I began by lying on the pad, heels together, with my toes pressing on the device’s frame. As I pushed away from the bottom of the contraption, I squeezed my legs together. I couldn’t count reps, partly because Feigin was keeping track for me, but also because I couldn’t stand to lose one ounce of concentration or else I’d like my pelvis sag, my abs expand, or my lats relax, any of which, I was told, would be a very bad thing. One 45-second movement and I couldn’t tell if I was going to make it. This wasn’t exactly how I envisioned my first Pilates session.
My quads, he told me, were massive. Nice, I thought to myself. The squats have been working. But my inner thighs, I was also told, were weak, and therefore we were going to work them extra hard. Wonderful, I thought. Just wonderful. We stuck a foam brick in between my knees and I pushed inward as I went through the motions of torture technique #2 – as I laid flat on the pad with my heels on the frame, I grasped the handles from behind my head and kept my arms straight while I moved them down, then out to the side, then back up to the top position. At least, that’s what I think I did. I was too busy spitting out breaths to pay much attention. My core was absolutely on fire. Just stabilizing used up so much of my energy.
As tough as the first few exercises were, they paled in comparison to the 100s. Flat on the pad (in proper position), legs straight out ahead, hands in handles at my side, while crunching up, I had to bounce my arms up and down in a tiny movement 100 times. I was feeling it at 25. My form was sloppy by 60. When I had come to, we moved on to The Cadillac, which reminded me of the wooden device Jean Claude Van Damme used to stretch out in Kickboxer. Imagine a hospital bed without the mattress. Now picture a frame parallel to the bed directly on top of it. The second level had various attachments draped from the support: I noticed chains, springs, wooden handles and padded nylon grips.