Saturday, November 1, 2008


The Pilates instructor is recovering from back surgery and is out for an indefinite period. During this time our boot camp Pilates has been replaced by a Core Stability Ball class.

The first night she was gone, when I thought it was just a one-time illness, I was pretty pleased by the reprieve. I was tired, had very little sleep the night before, and the idea of bouncing around on the stability ball, instead of raising it up and down between my legs (along with other endless series of ab-straining exercises), was pretty appealing.

So I bounced, and did crunches and pushups and stretches on the ball. Some of the moves were pretty challenging, but the overall impact was much gentler and less exhausting than our regular Pilates class.

The second time we had the substitute class I found out that Trudi was going to be gone for several weeks, at least. Once again I enjoyed the break (as I was again sleep-deprived and weak), but this time the ball class was even easier, hardly a challenge at all.

After the class was over, a couple of the other regulars were talking about whether we might want to start staying after for a mini-Pilates class of our own. At first I laughed at that idea, knowing that my ability to torture myself was very questionable without Sergeant Trudi cracking the whip, but later I started to wonder if it might not be a good idea to attempt.

I have been doing this Pilates class for at least a year, probably longer—I can't remember when exactly it started. It is harder than any other Pilates class I have tried. Most people who come in to try it for the first time end up collapsed on their backs as Trudi forces us through endless reps of various roll-ups, oblique twists, and other core-strengthening exercises, mostly focused on the abs. But I can make it through every single repeat.

How long will it take for me to lose all that strength that it has taken so long to develop? I know I've been able to go on vacation for a couple of weeks and come back pretty easily. I slacked a lot (skipping classes) over the summer, but in September I vowed not to miss a class unless I was out of town or I had a really good reason to skip. (Feeling tired? Not a good reason. Presidential debate? Good reason.)

Believe it or not, I do have rock-hard abs, abs of steel. It's just that they're covered by a layer of fat, so it's not that obvious.* Not to mention the little roll above my waist which, I can assure you, all the crunches and Pilates in the world will not get rid of. But if I am standing up and you press on my lower abdomen, it is a wall of muscle. I'm pretty proud of that. Sometimes I just stand around, pressing on my stomach and saying "my, that is firm...." (But not too much. Not all the time. Not in public, usually.)

They say (whoever "they" are) that a strong core helps your running. I would agree with that. I definitely felt when I was skiing last winter that a strong core was making me a better skier. I felt in control of my skiing, and I even felt my ab muscles tucking in as I flew down the slopes.

So in order not to lose what I've gained (which is similar, but not the same as trying not to gain what I've lost), I may have to squeeze in a few interim roll-ups and leg lifts. While barking, Trudi-style, "Obliques!" Cause I don't want those iron abs to turn to mush. Even if I'll never look like Nicollette Sheridan. (Bitch.)

*One of the stylists at the hair salon I go to said she doesn't like to do ab work because she doesn't like getting "ripples" on her stomach. "You know," she said, "six-pack abs?" I just looked at her, trying not to roll my eyes. "No," I said, "I've never had that problem." Six-pack abs! I would give anything for a ripple on my stomach that could not be more properly described as a "roll." Never. Gonna. Happen.

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