Quote of Inspiration

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Atilla and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pilates Update.....

I went to meet Gingy last night, the Pilates guru in town. She has a lovely little studio on the 2nd floor of an old apartment building, overlooking downtown.

As I took off my jacket and slipped out of my shoes, I said, "Gingy, let me be honest. I don't want to tone a little and feel better. I want to cut the crap. I want the saddlebags gone and the tummy pulled in, and I'm willing to work for it."

She looked at me briefly, for a split second, and then she broke into a wide smile and said, "We are going to work well together."

I spent nearly two hours with Gingy, although we only probably worked out for one hour. We chatted while we worked, and we chatted after we worked. It was a lovely few hours, particularly as I'm new in town and don't yet have any friends. Gingy and I had a lot in common.

Now, regarding the nitty-gritty of the workout, let me describe it as best I can. We used the machines the entire time. The exercises are very much like the exercises you might do in a Pilates video (think Windsor Pilates), except that you're using resistance bands attached to the machines, so there is a little added umph factor. And there isn't as much tendency to flail around on the machines, because your limbs are attached to straps and/or a bar. We did several leg exercises, which were familiar to me from Windsor Pilates. For example, we did leg circles. Only with the machine, instead of just circling your legs in the air, your feet are attached to a long strap, and the strap is attached to resistance, so when you move your leg in that wide circle, you're pulling weight. Add to that the up and down motion of the pad your lying against, and it's a much stronger, more fluid workout. You're not just sitting on the floor swinging your leg. You're moving up and down while circling your leg, which is attached to a weight. Same but different.

We did about 5 leg exercises, and Gingy was mindful of my form and of how my toes were pointed and/or flexed. It's easy to ignore that part of the equation in a video. If you're focusing simply on getting that leg around in a complete circle, you can forget altogether the position of toes, but toes matter and when you do leg circles with proper toe form, it really does add a whole other dimension to the practice.

We also did arms, again with the resistance bands, and we did abs. The ab exercises, in a sort of cat position, were lovely and I usually hate abs and didn't hate these at all. Everything is just very fluid and deliberate. That's a great word for Pilates: deliberate. Particularly if you're working with a trainer, who is focusing on your form and whether or not your abs are pulled in and flat while you're working your legs. I mean, it just feels like one whole complete package instead of focusing on one part of your body.

We did a little cardio, which consisted of lying on the pad, feet on a flat black surface at the end of the machine (sort of like those lying squat machines at the gym, where you press your feet flat and push up and down like a squat). Except that instead of pushing up and down, you jump up and down (still lying). So, it's like a little ballet jump (toes pointed), except you're lying down and your machine is still attached to resistance. I know. It's confusing. I will never be a Pilates technical writer.

We did about 10 different jumps, feet in different positions, landing in different positions. I could feel my legs the entire time, all the muscles worked from different angles. My heart rate got up there (nothing like Tracy of course), but nothing was hard or too difficult. The word that comes to my mind: gentle.

I know Gingy was going easy on me because I have a tendency for lower back pain and because it was my first time. I think I could stand a lot more resistance and a tougher regime, which I'm sure she could accommodate.

I asked Gingy how often she thought I should do Pilates to get a lovely, lean, sculpted body. She said: 4 times a week while adding other exercises to my program like biking and running. She said the key is to mix it up so the muscles never get used to one thing. She said to bike once a week, run three miles another day, do the mini trampoline the third day. Then, do Pilates 4 times a week. She was pretty sure that with that regimen, and with eating well, I could achieve pretty fantastic results in no time. I admit: I was sold on it myself. And it sounded exciting.

Then, just when I was getting depressed considering the cost ($50/hr. minimum), Gingy said to me, "Would you consider being my workout partner?"

My little brain lit up in all the right places and I heard: ding, ding, ding, ding.

"Yes," I said, not sure what that meant but knowing it sounded really great.

Gingy explained that she used to work out with a client on more of a buddy basis. She still looked at the woman's form and came up with a plan for each workout, but she also worked out with the woman, so that she could fit her own fitness into the day, which is difficult for her to do with a day full of clients (she teaches as many as 10 hrs. per day). She said she could help me and teach me, but she could also workout beside me and we could keep each other motivated. For this, she would charge me $25/hr. instead of $65/hr. or, if I bought large numbers of sessions, $65/hr.

I nearly fell over with excitement. Finally, my chance at Pilates in a way I could likely keep up with for months instead of weeks. I agreed readily, and we set about making our schedule. Since my husband works and is often out of town, and since I have only two mornings a week when both kids are in school, we decided evenings were best. She didn't have mornings open, but she could work out each evening at 6:30 or 7. I thought I could swing that, but I was clear that my husband would some days be out of town or have to work late. Fine. We agreed we'd work the schedule each week and go from there.

I got into my car beyond excited. Beyond.

Then, I got home. And my husband said: No.

I could give you the blow-by-blow, but that's tedious even for the two persons involved let alone those of you in the blogosphere. So, I'll just say, he had some legitimate points. Who wants to work a long day and then come home only to have his wife leave for an hour, so that he has to put kids in the bath and then to bed? And it was going to be about 3 nights a week, give or take.

And he said: No.

Since I can't do Pilates any other time right now, I will have to wait until a time when both kids are in school and I can work it into my schedule.

To say it's disappointing is an obvious understatement, but I am learning that life is about compromise and that one fig that must be put on hold doesn't mean I can't tackle another one with enthusiasm and zest. Life can't be about the perfect moment.

So, I do look forward to private Pilates lessons one day (hopefully with Gingy at her discounted rate). I think I may love Pilates enough to end up teaching it, which would be exciting and lovely. I think Pilates could do for my body what is difficult to do at home, simply because it's hard to focus on form and precision when one is focusing on just keeping one's leg in the air. I think Pilates would be fun to do with other women, and I think it's somewhere in my future.

Until then, my disappointment is somewhat eased by the fact that I have Tracy Anderson's videos, which are fabulous and which (if I focus and practice consistently) will give me great results and keep me fit. I'm really glad I spent the one hour with Gingy, even if it was only the one hour, because it reminded me how important it is to be mindful of my body while I'm exercising, no matter the exercise, to slow down, to focus and to enjoy. I will take this approach with me during my own home-workout routines and, hopefully, in my life in general.

And, as a parting note, when I feel disappointed or discouraged, I find it helpful to sit down and write a short list of what I'm grateful for, as a reminder of how bright my world really is. To that end:

1. I'm grateful that everyone in my family is healthy and that our bodies are all fit to take on something like Pilates....or running down a hill......or climbing on monkey bars.....or climbing into bed.

2. I'm grateful my husband has a job, that we don't have to worry about his losing his job and that we don't face the stress of an uncertain employment future.

3. I'm grateful that we found this place to live, which is so charming and lovely it makes me want to cry every time I go downtown, like yesterday when I was with my son and realized that our little town still has people selling the local paper on street corners. Is that charming or what?

So, there you have it.



  1. Love reading your blog, Amy! Couldn't you work out with Gingy once a week for inspiration or does it have to be all or nothing?

  2. Kelli - so good to read from you. For me, once a week would be more frustrating than inspiring, so I'm okay waiting until the time that I can really dig into to Pilates and kind of absorb it all. Until then, I'm happy to see what I can do w/Tracy Anderson at home!

  3. Disappointing but exciting to find something that you like so much and can see as a part of your future. I like your list very much.

  4. Gillian - thanks for your comments. I'm excited about Pilates in the future too! And I may start a video at home and, like Kelli suggested, do a weekly session just to practice form and be further inspired.


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