Surrounded by beautiful hard-body women and one beautiful hard-body guy, this is my first day of school, er…Pilates class.
I’m wearing my long spandex pants and a day-glow fluorescent pink sports bra with a brightly colored tank. I pulled my hair back in low pigtails. Nine other students in the class are mostly wearing black or gray and serious faces to match. I hope this class is less drab than my classmates’ wardrobe.
The five toe’d Pilates socks I had to purchase before my first class are admittedly the least expensive sports gear I’ve ever had to buy as an entry level participant. And may also be the most ridiculous.
Apparently if you’re hard-core, you cut the tips off the socks like Madonna in an early ‘80s MTV video with fingerless lace gloves. I’m not there yet. I need every single rubbery nub on the bottom of my socks to help me stay upright. My Pilates technique seems to suggest that a helmet and wrist guards could also be helpful.
I am someone who has dabbled in lots of sports with widely varying commitment and aptitude. I’ve skied, sailed, rock climbed, played volleyball, Zumba danced, spun, played kickball, threw rocks on a curling team, swam laps, golfed, tried weightlifting and yoga. Very briefly I attempted mountain biking, laughably I tried a women’s ice hockey league and I even once whitewater kayaked the LA River. (More on that another time.)
All that was BHR: before my hip replacement. These days, I’m no longer fearless, I’m fearful. I’m not strong, I’m weak. I’m not balanced, I’m wobbly. But I’m also not a quitter.
I was never what you’d call a jock. I was the one on the team who braided hair and did face paint. I always aspired to have a cute outfit and stylish gear. I was enthusiastic but without coordination. I liked to win, but I loved to participate. My social life filled with activity. My workouts, while numerous, were more fun than fat-blasting.
With my bone disease, which is causing my joints to fail, I have the same vigor, but rather different capabilities. The list of approved activities is short, but growing. Walking, biking and swimming are a go. But others that require pivoting, pounding and sashaying are out. Anything where I could fall is strictly prohibited.
Since the hip replacement, I’ve done lots of physical therapy and I’ve worked out with a really terrific trainer. These have been super positive for my mind and my body. But, I miss the playfulness of physical activity with a group.
So, for my latest adventure, I’ve joined a Pilates Reformer gym in my neighborhood. My goal is to build strength in my legs and core, and increase my balance. Ideally, all while continuing my rehabilitation progress without agitating my trouble spots.
If you don’t know what a reformer is, it is like the Swiss-Army-Knife of massage beds, except no masseuse ever shows up. A spring comes out from here, a balance bar from there, weights and straps and cords and platforms are concealed and revealed.
The exercises are done by balancing on a moving carriage and using one’s own body weight plus resistance springs for challenge. My gym has 10 reformers, so in theory all of us would be harmonizing, doing the same exercise at the same speed at the same time.
But, I am BY FAR the worst in the class. Granted it is my first week, but still I really stink at this. If everyone else does 40 reps, I am doing 10. Partly because it is hard for me, and partly because I’m scared of hurting myself: I’m taking it very slow.
You might think that I’d be embarrassed, or self-conscious, and I am a little. But mostly I’m so happy. It really is a miracle that my body can do anything at all in a Pilates class. And, even if I’m the only one in the class who knows what an achievement this is, I’m still ridiculously proud. Plus, I feel so normal being in a regular fitness class v. the special ed. variety I’ve been doing.
My first week of classes (3) is in the books. I’m optimistic about my potential. I’m not a beautiful hard-body yet, and might never get there. But I have a good attitude about this. And, I have the most fantastic outfits among my classmates, if I may say so myself!