I took myself to a pilates class on Friday.
My friend asked if I wanted to join her, and instead of going with my usual gut reaction to an invitation to exercise (“No thank you, I would rather boil my own eyeballs”) I decided to accept.
I changed into leggings and a sports bra, dug out a pair of pink Flashdance wristbands (mandatory), and pulled on a pair of those ultra-low socks with elastic that either digs into your skin like a cheese wire or is so ineffective that the sock slips off and crumples uselessly under the arch of your foot.
I was ready.
We arrived at the pilates in extremely high spirits. The elation and novelty of having decided to do exercise was giving me the sort of insufferable feeling of magnanimity I usually only feel after donating to charity. I practically bounced into reception. Pale ash floorboards and white walls immediately gave me the feeling I should be whispering, and the two expertly made-up and manicured receptionists raised their false lashes in slow synchronisation to stare expectantly at us. We mumbled our names in the hushed tones reserved for church or, apparently, health studios with minimalist decor, and tripped our way down the stairs to the room of mirrors.
Now, I realise that there is a reason for the mirrored exercise room. I understand that it serves a purpose, and that the purpose is to keep an eye on your form. It’s important when practicing yoga to make sure that you look more like a swan and less like an inbred inner-city pigeon that just survived an aggressive encounter with a housecat.
That being said, isn’t there something profoundly unnerving about having to maintain eye contact with yourself while your entire body threatens to seize with cramp? Other people may be able to do curtsy lunges while looking like fierce, fit princesses of the modern age, but when I do them I look like a deflating balloon. It’s hit or miss whether I’ll make it back into a standing position. Since watching abject failure makes me uncomfortable, I try to avoid looking in the mirror positioned mere inches from my face. If I happen to accidentally catch my own eye, I flush red and shake my head apologetically.
Sorry, Gym-Mirror Me, I think. I’m doing my best here. These muscles haven’t been used in about a decade. Can we move past this mortification and pretend it never happened?
Gym-Mirror Me exhales deeply and ignores me, shaking with the effort of sinking into another curtsy lunge.
After class had ended, I lay on my mat and tried to ignore the silent screaming of my abdominal muscles as I thought about the year ahead. There are so many things that I want to accomplish in the next twelve months. Last year brought some pretty adult changes to my life and involved a lot of google searches that started with, ‘How do I…’ and ‘What does it mean when…’ and ‘Why do I need…’.*
I know this year will be bumpy. Aren’t all years bumpy in one way or another? I don’t think I’ve ever had a year that was uninterrupted smooth sailing the whole way through. I’ve had years where I’ve encountered setback potholes the size of craters, and challenges that loomed over me like the vertical face of K2. I’ve also had years that felt like studded paths, with nothing too drastic, just little bumps in the road to slow me down.
I’m hoping this year will be the latter. You know, traversable potholes. Surmountable challenges. Nothing that will blindside me at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.
I left the pilates studio feeling like an astronaut in space, on an endorphin high that didn’t leave me until the following day when I realised going up or down stairs would be a challenge for the rest of the weekend. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I enjoyed it! I think I might actually go back and hand over more hard-earned money in exchange for another forty-five minutes of punishment.
This year is already full of surprises, and we’re not even ten days in.
*Thank God the internet took off before I reached my teens. How on earth did people manage before Google?!