Getting up the nerve to take a group Mat Pilates class at a YMCA nearly 20 years ago changed my life. I had no idea walking in that I would find something I connected to and believed in so much, it would eventually become my vocation and profession. I was simply looking for a class that didn’t bore me to death with endless repetitions of exercises that, in the end, made me feel very sore but not very strong. I entered the class not knowing what to expect. I had seen the word P-I-L-A-T-E-S but didn’t know what it was — not even know enough to think it might be something like yoga!
In this, my first blog post, I’m sharing what I remember about that first experience and why Pilates has remained my number one go-to source for health and fitness. If you’ve been wanting to try Pilates, and are nervous about being a beginner, please, please know that we are ALL beginners at some point.
“If I do another useless repetition for the sake of filling time and keeping the beat, I am going to lose my mind.”
That was 1999. I was living and working in Nashville, and my workplace provided exercise classes to employees every day at noon. I took a thirty-minute step class twice a week. These classes served me well, got my heart rate up, got me moving and sweating, but the choreography was uninspired, the music was dated, and the instructor did the same routine every single time. I had had enough.
So, I tried yoga. For about a year. And I really liked it! It was a radical detox from the demanding world of cardio, and I felt so calm and chill after class that I nearly floated home. Then the instructor included chanting as part of our classes, and since I’m neither Hindu nor Buddhist, it wasn’t really my jam. So, the search continued.
One day, a co-worker invited me to be her guest at the downtown YMCA, and I was blown away by the facility and the classes being offered. It wasn’t far from work and would be a nice mid-day break, so I bought a membership. One of the first classes I tried was Mat Pilates.
Now, many years prior, I had seen an ad in a local paper for this “new” exercise called P-I-L-A-T-E-S. I wasn’t even sure how to pronounce it, but the ad claimed it was the “exercise of the future”, or something like that. I had the sense it involved complicated equipment, although I have no idea where I would get that idea. I never pursued it.
But here I was at the Nashville downtown Y with a Pilates class available to me, and I was game to try!
I had zero expectations going into that first class, but a lot of hope that it would be a better fit for me than other classes I tried. I was surprised that the participants represented a mixed population. I saw working professionals, retired individuals, and full-time moms. All at different skill and fitness levels. The instructor was clear in her cues and demonstrated all the exercises, which helped a lot! Once we finshe done set of exercises, we moved on to something else, so I didn’t get bored or frustrated. Not that it wasn’t challenging! But it was challenging because it was new and different, not because it was complicated and impossible. I left feeling like I’d gotten a full workout without any extra equipment or weights, and I felt energized and refreshed instead of exhausted and wrung out. My pants even felt a little looser the rest of the day!
To be completely transparent, I had taken dance and gymnastics growing up, so I have fairly good body awareness, which makes following choreography and movement more intuitive for me than for people without that training. The exercises felt familiar in my body because of my years in dance and gymnastics. I had a muscle awareness of how the exercises were supposed to feel, which encouraged me to believe this was something I could stay with for a long time. In other words, it didn’t feel like a fad, and I knew I would be back.
Joseph Pilates said “In ten sessions you’ll feel the difference; in 20 sessions you’ll see the difference, and in 30 sessions you’ll have a whole new body.” Well, my body felt different the very next day. On the inside. My muscles were speaking to me in a new way. And I felt a connection or awakening of muscles, like I had been girded up and fortified from the inside.
I was hooked!
Over time I attended different Pilates classes at the Y, tried a few classes at a local studio and purchased some DVDs to use at home. I eventually created a class at work called Core Stretch and Strengthen that was based on my then loose interpretation of Pilates exercises. A loyal band of fellow employees were my participants and they encouraged me to pursue formal training to become “certified.” I made a few online inquiries, but it wasn’t the right time for me to embark on a new career path. My husband and I had just invested a lot of time, energy and resources into adopting a baby, and unbeknownst to both of us, we would be moving back to my hometown for my husband to start a new job.
This didn’t stop me from staring out my window at work, daydreaming of how awesome it would be to teach Pilates all the time. As I transitioned into a full-time mom, that dreamed seemed further and further out of reach. The journey back to fitness and Pilates will be the subject of a future blog, so stay tuned!
Many years have passed since my first Mat Class, but the memory lingers. It serves me when I have a person in class who’s never done Pilates and is nervous about doing it “right.” I assure them I certainly didn’t do it right the first –or even 100th— time, and probably for many years that followed. And it didn’t cause me any permanent damage.
Eleven years in, and I don’t see any end in sight. All that daydreaming has become a reality! Teaching Pilates is what I do five days a week, and I love it! I am so grateful and appreciative to not only have a vocation that provides some income, but also the skills and abilities to help others find a path to better health and happiness. I am now comprehensively-trained and PMA-certified, and currently operate a thriving home studio practice.
And it all began at a YMCA group Mat Class!
If you are curious about Pilates and whether or not it’s right for you, I would love to introduce you to all the wonderful ways Pilates can benefit you. I offer an Introductory Private for $35 and an Intro Group Class for $15. Call or email me to set up an appointment, and let’s start the first chapter of your Pilates story together.