As a meathead, I’m fairly obsessed with training and I use each session in the gym as a way to get bigger, stronger, and faster, not as an excuse to loaf around while wearing a tanktop. I’m there to work, and I take that obligation very seriously. I try and eat as much clean food as I can, and I lift weights a few days a week – mostly compound movements like squats and deadlifts – and for the 45 minutes or so that I’m training, the gym is all that matters.
So when MF suggested I give Pilates a shot, just to see what it was all about, I almost choked on my protein shake. Pilates sounds so…well, girly. Would I have to talk about my feelings before class and meditate afterwards? I wouldn’t have to wear tights or anything, right? I mean, the name alone sounds like an Italian dessert, doesn’t it?
You’ve got to be kidding me.
But they weren’t kidding, so I set out for a session with Michael Feigin, a Pilates instructor nicknamed “The Fitness Guru,” at his studio in Brooklyn, NY, fully expecting to have no trouble with his brand of ballerina yoga. His studio was located at the top of a staircase, directly across from Gleason’s, the famous boxing gym. I followed the sound of gloves whacking heavy bags and poked my head in. Someone was rolling around a ring. Guys pounded away on treadmills. The place looked dirty, like a thin film of dust coated everything in the room. I thought it looked like heaven.
I silently hoped that this was the place to find “The Fitness Guru,” like he was some kind of super-athlete who boxed, skied, and cross-country ran in his free time. I asked to see “The Fitness Guru.” The girl at the desk snickered.
I should have known better. I cleared my throat and asked again if she could show me where I needed to go. She smiled, slightly condescendingly, and gestured towards the door. “Across the hall,” she said. That was that: boxers, wrestlers, and men over here, and I’ll take my tutu and tights over to the Pilates studio with the women.
Fantastic. We were off to a great start.
Tail tucked firmly between my legs, I made my way into Feigin’s modern space: Loaded with a combination of Pilates equipment, dumbbells, and treadmills, the studio was diverse, surprisingly spacious, and very sleek, with white walls trimming a shiny, gray floor. Skinny girls and lean guys worked one-on-one with instructors at various stations throughout the room. They looked happy enough, but I still had my reservations. After I switched out of my button-down and khakis and donned some sweatpants in the changing room, Feigin and I chatted about Pilates. When he mentioned Joe Pilates, the boxer who developed the discipline in the early 1900s to help those bedridden and stricken with influenza, my ears perked up a bit. A boxer, I thought? A boxer invented Pilates? Maybe there was something to this, after all. I looked around the modern studio and noticed that everyone around me seemed to be fairly lean, something I’ve struggled with all my life. Maybe they knew something I didn’t. At a stocky 5’6”, 195 lbs, I could feel my waist pour out from the tops of my sweatpants like muffin batter as I scanned the athletic bodies stretching out.