch adjacent is a whole other story. The good news – I lived and made a vow that I would never wear shape wear again. This meant I had to really step up my exercise game and the FitBit was going to be my BFF.

Things started off great at first. How could it not? My hot pink FitBit was just darling. I even named it Xnaps (which is Spanx backwards and yes, I know, naming my FitBit makes me weird). It seemed like she knew me, like she got me. You know those relationships where there’s an immediate connection? That was Xnaps and I. She didn’t talk, but she buzzed and when she did it was so positive, life affirming really. But then after a couple of weeks things got bad. Xnaps got all pouty. She stopped buzzing for me. Oh, sure she would buzz on and off, but not with the same level of affection she used to buzz for me. And, even worse, I felt like I was being judged. Xnaps had turned into a passive aggressive witch.

Every time I looked down at my left wrist I felt bad and maybe even a little sad. Who needs that? Not me. Because do you know what happens when I feel bad and sad? I reach out for the healing, and some might say the medicinal, properties of Chips Ahoy and Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies or currently Nothing Bundt Cakes bundtinis (yes, that was me stalking their booth at last month’s Holiday Boutique, but hey there was no sign that said “just take one sample”). My paralyzing fear of overdosing on carbs and sugar left me no choice, but to part ways with Xnaps. It was an ugly break up. I didn’t just put her away in my sock drawer so I could possibly reunite with her down the road. Nope, I kicked her to the curb or more accurately to my husband’s wrist.

You see Xnaps is a newer version of the FitBit and all my husband had to do is change the band from pink to black and he had himself a brand new tech lover. Weirdly, he didn’t stop wearing his old FitBit. In fact, sometimes he’s wears both, like he doesn’t want to have to choose between them. Good for him if he believes he’s man enough to handle two FitBits. Whatever. None of that matters because I’ve now gone old school with exercising. The only thing I bring with me is my dog and, trust me, she’s a lot better company than that judgey FitBit. In fact, I couldn’t recommend a better workout partner.

Hey, Snarky friends please re-like my page on Facebook. I got hacked and had to start my page from scratch. Thanks! Click on the FB icon located at the top right hand of blog and let your friends know that Snarky is back.

 **For more Snarky check out my book  Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School. 

Here’s a little ditty about it: The Spring Creek Elementary School PTA board (a coven of Mean Moms dressed in Uggs, yoga pants, and dermal filler) is up to no good.  Wynn Butler (middle-aged, uncool, and not bringing sexy back) is determined to find out what’s going on. With help from her two kids, a Roomba vacuum turned mobile surveillance drone, and a few good friends, Wynn launches a covert investigation that leads to the “mother of all revenge capers” at the school’s annual Fall Festival.  If you’ve ever fantasized about smoke bombing the idiot parent who has yet to master the fine art of the school drop-off lane, or standing up and shouting, “Liar, liar, Botox on fire” during a PTA meeting, then this delicious tale of payback is for you.