Friday, August 27, 2010

Perfectly Painful Pilates

Unlike my beautiful, slender sister Camille, I have a hard time fitting exercise into my daily routine. It's not that I don't think it's important.... it's not that I don't think I need it. (HA!) It's just that it slips my mind..... constantly. I will awake, have my morning devotions, jump in the shower, and it's only by the time that I have suds in my hair and am through the second verse of "Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin'!" that I suddenly think, "Wait! I didn't exercise! Oh, darn!" My conscience squirms like a dying fish for a few painful moments, then I wipe the thought from my mind and go on. Because honestly, who in their right mind wants to exercise by the time they're half-way through their shower? Thus, day after day departs, and no physical exertion is achieved.

Camille, on the other hand, treadmills and does exercise videos quite faithfully. But I have another problem here. Through the years of trial and error, I have come to discover that I abhor exercise videos. You memorize them, know them back and front, they enter your mind, you walk around humming the background music until your brain is ready to explode with it, visions of people's face expressions haunt you in your dreams! Plus, you have no one to correct you when you are doing something wrong. Now if you have a mirror you can do better.... but who wants to exercise in front of a mirror? (Dear God, save us from such horror!) So, I have firmly (though subconsciously of course) exneéd videos from my options.

What about treadmills you may ask? Well, they particularly are most definitely out of the question. The name ''treadmill'' is code for ''Slow Death of Aching Boredom". No matter how hard you try to ease the crushing weight of tedious monotony with some music, or a book, the reality of that wicked, cackling clock before your eyes is always there, just calling for you to glance at it one more time and realize that you are only a few seconds farther along than you were the last time you glanced. In a word the treading mill is - Impossible!

Now, what most people do not know, is that Camille feels the same way I do. But she, unlike me, does not allow her personal vendetta against treadmills and exercise videos to get in the way of her journey along the very painful climb to fitness.

One day at about supper time a few weeks ago, she came down the stairs in her exercise clothes. I was standing over the stove, and, looking up briefly, took a quick double take. "Where are you going?" I asked.

"Oh, to a Pilates class."

This was news! I dug further -


"At a place called Simply Pilates. I looked it up, and they have a class tonight at 5:30."

Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky!

And so, that evening Camille skipped out on dinner and went to exercise instead. (Inconceivable!) And while she was inevitably pouring sweat and building muscle, I was pouring myself a glass of apple cider and eating muffins. Oh, how ironic life is! For Camille, you see, actually did something about her monotonous exercise life. I had never even considered taking classes somewhere! She came home a few hours later, drenched in sweat. I looked up from my book. "How was it?"

"Oh! Excruciating!" she panted.

"What? Pilates excruciating?" I asked with an incredulous eyebrow.

She laughed. "Oh, please don't make me laugh!" she said pathetically. "It hurts too much!"

Thus for several days to come I was to hear moans whenever Camille lifted her arms, got up from a chair, walked anywhere, and especially when she laughed for any reason whatever. "Oh, I'm so sore!" was a very frequent comment heard from her lips.

Now, as someone who has only experienced Pilates from a TV screen, I had a hard time believing that it could be that painful. I was used to Pilates videos done by women who were not all that more fit than I, and who spoke in very calm, somewhat annoying baby voices. I was intrigued, to say the least, and my curiosity would allow for only one solution - I must go and experience this Excruciating Pilates Class for myself.

And thus, exactly one week since Camille's first venture, she and I found ourselves on the opposite sidewalk from where the Simply Pilates building stood. We had a few minutes to kill since our brothers had dropped us off early, so we spent our time milling through some cute shops. Italian music drifted to us from an open courtyard pizzeria as we walked and talked. Our conversation consisted mainly of my trying to explain the complex road system of Nashville to her (that is another blog entirely!), but both of our minds were really focused upon the exercise to come. We were excited. It's not every day that you get to experience an Excruciating Pilates Class!

The time finally came, and we crossed the street and entered the blue building. It was everything a Pilates place should be - clean, quiet, small, quaint, with honey-colored wooden floors and slow fans. We sat down on the bench in the front after signing in and waited for our turn to come. The class that was currently going concluded within a few moments, and we went behind some soft vanilla partition hangers to where the machines were. The sight filled me with apprehension.

Who's ever heard of Pilates on machines?

Camille walked confidently up to one and took her place. I, unsure of what I was supposed to be doing, wondered which end of the thing I was supposed to be at. Camille looked at me with a bursting smile on her face; it was obvious that she was trying to conceal her laughter at my confused state.

"You sit there, Gretchen." she said, practically choking.

I gave her a look, and took my place. The class ensued. There were only three of us students and the instructor. He asked us what we especially wanted to work on. I said arms, Camille said back, and the other woman said abs. Between all of our requests we pretty much covered everything anyone could possibly want to work on.

We started out with some wonderful, enjoyable stretches. I thought, "Psh! This isn't all that bad!" And then the instructor said something about moving the tension springs for arm exercises.

"One red and one yellow is easy, one red and one blue is medium, and two reds is hard."

So, what did you think I did? I confidently (and without much thought, really) put my tension bands on two reds. I could feel Camille's eyes on me. I looked over at her, and she, with a still bursting smile on her face, put hers on the same thing. Of course I could not suffer alone! The instructor quite deservedly chuckled at our naivety, and we laid down and began the exercise. I didn't think it was all that bad for the first two or three reps, but when I began to sweat like crazy by the sixth rep, I knew something was wrong. I had never sweat that fast before in any exercise, ever. But I wasn't going to give up yet. By the second exercise I was grunting and was sure that my face looked like a sunburned tomato. Finally, when my distress was at its height, the very wise instructor put both mine and Camille's resistance springs on easy.

And, what do you think? We still couldn't do the exercise. Let's just say that I have no muscle in my triceps whatsoever.

That was the beginning of a very fun, and very eye-opening Pilates workout. We had a great time, and both enjoyed ourselves immensely. It's amazing what a difference exercising with live people, in a quiet, clean environment can do to your opinion on the enjoyability of it!

My abs have never been sorer in my life. I now follow sneezes with the word "Ow!", which is something I'm sure Solomon never considered when he wrote the famous words, "There is nothing new under the sun." But, though sore, I am greatly looking forward to my next Pilates class!


Sunday, August 22, 2010

An Old Sweetheart of Mine

An Old Sweetheart of Mine

by James Whitcomb Riley

As one who cons at evening o'er an album all alone,
And muses on the faces of the friends that he has known,
So I turn the leaves of fancy till, in shadowy design,
I find the smiling features of an old sweetheart of mine.

The lamplight seems to glimmer with a flicker of surprise,
As I turn it low to rest me of the dazzle in my eyes,
And light my pipe in silence, save a sigh that seems to yoke
Its fate with my tobacco and to vanish with the smoke.

'Tis a fragrant retrospection -- for the loving thoughts that start
Into being are like perfume from the blossom of the heart;
And to dream the old dreams over is a luxury divine --
When my truant fancy wanders with that old sweetheart of mine.

Though I hear, beneath my study, like a fluttering of wings,
The voices of my children, and the mother as she sings,
I feel no twinge of conscience to deny me any theme
When Care has cast her anchor in the harbor of a dream.

In fact, to speak in earnest, I believe it adds a charm
To spice the good a trifle with a little dust of harm --
For I find an extra flavor in Memory's mellow wine
That makes me drink the deeper to that old sweetheart of mine.

A face of lily-beauty, with a form of airy grace,
Floats out of my tobacco as the genii from the vase;
And I thrill beneath the glances of a pair of azure eyes
As glowing as the summer and as tender as the skies.

I can see the pink sunbonnet and the little checkered dress
She wore when first I kissed her and she answered the caress
With the written declaration that, as surely as the vine
Grew round the stump,
she loved me -- that old sweet heart of mine.

And again I feel the pressure of her slender little hand,
As we used to talk together of the future we had planned --
When I should be a poet, and with nothing else to do
But write the tender verses that she set the music to:

When we should live together in a cozy little cot
Hid in a nest of roses, with a fairy garden-spot,
Where the vines were ever fruited, and the weather ever fine,
And the birds were ever singing for that old sweetheart of mine:

When I should be her lover forever and a day,
And she my faithful sweetheart till the golden hair was gray;
And we should be so happy that when either's lips were dumb
They would not smile in Heaven till the other's kiss had come.

But, ah! my dream is broken by a step upon the stair,
And the door is softly opened, and -- my wife is standing there;
Yet with eagerness and rapture all my visions I resign

To greet the living presence of that old sweetheart of mine.