An underlying motif of my quest: Not Looking, Feeling, Or Acting My Age. 40 is a morbid milepost in a man's life. If he is lucky, he's reached the halfway point; the Mortal Coil is 50 percent unwound. Statistically speaking, that halfway point is probably in his rearview mirror. And if you don't think that graying men buy sports cars to symbolically outrun that Great Gettin' Up Mornin', well...
I put the 40/40 List on the backburner: Lucas started kindergarten a few weeks ago, and the run-up to that was draining. There were crayons and glue sticks and boxes of granola bars to stockpile. Visits to the pediatrician and dentist. I was trying to maintain a Zen-like approach: take each thing as it comes, don't freak out that your little boy is beginning a huge new phase in his life, what will be will be. And all the while a great wind kept pushing my fat ass across the sky. I was getting weaker. Flabbier. Atrophying. And I was Unmotivated. The bane of junior high soccer coaches everywhere - Unmotivation. I could go for a run...or, OR, I could eat cold spaghetti with meat and bacon sauce with a side of Smokin' Cheddar BBQ Doritos. Or I could do neither and just sit there and think about eating or exercising or the time that I enjoyed both. I was in the Doldrums. The Horse Latitudes. The Seas of Sloth-Related Cliches.
"We should do a Pilates class together," Beth suggested. Ah! This was on the List! "Do a Pilates class." I could write about it! It would be good for me! Physically and mentally! A mind-body experience, just like Joseph Pilates intended! And a tax write-off! Sign me up!
Oh, the enthusiasm of the yet-to-be tortured.
We arrived at the studio and were greeted by our instructor; she showed me the unique machines that we'd be using for our workout. They look like this. I looked at them and saw this. "Do I need a safeword?" I whispered to Beth. "Mine will be 'rhubarb'". Our instructor, who, by the way, is an incredibly fit woman, told us to lie down on one of the machines (I believe it was the one called The Reformer, or maybe it's The Widowmaker). "We'll start off easy", she smiled, the relaxed smile of one who is incredibly fit. "I work out", I said to no one in particular. "Lift weights, run, surf, that sort of thing." The instructor smiled sadly at me. "Let's begin by pushing with the legs, keep your spine in a neutral position, and press your abs down..." "Rhubarb!", I grunted.
For the next hour, I was bent, twisted, stretched, and contorted in ways that Decency prevents me from fully describing. Pilates is resistance training; the machines use springs and your body weight, and just about every exercise involves using your upper and lower abs and obliques in one way or another. It's a devious workout, in that you don't really notice how difficult it is until some 30 minutes into it, when your gut muscles realize what's going on and send a message to your brain: "Hey! Shithead! Up until now the only exercise we usually get is Expansion By Pizza/Beer. What's with this Gymkata stuff?" And then various parts of you begin to shake uncontrollably; I was quivering like late 1990's Katherine Hepburn doing her best imitation of 1957 Elvis. And all the while, the incredibly fit instructor smiles while having you do things that I suspect are violations of the Geneva Convention. (Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapons are fear, surprise, a fanatical devotion to the Pope, and making hapless schmucks like you do Planks until your arms are ripped from their sockets!) When the hour concluded, I was light-headed and drenched in sweat.
The next day, I felt like I'd been beaten with broom handles.
And here's the thing - it felt good. I had worked muscles that had been ignored since my serious Rock Climbing days. I was in pain, but it was a good pain, the kind earned from pushing yourself in ways that you didn't think possible. So I'll continue doing Pilates. And maybe I'll get to the point where I'll be able to do this - ouch.