Did I just pretend I exercised?

Friday, 31 May 2019

Brookes Sport Headington - health suite

Brookes Gym

For some inexplicable reason, I always thought that pilates was one of those fast-paced, pseudo-motivating upbeat classes. I honestly don't know where I got that idea. Perhaps it was because the first mentions of the whole concept started years ago and I had this intense memory in my head of a lady in shorts smiling an American smile on a cover of a VHS tape (basically YouTube for kids of the 80s and 90s). That memory may as well be fake because I couldn't have been more wrong. I took a deep breath and went in. The girl in front of the mirrors seemed nice, she told us to get a mat and the lesson started. Not before giving us a couple of basic instructions though - which was refreshing, because that meant I did not have to feel like that much of an idiot for not knowing anything at the Sports Centre for once.

  1. Tuck your tailbone in
  2. Engage your core, she said
  3. Hold your belly and don't forget to breathe.

I mean especially that last one seemed like very reasonable advice.

Turns out that pilates is mostly done at a very chill pace, but that doesn't mean it is boring or easy. No sir. All my muscles knew it was on. Then a very annoying bit cracked in my back and I'd found a release after days of that thing bugging me.

I noticed a lady next to me who looked bored and had this sort of “eh, I don't really want to do this” look.

I wondered:

  1. what in the world is she doing there?
  2. why does she look bored?

And then I noticed the others. I am not a creep, I was simply trying to figure out why some people go there to be bored.

In retrospect, that must've been the best fitness-related advice I ever received. Because there are very few things that would make a bigger difference to me in the past couple of weeks.

And then I saw it. And I remembered a particularly intense part of my life when I was rehearsing for a dance-theatre show we'd produced a couple of years ago. The choreographer back then was very adamant about one thing: “Even if you visibly move just your hand, just your finger, your whole body needs to be a part of that one movement.”

In retrospect, that must've been the best fitness-related advice I ever received. Because there are very few things that would make a bigger difference to me in the past couple of weeks.

There was a majority of people who looked various degrees of happy, exhausted but into it and few who looked like they'd rather be anywhere else. The difference? The happy ones were visibly engaging their whole bodies and in case they lost focus for a bit, the instructor's calm, friendly and regular reminders of “engage your core, don't forget to breathe, use your shoulders/back/core/thighs” promptly put them back in the game. Whenever I exercise, it's a half-automatic thing to have my whole body present and active (thanks to those brutal dance rehearsals) but this intrigued me. So I deliberately tried to relax my belly and stop “holding the position”. Boy did the exercises suddenly suck. No wait, that's not correct - I was the one who sucked. And my back hurt again. I wasn't doing the whole thing. I was just there to pretend I exercised.