Fitness is a never-ending slog for me. I try, but I didn’t get a lot of help in the “natural-ability department.” Among my problems: I get bored easily. I ran for years. (Not in a row, I mean, but several times a week for relatively long periods.) I ran all I was going to run — at least for now.
The problem with running is there are only so many routes. I think I ran all the three-mile loops that intersect with my house I possibly could have run. I lifted weights for a long time. Sometimes I still do, but with age injuries pile up faster and, out of necessity, the weights must be lighter, which is demoralizing. So I was casting about for something I could do for a while, rather than something I’d age out of, and my wife said “What about Pilates?”
Pilates, for the unfamiliar, is a form of exercise that requires you to expend an enormous amount of effort while moving very little. It’s sometimes lumped in with yoga, which the Pilates people seem okay with but makes the kind of yoga people that put a lot of stock in the alignment of their chakras roll their eyes. Apparently Pilates is too focused on mundane things like physical fitness and not focused enough on how you look in a swimsuit on the astral plane.
Pilates doesn’t look like much — a lot of lying on mats and waving one’s legs around like jolly pennants, that sort of thing — but it is hard. Mostly the instructors describe an action they’d like us to take, and then add on in what they think is a polite nonjudgmental way “And if you can’t quite do that, just do this” and then describe a minute variation on the original activity that is still largely beyond my ability. Most of the class moves gracefully. I move like something between a hooked salmon in the bottom of a boat and someone just wrapping up a particularly rough seizure.
It’s hard to describe the moves in the same way it is hard to describe a golf swing. Have you ever tried to describe a golf swing? It has ten thousand moving parts, none easily described. Try this, golfers: Put your hands in your pockets and try to get a person who does not play to demonstrate an interlocking grip. There’s a strong chance your hands rip forward out of your pockets of their own accord.
I keep calling the various postures and exertions “moves”, which is technically incorrect. They all have names, which everyone knows but me. The teacher will say something like “Okay, now we’re going to do Asshat” and suddenly I will be the lone person in the class not sitting on my own head. Between that and my hearing issues (I already don’t hear well, plus my pulse pounds in my ears for the whole hour of the class) I am always a half-step behind the whole rest of the people in the room. Compounding the problem, there are mirrors on two walls, which is as awful as it sounds. It could be worse, though. The other studio has two full walls of windows. I will never take a class in there.
One of the moves that I don’t do gracefully involves lying on my back and then abruptly lifting everything but my butt into the air, assuming approximately the position of someone in an action movie being blown out a door by an explosion. I can very vaguely sorta do that one. There are some — sitting up straight with legs straight out in front of me and crossed, then lifting those crossed legs into the air without moving my upper body — that I cannot do at all.
Still, I’m going to keep trying. Every now and again I make the tiniest budge of progress, and it feels like a million bucks. Someday I may even achieve a perfect Asshat.