Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Toys in Pilates Class

We’ve been pestering the gym for new mats in the Pilates room. The old ones are pitted and ripped. They didn’t buy us new mats. They bought us small exercise balls – mini- versions of regular exercise balls which are about 22 inches high – these are about 14 inches high. And they bought us new metal rings with curved pads on opposite points. They even bought us new wide rubber bands, similar to those I use for rehab. But no new mats.

I could always bring my mat from home. It’s just laziness that’s stopping me – that and I don’t like the backpack method for carrying a mat, and I’m not pleased with the saddle bag method either. Once I have the mat on the floor and I’ve used the sani-wipe on it, an old ripped pitted mat does the job. But for what I pay the gym, I think they can afford new mats at least once a year. And we’ve had these mats for as long as I’ve been a member.

The 14" green inflatable balls are versatile. We can squeeze them between our thighs and get an adduction workout. We can put our feet on them, raise up into a bridge, and roll them back and forth to work the abs and hamstrings at the same time. “Make suction cup feet,” says our instructor. “Keep your pelvis in neutral.”

The metal rings with pads are also about 14" in diameter. The pads are for hands or feet, or knees. The pads are on the inside and outside of the rings, so we can squeeze in or push out with a variety of body parts. One of our teacher’s favorites is standing on one foot, holding the ring straight out at arms length and squeezing the ring ten times between our hands. Even she wobbles on her left foot, and she is a professional exercise instructor in her 30's. We try to keep our four-cornered foot-press, spot on the floor, watch ourselves in the mirror, keep our balance and squeeze that ring. You’d think we were training to be circus bears. I want to be a circus bear. I really do.

Another teacher’s favorite is squeezing that ring between our feet as we lie on our backs and extend our legs at a 45 degree angle. Then we do crunches. Even circus bears can’t do that, but we try.

And the 6-inch-wide rubber bands have a sneaky way of looking easy. They don’t weigh much. They are floppy. But once you bend your knee, put your foot in the middle of one, turn your foot at a slight angle and hold both ends with your hands, and try to extend your leg, it feels like pushing a weight, that gets heavier the further you push it. My legs aren’t that long, and it feels like at least 10 lbs by the time my knee is straight. I wonder what the taller women feel.

When the hour-long class was over, we all clapped our hands like circus seals. And we’re all coming back next week. We are going to continue to nag the gym for new mats, but we like the new toys.

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