Pilates is not for sissies | Jan's Journal

The blogs written by Highline Community College faculty and students in The Mirror’s Fitness 101 this fall are very helpful — especially with the holiday season officially upon us.

I love the no-nonsense information about healthier living tips and the debunking of common exercise myths. No matter your age or gender, the variety of topics reminds us that being fit just doesn’t happen. We should commit to a plan, choose to move, and as one article suggested to aid weight loss, “Put down the fork!”

Last August, when the whole 30th class reunion event pushed me into action, I joined a Pilates class at Bally’s in Federal Way. The first class I attended with my teenage daughter was brutal. We both experienced severe mental distress (causing uncontrollable, self-conscious hilarity) at how difficult certain moves were, such as the Jack Knife, or the “easiest stretch of all — the Mermaid” (according to our extraordinarily lithe instructor, Perla).

Don’t let the whimsical names fool you. Pilates contains advanced feats of physical torture, all completed with a slow breathing technique.

Pilates equipment consists of a huge bouncy ball, long rubber ropes or stretchy bands, a couple of weights ranging from three to five pounds, a circle of hard plastic like a wheel, and a waist-tall, six-inch-diameter cylinder of hard white foam.

“How tough could it be?” I mused as the class started. We instantly discovered that sitting on a giant squashy ball, balancing a leg in the air while lifting three-pound weights with the opposite foot touching the white cylinder on the floor, was impossible to do without falling over.

“It’s all about the core muscles. Suck your belly buttons in!” Perla called out to the class.

“You want us to do what?” I panted as I accidentally kicked the foam cylinder across the room. In another brilliant, yet positively spastic move, while trying to slide onto the (too big for my height) lopsided ball, it scooted backward, bumped into someone’s body, knocked down their standing foam cylinders like dominoes, then proceeded to zoom erratically into the corner — while I landed with an ungraceful thud onto my mat.

By the time I hoisted myself unflatteringly up from the floor to collect my ball, the exercise was over. No one seemed to notice (except my daughter, who was hysterically laughing) because they were trying to concentrate and not copy me. The rubber bands also snap back and leave a welt if you aren’t careful. We felt beat up after our first class, as I hobbled to my car, leaning on my daughter’s arm. Even so, I felt better, soreness and all, and vowed to attend the twice-weekly class, no matter what.

Last Thursday, when our instructor announced that the last exercise would be the “Astronaut” (the one with a twist), the entire gym full of enlightened women groaned out loud, as if we were just told Black Friday was canceled this year. Still considered an ignorant beginner, I was clueless as to their trepidation.

But when it was over, as I struggled to sit up, I looked around confused because no one was moving. “Are we done?” I cautiously, yet hopefully asked. Everyone was still sprawled flat on their mat except Perla, who was deftly gathering her equipment. She grinned at her moaning pupils, and told us that when she eats cake, “Everyone pays!”

The previous grueling Thursday class caused me to ask a very pertinent question: “Should my butt be burning?”

“Yes!” She cried excitedly. “You are working those muscles!”

Unfortunately, as we age, we forget we have them there.

In addition to exercise, the Mirror blog tips on healthy lifestyles also suggested eating a rainbow of colors. I perk up because I’m including green, red, orange and yellow in my diet — but wait, they’re talking about vegetables, not leftover Halloween M&Ms. OK, I lecture myself, here are acceptable goal suggestions: Lose weight, or stay the same (zero weight gain) this holiday season.

In either case, my fork needs a rest.

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