Not only am I starting to look like a Weeble but I also have the flexibility of one. I’ve always known that I’m not a naturally lithe person* (being the only person at primary school to fail Level 4 BAGA when I couldn’t perform a crab proved that) but when I found myself thinking how great is this device to pull on socks, I realised some drastic action was needed.
So, in an attempt to become more Betty Spaghetti than Weeble, I’ve started going to a Pilates class. At an Italian gym. Where the teacher doesn’t speak a word of English and I speak only coffee shop Italian. My Italian friend comes with me and, when she remembers, she translates the instructions. When she doesn’t remember, I just try to copy what everyone else is doing. Which is ok except that, apparently, in Pilates it’s all about doing it right, not just doing it.
The first lesson started off quite pleasantly: lying on a mat, which I could cope with easily. Things got harder from there. In a standing position, we had to grasp our left ankle with our right hand, whilst holding our left hand in the air. It was humiliating. The OAP next to me clutched his ankle effortlessly, whereas my hand could barely reach my knee. The teacher kept repeating the instructions to me, loudly and slowly in Italian, in case my difficulties resulted from deafness, rather than physical inadequacy.
No one could be expected to remember everything – tight pelvic floor, loose shoulders, stomach in, breathe. I don’t generally forget to inhale in the normal course of the day but I found myself on the verge of turning blue several times during the lesson.
The final straw came when we were using some sort of inner tube to stretch our leg muscles. With the tube around both legs, we had to balance on our right leg, stretching the tube out with our left. Whilst our hands were lifted above our heads. And, of course, not forgetting tight pelvic floor, loose shoulders, stomach in, breathe. After managing to hold this precarious position for at least three seconds, my balance failed and I toppled over, crashing into the OAP, who successfully took out a skinny, yet buxom blonde, dressed in shiny black lycra, who had been performing the exercises in perfect robot fashion. My embarrassment was lessened slightly by seeing the smug smile wiped off her flawless face by a nimble octogenarian.
The next day, I could barely get out of bed, as there wasn’t a single part of my body that wasn’t sore. Even my fingers hurt. But I returned to the scene of my humiliation the following week. It wasn’t too encouraging when the teacher rolled her eyes as I walked in, but the class was a definite improvement over the week before, in that I didn’t knock over any elderly folk.
This week was my third class. We were working our thighs and stomachs. Worryingly, I’d had a roast lunch the day before (complete with sprouts and cabbage) and there was far too much lifting bottoms off the floor and sticking them in the air for my liking. We were doing an exercise that involved lying on our backs, thrusting our bottoms up and alternately raising one leg up and down. The teacher had come over to my mat to manually force down my rigid shoulders. My fears came to fruition as I gave a big push to lift myself off the floor and I let out a huge fart. Huge. Like Vesuvius erupting. Complete with the matching sulphurous smell of rotten eggs. Mortified, I stared up at the teacher who wrinkled her nose and eyeballed me like I was a piece of inflexible dirt. I closed my eyes to shut out her expression of disgust but I could still hear the sniggers from the rest of the class.
Not too surprisingly, at the end of the lesson the teacher suggested to my friend that perhaps I should try something more suitable, like boxercise or weightlifting. But she’s not getting rid of me that easily. It should be her sworn duty, as a Pilates teacher, to encourage me on the path to suppleness. She ought to look upon me as the challenge of her career; if she can help me to touch my toes, then her name would surely go down in the Pilates history books.
*Googling has since revealed that I suffer from a (self-diagnosed) condition called Hypomobility, where ligaments are tight and movement is restricted. HWW, however, says it sounds like a made-up ailment and is refusing to believe that I’m not merely exceptionally unfit…