Not Just for Skinny Girls!
Thursday, July 16, 2015
I nearly cried in Pilates class yesterday.
I went to my first class last week, and it was challenging but okay. It's a beginner class, and the instructor, a tiny petite little thing who probably never had an extra ounce on her body, took it nice and slow, explaining the movements, and I could do it. Confidence builder!
This week she brought in these squishy little balls about the size of small cantaloupes, and she had us hold them as we attempted the different moves. Between my ankles, okay; between my knees, okay; in my hands, okay. And then put them under various body parts --- feet, shoulder blades, hips. And here was where the trouble started. First off, I was really afraid I was going to pop the stupid thing. Then I kept falling off of it -- my two huge size 8s simply would not stay on on the ball at the same time. Plus I was having trouble seeing her -- I was near the front and off to the side a bit, and I just could not stay in the pose, on the ball, and get my bifocals tilted at the right angle, so I didn't understand half of what I was supposed to do. I started getting discouraged.
Then the tiny little thing (did I mention she was blonde?) says to put it under your sternum, and she puts hers between her breasts. I happen to be a bit, uh, blessed in that department. Lying flat on my stomach is sometimes a bit painful all by itself. I also happen to know that my sternum is not between my breasts. When I put my ball under my sternum, it kept rolling up to under my throat. When I tried putting it under my breasts (between was not an option thanks to my sports bra), it nearly sent me into cobra pose all by itself. "Don't arch your back" the little sweetheart says. I set the ball aside, put my head down on my hands, and just breathed. I thought about leaving right then, and I thought about just staying there until the end of the class, and maybe even until the end of the next class. All I could think was "I can't do this. I just can't do this."
But I know that I can. It will not be easy for me to learn, and I will have to work at it. But I can do it. I am not going to let a squishy little ball defeat me and keep me from reaching my goals. So when I was ready, I picked up my head and finished the class.
I refuse to believe that Pilates is just for the skinny people of the world. I believe it's for people who want to strengthen their core and improve their balance and flexibility, which are high priorities for me right now. If I could already do it, I would not need a beginner class. I also know that the instructor should be helping me learn how to modify the movement without losing the integrity of the exercise.
As I was leaving, she asked me "Did you like the balls?" When I said that they gave me some trouble, she seemed surprised. She said they were to help with focus and I didn't have to use them. I said, "But I'm trying to learn." It did not seem to have occurred to her that people coming to their first few classes would not know how to adapt her instructions to fit their needs.
Next week, I am going to come early and talk to her about what I need from her. I am also going to talk to the management of the gym about offering "heavy-weight" classes and about making sure that all of the instructors understand what kind of modifications heavier people need. It isn't about making it easier, it's about adjusting for the different body shape, just like they would adjust for injuries or heart conditions. We all start where we can; with hard work and discipline (plus some support!) we progress to the next level, and then the next, and then the next. I will never be the size and shape of that instructor. My genes just don't permit it. But that does not prevent me from being as strong and as healthy as I can. Pilates isn't just for skinny people, and it isn't just for people who have already achieved their fitness goals. It's for people who want to learn what the class can offer.
I know that I can do this. I just need a little bit of help.