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!



Jessica Hall said...

Oh you poor thing! And poor Camille too! I am like you Gretchen....I would like to exercise but I never think about it. Best having someone telling me what to do. I can say, though, that I have been walking a mile every morning....that's kinda pathetic. But don't worry, I am sure to join you in your pain. A new fitness building just opened not 2 minutes from our house! My dad has been so excited about it! He made us join and next week we will begin the torture! Well, gotta go eat lunch!


Mrs. Hall said...

Oh,honey,...I have laughed out loud at this story!! You have put my sentiments down towards exercise exactly! I remember running my one race I've ever done (a 10k? I don't even know...I think I've blocked the pain from my memory!)publicly. I ran it with my long-legged dad. We started, and I ran so hard and SO long. I was sweating, exhausted, and just knew we were about done! It seemed the never-ending race was surely coming to a close! THEN...bum, bum, bum...I saw the ONE MILE marker!! May it never be!! "ONE MILE?!", I cried increduously to my giant-striding dad..."I have only done ONE MILE?!? It was all I could do not to sink to my knees in self-pity and cry, hoping someone would come to this poor girl's aid and give her a big Dr. Pepper and drive her in a golf cart to the finish line. But no...I had to keep on running. Ick. People swarmed by me, my dad ran on, and I trudged slowly, claiming that that was IT! Never again would I sign up to run these useless races that are obviously marked wrong. A 30 mile race disguised as a 6.2 one. Ick is what I say! ;)

Hailey Renée said...

Poor Gretchen. It is amazing how Camille can always exercise like that and always eat healthy- that takes such self-discipline. For me, violin is exercise enough. It's given me strong enough arm muscles that I can beat your brother Jeremiah in arm-wrestling, so that is something. I'm sorry you're so sore!


Taylor said...

I can relate. I often tell myself that I need to exercise, but then I get to caught up in other things that need to be done until it's to late in the day to do anything about it. But like Hailey said, playing an instrument for a long time sure does feel like exercise!

I am glad you and Camille are enjoying the Pilates class, and I hope it will get to the point where you won't be so sore once the exercising is done.

God bless!

Briana Monet Mahoney said...

I love the Gretchen/Camille stories, they are always so much fun. The thing I don’t like about exercise is having the exhaustion and aches for the rest of the day when I am trying to accomplish something. I have some good news. My mom has been reading a delightful little book called “French Women Don’t Get Fat” by Mireille Guiliano. She has been sharing tidbits of the book with us and now I am reading it. The part about exercise was very interesting. Apparently the French don’t have the American “No pain, no gain” philosophy. They do a LOT of walking and use other “normal” things as exercise opportunities. The main philosophy is to do something that is enjoyable. I guess being one-eighth French myself, I like that idea:). I have enjoyed doing archery as an exercise. I have a 30lb (that is how many pounds you are pulling back) recurve bow. Pulling the string back and holding it long enough to aim is a good arm exercise, plus you get to walk back and forth to retrieve the arrows. It reminds me of Emma (a tea table helps), or Maid Marian. The Irish jig is another fun, (painful) exercise. There is nothing as exhilarating as jigging to “Toss The Feather” or “New Potatoes”. So…..if you just can’t take the treadmill, have a “French” exercise day and ask the boys to take you ballroom dancing for a couple of hours. Now that would be my idea of exercise. (and if I had ever learnt, I would have been a true proficient. LOL!)

Jessica Hall said...

Gretchen, I just thought of something. Today we went, for the first time, to the fitness center! It was very fun, but....when we got to exercising our arms....I popped. I have absolutely NO arm muscles AT ALL! I can't even do two push-ups with out almost passing out. I am pathetic. ;) Well, I must run!


Christyn LaNae Mahoney said...

Gretchen, I really liked your exercise story. You and Camille are hilarious!
I can't imagine exercising instead of dinner!
I am looking forward to your next post.:)

Anonymous said...

Gretchen - you sound exactly like me. I have the exact same attitude about exercise. And then how I feel afterwards...


P.S. Just so you know who it is reading your blog - I came to FASA this past year.