It was a cold Monday night when I decided that it was finally time to become the person I was always meant to be.
That person did pilates.
I’m 27 years old and I’ve done pilates precisely one time. It was on my lounge room floor with a friend when I was 15 and I got bored halfway through and so just sat there with a curved spine breathing deeply and patting my dog.
But something told me there was more to it. I read in a magazine renowned for telling lots of lies, that Jennifer Aniston does pilates. I’ve always imagined after one lesson, I would grow 10 centimetres taller, get a tan, prance instead of simply walk and have a body that was offensively toned.
For some context, I can’t touch my toes. A few months ago, after sitting on the floor for too long, I stood up and my knee collapsed on itself and I fell over a coffee table. My knees always look swollen and sometimes people comment. One time I sneezed and slipped a disk in my lower back. My physio doesn’t know why I don’t have quads or glutes or abdominal muscles, but is understandably horrified and said something about doing exercises that I promptly forgot about.
In short, I am a pilates instructor’s worst nightmare.
So on Monday, I found a class around the corner from my house. I imagined mats. Some… lunging. Maybe some laying on your back and breathing.
When I arrived, I had to fill out a form with any prior injuries. Given I only had three minutes until the class started, and don’t like to talk about my knee injury caused from sitting for too long, I left that part blank. Genius.
That’s when the instructor said, “Okay everyone, through here.”
That’s odd, I thought. We were already standing in a pilates studio. So where were we going?
And then I saw them.
Contraptions. With chains and stirrups and bars. Torture devices, if you will.
I double checked and, yes, I’d signed up for a ‘reformer pilates’ class but I obviously assumed that just meant normal pilates… and the ‘reformer’ part just meant ‘improving your body to look like Jennifer Aniston’.
There has been no mention of machines on the website.
I sat on my machine and it slid so I yelled. The instructor looked at me with an expression that said; "Why me?" and I smiled back as if to say, "You, my friend, have no idea how bad someone can be at reformer pilates..."
For the first 15 minutes I tried to copy the person next to me who, it turns out, was also brand new and on the verge of having a panic attack.
Just when I thought I'd mastered an exercise, the instructor would yell, "NOW CHANGE TO BLUE AND YELLOW" and people would pull at the chains at the end of their machines and what the f*ck I didn't realise I had to be an engineer to do exercise.
We then put our legs up in the air to do a complicated frog pose and I was certain I'd nailed it.
But then I caught a glance in the mirror.
What... was that.
There was somebody having a fit in the studio and they really ought to... oh.
If I thought my legs were at 90 degrees, they were more so at 22 degrees. If I thought my back was straight, I looked like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. If I thought I looked like the pro chick a few machines down from me, I actually looked like an exaggerated parody in a very funny skit of Inside Amy Schumer.
My legs were in stirrups and they kept flipping up without my control and my face was in my own vagina. I just didn't think this was what my Monday night was going to look like.
Whenever I felt like I was doing a great job, thinking "Damn - I'm fitter than I thought," the instructor would come and adjust my leg or hips, and suddenly the whole thing would become much harder.
She also kept adjusting my head which was always angled slightly to the left, mostly because that's where the clock was.
By the end of the class, the instructor was modifying every exercise for me and my new panic attack friend. I spent the whole time terrified I was going to injure myself, while muttering under my breath, "no one has ever hurt themselves watching TV. No one. It's always when they tried something new, which I think we can all agree, is a terrible idea."
Four days later, the class ended. The instructor said the rosary a few times and prayed to God that the blonde girl who got stuck with one leg above her head never comes back.
But she's in for a rude shock.
Because dammit, if going to pilates means I can tell everyone I went to pilates, and maybe buy a lil' bit of chocolate on the way home, then I'm hooked.