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February 7, 2015

Pilates and the Hail Storm

by Anne Paddock

A few weeks ago, a friend convinced me to go to a Pilates mat class and I haven’t been the same since. My muscles ache and throb and I feel parts of my body that I never knew existed. Flexibility has never been one of my strong suits: while school age friends did cartwheels, back bends, and round off back handsprings, I languished on the sidelines hoping someone would run because that was one athletic maneuver I could muster. All I had to do was put one foot in front of the other.

Fast forward to a new year – 2015 – and I’m noticing differences in my body which led me to try a Pilates mat class. There were 5 of us in the class and while I was the youngest by about 10 years, I was the oldest in terms of stiffness. The instructor looked like she belonged on the cover of FIT magazine and although kind, she didn’t cut us any slack. The commands began spewing from her mouth: “notch your head, put your legs in chair (I would prefer my butt), articulate your spine (how about my voice?), find your neutral (isn’t that part of a car?), engage those abdominals, find your magic ring (I’m still trying to figure out the magic part) and since the commands were either part of a lingo I hadn’t yet learned or something my body didn’t want to do, I focused on emulating what everyone was doing and failed miserably.

Which led me to sign up for Pilates classes that rely on two machines:  the “Reformer” (a just name) and the “Cadillac” both of which confirmed my suspicions:  my body is more like a pretzel rod than a knot. When I asked the instructor if most beginners are as inflexible as I am, she graciously shook her head and said that she once taught an older, overweight man who moved like I did, but then suggested that if I kept at it, I would improve.  By the third lesson, I could straighten my legs a bit more, balance myself longer, and complete the 8 repetitions (although my form still needed a lot of work).

Feeling pretty good, I decided to go to Lululemon to get some athletic clothing that would allow me to look like I belonged in a Pilates class instead of a running track. After making my selections, I went into the changing room, got undressed, looked in the mirrors and nearly screamed: my ass looked like it had been through a hail storm headed in a southerly direction. Then, I looked up and saw these two moguls on my lower back that screamed “back fat.” My backside looked like a bunny hill after a spring storm. I got dressed, ran out of the store, and told myself I was not going to be one of those women who wears lycra in old age (or, if I do I better be in shape). There comes a time in every person’s life when certain clothing choices need to be retired (for me it will be the stretch pants and for some men, it will be the Speedo). But, in the meantime my Pilates class is calling me. I touched my toes for the first time this week and for me, that’s magical.

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