I was so nervous about today's first class that I called ahead a few days ago and asked the instructor what I was supposed to wear and to bring. Yoga pants were okay, she said, but something a bit more fitted would be better as it gave the instructors more chance to see the alignment of my body. Good grief! Off I went and bought myself some three quarter-length fitted dance pants (uh huh) and I was ready - sartorially speaking, at least.
I was up early this morning and I had plenty of time to walk to the studio. I couldn't find motivational music on my iPod so I settled on Bon Jovi's Crossroads album, figuring that if I were thinking about Jon and Richie, I wouldn't be thinking about the impending torture I was about to put my body through.
Arriving at the studio 15 minutes early, as requested, I met my two other classmates. The girl was also wearing dance pants (phew!) but hers did not match her tshirt and sneakers. She had obviously done this fitness "thing" before. I distanced myself from her and instead stood alongside a very friendly gay man who chatted incessantly, and who was not wearing dance pants (thank you, Jesus).
Our instructor arrived and I liked her immediately. She had a friendly demeanour and an enviable, Pilates-sculpted body that filled me with confidence that I might be doing something right for myself.
With the introductions out the way we climbed aboard our own "mat" (or "Cadillac", as our instructor called them). It's weird to call this machine a mat, because it's not even on the ground level. Imagine a medieval torture rack and you have something close to the Pilates Cadillac. With a footrest bar at one end, and a place for your head at the other, you can reach up and grab all manner of stretchy arm bands and pulleys that take you through your workout and slowly kill you in delightfully creative ways.
With only three students in the class, I was determined to stay alive. We started by working our abdominals to strengthen our core. I didn't even know I had a core. But given the way we worked it today, I'm going to know EXACTLY where my core is by this time tomorrow morning....if I can breathe at all, that is.
We had to do the Pilates version of abdominal crunches, tucking chin into chest and pulling ourselves up (by the strength of our core), vertebrae by vertebrae. I was actually pretty good at this part, until we had to bring our knees up "to tabletop" (ie as if we were sitting at a table - but still lying down), and then do the same thing. Trickier. Then we had to extend our legs out to a 45-degree angle and do the same thing. I think I passed out, but I did not die. I did, however, regret not putting a fresh coat of nail polish on my toes.
Then we moved on to leg exercises and we had to manipulate our own Cadillacs to the settings that the instructor wanted. Seriously it's like total sadism. What other prison in the world asks you to tart up your own torture chamber before they put you in it? But again, I was determined to do this thing right, so I paid attention and strapped myself into my tailor-made Cadillac. The leg exercises were actually much easier for me. Alternating your foot position, you push yourself up and the Cadillac has springs in it that move with you. So effectively you're doing squats, but you're just lying down to do them. I was pretty good at those. Then we did exercises to stretch our calf muscles and I was down with those too. Afterwards we did some exercises with the long stretchy straps and they were fine - rotating our strapped-up legs around and around, knees out "like chicken wings, folks!", all the while working the blessed core.
Then our arms got involved and I realised with some dismay that I am totally devoid of upper body strength. The instructor recognised this but cheerfully motivated me nonetheless. I hardly noticed: I was too busy reminding myself myself to breathe. Then we spun around and did some work with the hand bar, giving our cores some more lovin'. I could almost hear my core whimpering, so I know I was doing the right things.
Before I knew it our hour was up and we were putting our Cadillacs back to the way we had found them. On the hard wooden floorboards we did a couple of deep squats to stretch our legs back out, and then we were done.
After the class I honestly felt like I could have leapt over the Empire State. I felt limber and relaxed yet full of energy. Even as I sit here, some 90 minutes after the class finished, I still feel good. I am enjoying this period of happiness, because I get the distinct impression that tomorrow, even blinking is going to be tough. My core is definitely going to have the last laugh, no matter how much that hurts.