I’ll admit it. Sometimes I can be a keener. This is odd because as a self-proclaimed and-still-struggling-procrastinator-who-has-had-an-unfortunate-history-of-not-being-able-to-keep-up-with-anything-type-of-person (long label, I know), it’s quite contradictory to claim that I’m also the total opposite. But, hear me out. Whenever I sign up for a class, for example, I get excited and start planning before it starts.
So two weeks ago when I signed up for Pilates classes at the Athletic Centre, I couldn’t wait for it to begin. Since I made the pact with myself to get healthy, this class seemed like the perfect fit for me—it’s not so advanced that I’d want to drop out mid-way through, and it’s also a great way to relax and de-stress (especially with mid-terms getting in the way right now).
Last Wednesday I attended my first class, which was in the dance studio. And I’m lucky to say that were only seven people, including the instructor and me, which gave me the more intimate, one-on-one approach that I’ve always wanted when working out. When we did our stretches, the instructor spotted us and gave us suggestions on how to improve our posture. As someone who is constantly aware of my tendency to slouch, I appreciated that.
And I’m happy to say that I wasn’t slouching, this time.
What I love about Pilates is that it’s in the same family as yoga, so I didn’t have to worry about coming into a class that was completely new to me since I’d done yoga before. I liked the comfort of walking into the studio, familiar with most of the poses. But of course, there were certain poses that I needed to put extra effort into, like plank, which is the bane of my existence. No, unfortunately it’s not the lazy kind of plank meme (basically lying face down) that used to be popular a while back in the Internet. This kind of plank demands you to use the strength of your core while you hold yourself above the ground in a frozen push-up. In class, when we were thirty seconds away from being done holding the posture, my body gave out, and I had to take a time out to rest. After all of these years of going in class and doing this pose, I still have yet to conquer it.
In the past, I’ve dropped out of classes that I found were discouraging. If I didn’t see any physical results in the mirror, I’d throw in the towel. But my perception of what defines success has changed now. It’s not about how I look, but what I can do. I remind myself that I need to practice to reach these milestones so that each time I come back to an exercise, I’m ready to push myself further and try harder. Even though this is common sense, I never gave any thought to practicing moves outside of class.
But in that first Pilates class, the instructor emphasized the importance of practicing a few of the moves for at least fifteen minutes each day. When my class was having trouble with the plank position (I wasn’t alone!), she mentioned that this pose should be our homework for the next class; she advised that we devote a minute or two every day towards planking. Yup, you read that right: planking as homework. Talk about being assigned work outside of university classes.
When the second class rolled around, I came in with my homework “completed.” I practiced the plank position over the long weekend. I didn’t want to hear my instructor say that five letter word and feel that dread all over again. So, I devoted just a minute per day to it. I also committed fifteen minutes to practicing the other stretches and poses.
As a result, I felt prepared, and—dare I say it—a little confident. As we transitioned from one pose to the next, I hesitated less and trusted myself in what I was doing. No, I wasn’t confident enough to be that all-star participant who goes to the front of the class (and who we all envy). I didn’t have all of the poses down pat. But I didn’t try to be invisible, hiding in the back like I did in the first class either.
I have yet to experience major changes in how far I can go with the poses, but I can already say that by following through with the homework, I’ve improved already! When our class came to the final pose, which was –you guessed it—planking (saving the best for last), I started off without straining my shoulders like I had the week before. Even though my body gave out with around 15 seconds to go, I was glad that I pushed myself, albeit for just a few seconds! By experiencing a little improvement, I was able to end class on a positive note, and was motivated more than ever to perfect the art of planking. Ever since, I’ve been practicing, and waiting, til the day of my next class arrives. And come to think of it, I don’t have much dread over the word “homework” or “practice” anymore, considering that I feel better each time I build on this habit.
I’ll keep you all updated on how my planking goes, and would love to hear your advice on how to improve!
Seriously, please pass on any tips you have on conquering the plank or any other Pilates postures, or exercises that you find challenging!
I look forward to your motivation and tips!