Sunday, November 27, 2005

Not Idle

Usually Thanksgiving break means eating lots of food and lounging around on couches, reading the paper or chatting with my sister- and brother-in-law (we spend every Thanksgiving with them).

We're pretty active families, so sometimes, we go to the zoo and walk around. This year, we did that Thanksgiving morning. Here are Robbie and Eli and their cousin, Rebecca, watching the penguins.

The penguins were roaring! They'd put their heads back and let out a foghorn-like sound. Robbie could imitate them pretty well. Wish I had a picture of THAT!

We did some inside things at the zoo, too, as it was in the single digits, with windchill. We had fun visiting the reptile house.

This year, I got an active Thanksgiving. Susan, my sister-in-law, decided to treat me to a Pilates class before we left--as an early Christmas gift.

So early Saturday morning, we headed out to her Pilates Studio. We took off our shoes outside in the hall and entered a small room filled with benches, pulleys, bars, and mirrors.

I'd heard of Pilates from my friends in ballet. It's a system of exercises designed by Joseph Pilates back during WWI. Pilates was a gymnast who'd had a sickly childhood. He'd strengthened himself through simple exercises, and he used those exercises during the war when he helped injured soldiers and influenza victims.

(A total tangent: I just finished an excellent novel about the influenza epidemic. Yes, a great novel about illness! Myla Goldberg's new book Wickett's Remedy is a multi-dimensional historical novel with a strong female protagonist, fascinating reflections on the nature of memory, and a satisfying yet mysterious love-story ending.)

Pilates didn't have much in the way of exercise equpiment to help his patients. He had to make do with cast-off hospital beds, ropes and pulleys. And that's what Pilates equipment looks like, as you can see here.

With that cast-off stuff, he invented an exercise program to strengthen his patients. The patients also gained flexibility and balance.

You can see why ballet people like it.

Susan and I had a great "semi-private" workout with an excellent instructor. She really worked our core muscles--abdomen, back, butt, and hip flexors until we were sweaty and shaking! Here I am using a machine called, believe it or not, "The Reformer" (you can tell this guy was German!).

This crazy exercise, below, is done on a footstool with a springy platform. It's called "The Elephant." You use your abdominal muscles to lift your feet up and you curl over the top, holding on to the footstool.

Susan's been doing it for a while, so she held out very well. I enjoyed the challenge. And afterwards I noticed that my posture was much better than usual--I felt a lift through my stomach and back. I felt balanced and light. I felt taller! (and this is a very good thing!)

I think I will find out if there's someone here who can work with me on devising a simple Pilates regimen I can do at home. I don't have time for another weekly exercise class, but I do think that the benefits of Pilates will help me with balance, strength, and flexibility in both ballet and Tae Kwon Do.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi TKD Mom --
I've been using the Mari Windsor Pilates DVDs for about a year. They are particularly good for stretching and core strengthening. In fact, on days when I can't go to TKD or have time to run to the gym, I do the 20-minute Pilates workout.
They run the infomercial quite a bit at this time of the year, or you can go to the website. The subscription is like $10 to start with the first couple of DVDs, and then they send you a new one (and equipment like balls and bands, etc.) about once a month. I terminated my subscription after about 9 months because I had more DVDs than I could possibly use - particularly because I use Pilates as a supplement to other exercise. But, its an enjoyable workout.
Kicker Chick