When you exercise regularly, it is very easy to get into a rut. Experts say that it is important to vary your workouts to keep them interesting and challenge different muscles. In an effort to spice up the fitness class line up at the Wellness Center, they were piloting a new type of Pilates class. Two of my friends, Jen and Deb, are Pilates instructors and had participated in this class, but they wanted members’ opinions, so they asked me to join them in class on Friday night.
There is a wealth of research indicating that a person’s peer group influences their behavior. People who spend time with friends who make questionable choices often find themselves in compromising positions. People who spend time with friends who make healthy choices often find themselves living a healthier lifestyle. Then there is me, I have friends who make healthy choices, but I wind up in compromising positions.
“Wait a minute,” I said to Deb. “Isn’t this the class you took last week where you had to hold weights the whole time? The one you said left your arms so sore you couldn’t lift them up the next morning.”
“That was just the first week. I wasn’t used to holding the weights while doing the exercises,” she said trying to convince me.
“I haven’t been to a Pilates class in six years. If you weren’t used to it and your arms were sore, what hope do I have of making it through this class? Who’s going to come to my house and brush my teeth on Saturday morning when I can’t lift my arms?” I asked.
“You’ll be fine. It’s just going to be us in class. It will be fun,” they said in unison with overly eager smiles on their faces.
Fun and exercise don’t usually go together for me. I had a sneaking suspicion that their idea of fun and mine varied wildly, but I said I would consider it.
I needed to make an informed decision before subjecting myself to a potential torture session, so I e-mailed Jen to ask her exactly what this class was going to entail. She explained that the weights are called Drumbellz. They are ¾ of a pound each and resemble drumsticks with tennis balls stuck to the ends. I had images of standing with my hands extended over my head for an hour holding these sticks, but Jen told me that the Drumbellz were used as an extension of our arms as we perform flowing movements rounding our backs and opening our chests. That sounded like Pilates speak for “you’re going to be waving these sticks around while you’re moving.” I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep up with the class and was worried that I’d make a fool of myself, but Jen said the class wasn’t too intense. She was encouraging and told me to come and have fun with it.
I exercise several days a week and have for many years, but I prefer to exercise alone. Nothing about the group exercise experience is appealing to me. I don’t like watching myself moving in floor to ceiling mirrors. Well-intentioned instructors trying to “motivate” me by yelling at me to move faster or work harder are irritating. Synchronizing my body movements with a group of other humans is not something that comes naturally to me. Frankly, I can barely coordinate my own body movements to walk without tripping. There are other things at which I excel, but rhythm and coordination don’t make the list. I accept this. Yet despite this self-awareness, I agreed to attend the Drumbellz class.
Aside from being goaded into a Pilates class on a Friday night, having friends who are fitness instructors does have its advantages. When we entered the studio, they told me exactly where to stand so that I would be in the instructor’s blind spot. That was excellent insider information. When the instructor entered the room, she turned off most of the lights. Dim lighting and blind spots… this was a promising beginning! True to their word, Jen and Deb stood beside me so that they could coach me if need be.
The minute the music started I knew I was in trouble. Sounds of tribal drum beats filled the studio. I shot Jen a “you have got to be kidding me” look and she just smiled sheepishly at me. Drumbellz in hand, we started doing some simple movements. When the instructor’s Drumbellz began to glow and flash in the semi-darkness like a short version of light sabers from Star Wars, it was all I could do to stifle a laugh. I was fixated on the lights. What made them blink? Did they flash in time to the music? I was so entranced by the lights that I didn’t notice how the instructor’s arms and legs were moving. It was completely distracting. In a class of this type, where I am supposed to be using my core muscles to support body movements, there are only so many muscles I can control at once. It was becoming very clear to me that if I was going to be able to exercise properly, I was not going to be able to stop myself from laughing uncontrollably. If I was going to control my inappropriate laugh reflex, I was going to struggle to maintain an upright posture. I mustered every ounce of self-control I had and attempted to restrain my urge to laugh. That, in itself, was quite a workout.