I did some upper body work by pushing a spring-loaded wooden bar away from my chest while laying flat on The Cadillac, and some lower body work by pulling each leg down with the help of a strap while keeping the other still. I now had a rubber ring in between my thighs which made sure I was continually pushing inward with my quads as I pressed or pulled. I slipped my arms through padded cuffs attached to the top of the frame and hung with my toes balancing the rest of my weight. This was the Pilates version of a pec-deck, only with my own weight as the resistance. Michael barked commands: “abs tight, shoulders out of your ears, tailbone on the mat!” He was a great guy, animated and obviously passionate, and he was comforting, which was very important, because I’d been reduced to a sniveling mass of nerve endings by this point, but by the end, I wanted to kill him.
But it wasn’t all bad. Nothing was too hard. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything outrageous or impossible, it’s just that Pilates worked my muscles in a way that they aren’t used to being worked. There’s something to be said for body weight movements: you should be able to haul your own carcass around, and after doing it for an hour, I felt more energized than I ever did in the gym. I couldn’t even sleep on the train home. Surprisingly, I thought, I might have actually enjoyed myself. Anyone who thinks Pilates is for girls, I realized, is working out for the wrong reasons. You’ve got to try stuff you’ve never done before, or you’ll never progress. Before you know it, you’ve got a beer belly, you’re 65, and you’re still doing curls with 10 lb dumbbells. I’m hoping to never get to that point. So as I packed my clothes in my bag, I reaffirmed my vow to always be open to new things, reminded myself that I’ve got to drop 10 lbs, and realized that sometimes, the best workout is the one you’re not doing yet.