German Torture Exercise

A few months ago I started pilates classes. I’m not good at exercising, and signing up for a class means that I go regularly.

The Gurrier has nicknamed pilates German Torture Exercise and I have to say that’s a pretty good description. Sure, it looks like it won’t be that bad, just waving your legs in the air a bit, but it’s not. It’s hard. It involves crunches, and an exercise called ‘the 100’. 100! That’s a lot.

Now, if you go along with the multiple intelligences view of, well, intelligence, spatial-awareness and bodily-kinaesthetic would not be my strong points. Put more simply – I’m crap at gym. It takes me a few goes to ‘get’ a movement. I need it described, slowly, and I need to see it done at the same time, and then to practice it. Also, I still need to hold my hands out in front of me to work out my left and right, so it takes a few seconds longer for me to work out what everyone is doing. If you’re ever in a class with me, don’t look at me to see what you should be doing, because there’s a strong chance I’ll be doing it backwards. Or not at all.

All of this has made pilates a bit of a challenge, but it’s one that I’m enjoying immensely. OK, after a couple of classes it hurt to sneeze, but apparently there are fledgling muscles under my belly! I can’t see them yet, but I can feel them, so I know they’re there. I feel like I’m getting something out of the classes, and I can see signs of improvement, so it’s quite satisfying.

Then, about a month ago I started doing yoga classes too. They’re a couple of nights after pilates, which is great to work out the kinks and stretch me nicely. It’s a very gentle hatha yoga, with lots of guided relaxation thrown into the mix, and is a nice contrast to the pilates. Some of the movements are very similar, but instead of being told to clench my stomach and pelvic floor muscles, I’m told to relax. The two complement each other.

Naturally I have the exact same issues in yoga as I do in pilates, but I’m doing ok. Then last week something very exciting happened.

We learned the half shoulder stand (eventually we’ll be doing headstands, but this is the start).

I can do shoulder stands. It’s the one thing I was able to do as a kid in gym, and I really mean the one thing. Because I could do it I did it a lot. Mum’s a PE teacher, and my cousin used to be into gym (and is a PE teacher too now so probably still is), so when we’d be out in the garden in the summer my cousin would be doing handstands and handsprings and cartwheels all over the place, and I’d be doing my shoulder stand. It’s been a while, as it’s not something I’ve been called upon to do much in my adult life, but muscle memory turns out to be a wonderful thing, and I was able to execute a pretty good attempt at a full shoulder stand on my first try.

At the end of the class my teacher came up and praised me on it, and after the class The Gurrier was congratulating me quite effusively. I tried to explain that really it was no big deal, it’s something I used to do a lot, when I was interrupted: “But Is”, he said. “It’s the first time I’ve seen you try a new movement without falling over.”