And so the challenge commences, and as befits the start of what promises to be a physically rigorous endeavour, it began with stretches.
The entirety of my knowledge about pilates prior to this week can be summed up in the phrase “it’s the one that’s like yoga, but isn’t”. A sampling of opinion among Office Chums revealed division over whether pilates or yoga was the more difficult of the two disciplines, and indeed over whether I should expect a taxing or relaxing time. Having never tried yoga I cannot cast my own comparative judgement, but I can say this: pilates is not relaxing. Having an hour’s lie-down has never been so stressful.
It began rather well. I was greeted by a bubbly, surreally diminutive instructress who overlooked my fashion faux-pas of donning gym gear rather than the jim-jams-new-age blend of leggings and baggy shirts (note for future: concentration on stretches will be greatly improved by not having to stop your t-shirt from riding up) and earnestly enquired after my core. My core, she told me, was best located by contracting your internal muscles as if you were trying not to go to the toilet. As I hadn’t had time to answer nature’s call before the class, I didn’t think this would be a problem. And the first ten minutes or so were indeed a doddle. I can breathe in and out with the best of them, and as I soon cottoned on to the fact that the instructress couldn’t see if I’d found my core or not, I adopted a satisfied, meditative expression to convince her I was getting along splendidly.
The problems began when we progressed from the lying-down-and-breathing-stage to the sticking-your-limbs-in-the-air-and-holding-them-steady-stage. This is when I discovered that if I lie on my back, I can’t extend my leg straight up into the air. This is also when I discovered that even allowing for a severe bend in my legs, my limbs would within seconds start shaking uncontrollably like a drunk’s fresh off the drink. The low-point, or high-point, is when I tried to support my body on all fours, the fours being outstretched arms and the tips of my toes. Being long-limbed, and by this point quite unstable, I rather resembled a giraffe desperately trying to drink from a puddle of water.
Why people waste time lifting weights is beyond me; try lifting yourself up, that’s the test of muscle.
It’s a test I failed, and after floating over to me several times during the class to dispense such professional opinions as “you don’t look very comfortable” and “put that down”, the instructress’s assessment of my core is that it is in a very poor shape indeed. She prescribed a 6-week course and lots of stretching in between.
I am as yet undecided on whether I will go back next week. The instructress’s concern is rather infectious and building up my strength may be helpful in the weeks ahead. On the other hand, my muscles ached for two days afterwards and I somehow even managed to bruise myself.
If week one is anything to go by, it’s going to be a painful year.