I’ve never been an enthusiast for group fitness classes. Overeager participants. Judgmental instructors. No control over the music. Fear of embarrassment. It just never seemed appealing. Give me an elliptical, a fluffy hand towel and Devon’s Cool Gym Jams Playlist Vol. 3 on my iPod – in thirty minutes I’ll get my Elle Woods-endorsed endorphins and be on my merry way.
So needless to say, when a friend asked if I wanted to “bond” and participate in a Pilates class with her a few months ago, I was bewildered as to why this would be a viable conversation topic. Are you confusing me with some other blonde girl? I said no, but she kept persisting. Finally, one balmy afternoon in early spring, I somehow found myself responding “yeah sure whatever” as opposed to my usual retort, “go to hell.” I don’t know what finally made me change my mind — perhaps it was the fact that I recently acquired an internship at a Condè Nast publication, and word on the street is they immediately fire interns who aren’t Gwyneth Paltrow doppelgängers — but the damage was done and I’m a woman of my word. I started to mentally prepare the for day’s event — 5:30PM “Power Pilates” in the downstairs studio at my gym.
I arrive early with my friend and immediate notice I’m the only one who didn’t bring a personal mat. Shit. Off to a great start! No matter, they have lots of extras free of charge. I also notice everyone is dressed in super posh exercise apparel (new fun game to pass the time: count the lululemon labels and envy-weep internally) with perfectly coiffed ballerina buns. Did I secretly transport myself to a Manhattan SoulCycle location? Note to future self: baggy t-shirts of Pete Doherty smoking and American Apparel hotpants won’t cut it in the future. Also invest in no-slick headbands.
With the complimentary squishy mat now under my feet, I realize everyone is participating in some type of pre-class “warm-up” activity. Some petite show-off is elegantly in a headstand for what seems like an eternity, while another is tackling a crow pose and folding her feet in prayer. Everyone has something to prove, eh? Wanting to appear somewhat competent, I get out my iPod and hit shuffle on the Gym Jams playlist, where I try to copy the moves being practiced to the pleasing beats of Coconut Records’ Nighttiming. Here. We. Go!!! As expected, my attempts are futile. After a failed experimentation with prolonged planks and the aforementioned crow, I resort to a move that is a hybrid of a jumping jack and a robot, bopping up and down to the breezy sound of Jason Schwartzman’s voice. I breathe an audible sigh of relief when the instructor says it’s time to start – wait a minute, the actual class hasn’t begun yet? Were my robot-jacks not “Pilates?”
We start with some simple breathing exercises. Breath in. Breath out. I can get use to this! Deep breathing and robot-jacks — can we do that for the whole hour? No, no we cannot. Instructed to get on my back and prepare to test my body’s endurance and strength, my fears have now become my reality. Allow me to present you with my stream of consciousness at the time: I can totally handle this. This elliptical has prepared me for this exact moment. I am a strong, confident woman!!
Ow. Oof. Eek. Ok. These leg circles are harder than I thought. Not a pleasant feeling.
I should have brought a water bottle. My mouth is experiencing some major “SpongeBob in Sandy’s Treedome Without a Water-Filled Helmet” vibes.
Hey, girl in the front row, you think you’re better than me because you’re not wheezing and actually doing the moves properly? I hate you.
You want me to do WHAT with my legs?
I legitimately cannot feel my lower body right now. I think I might be paralyzed. Someone please call an ambulance.
Holy shit it has only been fifteen minutes.
So, this is what Dante REALLY alluded to with his sixth circle of hell.
I cannot take any of these exercises seriously if we’re using a giant blue bouncy ball.
MY BODY IS TURNING AGAINST ME. I AM NO LONGER IN CONTROL. ROBOTS ARE REAL.
I’m going to kill my friend for making me come here. Literally kill her. I’ve seen enough Law & Order episodes to know what to do.
I. Need. lululemon. Tanks.
Remind me to time travel back to 1900s Germany, Doctor Who style, to murder Joseph Pilates.
Then something weird happened. Between the single-leg stretches and the roll-ups, something clicked in my head. I was doing Pilates, and semi-decently! Looking around the room, there’s a clear sense of camaraderie amongst everyone – the instructor, the participants, all doing the same moves at the same time – that somehow created a harmonious and motivating effect. It was both a wonderful and fulfilling feeling that I never quite got from an elliptical.
Girl in the front, I’m sorry I cursed you out earlier. I feel like you’re my sista now. Protein shakes on me tonight.
FEEEEELLLLLL THHHEEE BUUURRNNNN.
How many lululemon tanks can I buy without putting myself in significant debt?
I am a fitness goddess. I am unstoppable. My boat pose can kick your boat pose in the ass.
I am soooooooo tweeting about this. #Pilates2013
Soon enough the class ended, and I’m greatly surprised to find myself wishing it lasted a bit longer. I wipe down the borrowed mat, put my Nikes back on and walk out of the studio feeling like a million bucks — I have to restrain myself from high-fiving all of the bodybuilding gentlemen that I pass. The cool spring air hits me on the way out of the gym, filling my body with an invigorating sensation. My friend, feeling equally energized, turns to me and asks, “So, what did you think?” I look to her, ponder my words carefully, and respond: “Lets go again tomorrow.”