How a pilates class taught me something

Today I took a Pilates class. I used to dance ballet when I was younger and I was quite passionate about it until I realized I wasn’t doing to good in terms of injuries and time management. I began college, and I quit ballet. I was sad to quit it, but I had no choice at the moment. Fast forward to almost 10 years later, failed attempts at almost every single form of fitness possible, and you will find that although visibly thin and petite, I am severely out of shape. Since moving to Spain and embarking on my nomadic lifestyle, I have walked everywhere, I have enjoyed walking and hiking but I haven’t done much of anything else. In fact, last time I lifted any form of a weight, was almost 2 years ago while still living in the States. This means that other than moderate cardio, I have been inactive when it comes to strength training, or balance, or any of those things.

Here I was at this Spanish Pilates class, the instructor was lovely, gentle, and very nice. However, I was intimidated, scared, and even a bit ashamed by the numerous amount of women clearly over the age of 50 who were stretching and lifting circles around me, while I felt out of breath, and like at any moment my little feeble legs were going to shake right out of their place and on to the mat. At one point, I rolled off my Pilates ball… yes, I rolled off, and almost slammed into the glowing Himalayan salt lamp in the corner. I fixed it with humour by laughing at myself, but deep down I was actually wanting to cry a bit. I felt I looked ridiculous beyond understanding, and even though the lady behind me struggled a bit, it was nothing compared to the obvious lack of “form” I had. Here’s the thing, I was super excited about taking this class, I thought for sure it would be the highlight of my week. I miss working out in the styles that I appreciate, I miss having good fitness and balance, I miss ballet. I also miss the overall feeling of learning something new that I know is good for my body and all that, but I left feeling a bit disappointed. I didn’t really enjoy myself as much as I thought I would, I felt alienated and awkward, and even a little bit lost.

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Me at Pilates class.

Despite all of this, I’m glad that I took this class, because through this Pilates class I learned something: overall, when it comes to “achievements” or even abilities, I’ve had things be moderately easy for me. I’ve never been one to spend days studying for an exam, a few hours and sometimes much less than that has been enough for me to grasp the concept and ace the exam. I can think of certain life challenges that have presented, but they’ve seldom been about things that test my own abilities, and skills or even knowledge. Due to this or so I feel, I’ve learned to be hard on myself, to the point of being quite merciless. When I try something new and I don’t ace it on the first try, I have a natural instinct to give up and to say “it’s just not my thing”. I don’t know if any of you can relate to this, but there’s just something in me that makes me feel as if not knowing how to do something on the first try is a type of sign that lets me know that I won’t get better. It doesn’t precisely go with the mentality of ‘not giving up’ or being positive, and much less with how much I encourage my friends and loved ones to not give up on anything, to try new things. I guess I’m okay with trying new things as long as I honestly think that I will be good at them, but is it just me? Maybe there will be things that I should learn to enjoy that I’m not good at. I used to be a dancer, but I’m not really an athlete. I’ve relapsed from running, jogging, gym-memberships, weight-lifting and bowling. I’m really bad at bowling (my mom on the other hand is amazing at it, and every sport ever). Maybe I grew up seeing my sister be the athletic one and I stereotyped myself, maybe I honestly don’t have as much resistance as normal people… but that isn’t the problem, I shouldn’t feel like I have to be good at it to enjoy it or to do it.

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I guess today I learned that I want to give Pilates another try, I don’t feel I should give up just yet. So what if I rolled off the ball, and I couldn’t do a single sit-up? I’ve never been able to do a single sit-up, and much less while balancing on a poorly inflated red Pilates ball. This is the first time I try to do something with my body which perhaps makes me self-conscious and too exposed to my surrounding for my own introverted needs, since dancing ballet with a group of girls I knew well. I don’t know if any of you reading this want to give up on something at the moment, but I propose you ask yourself why you want to give up on it. Is it because it is too challenging? Should that be a valid reason? Or is it because you didn’t do perfectly well the first few times you tried it? Maybe it’s because you’ve realized that it isn’t worth it to you, that you won’t gain anything or learn anything from it, and if those are your reasons then I guess they should give you peace and you shouldn’t feel like you’re giving up but rather letting go. But, if it is of value to you, if you are passionate about it, if there’s any ounce of possibility in still making it happen, perhaps giving up isn’t the best option, even if like me, you are rolling off and falling on your face. Maybe you shouldn’t expect to walk on your first try like I have been expecting of myself. Maybe we all need to learn to fail, learning to fail is an art that I have yet to master. Even now, as I feel quite exhausted, I have come to the realization that I did something new today, failing isn’t failure, failure is attempt and attempt is novelty. Novelty is always a favourite thing of mine. Maybe next time I fail it will be another step towards novelty, and being that it will be a new failure, I would have learned something after all.

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