The year is 1999. I am working at a small art and animation studio in Los Angeles. I’m sitting at a desk all day and I feel like poo! A new gym just opened down the street from my apartment and my boyfriend and I decide to join.
At this gym they have the latest equipment and classes. They have racquetball and squash courts, trendy exercise classes and fancy equipment along with a pool and towel service. It’s called a Sport Club, rated higher than your average gym I guess because they offer spa type services and greeters at the door that call you by name. Not sure.
One of the new classes is Pilates reformer. I’ve heard of this Pilates thing, so I decide to sign up. There is a guy teaching the class who has long red hair and looks like JP Sears…before there was a JP Sears. The reformers are these contraptions on the floor with springs, straps, and pulleys that resemble some kind of torture device. The teacher, Keith (not JP Sears), gives the Pilates instruction, speaking some mumbo jumbo I barely understand and breathing heavily, telling us to take deep relaxing breaths along with him. If this is an exercise class why I am focusing on relaxing? He describes in vivid details our pelvic floors and saying we need to engage our kegels. HEY! Dude! Keep your ideas about my pelvic floor to yourself.
It’s like he is speaking a foreign language, saying things like “neutral spine,” “grow tall like a tree,” “roll over a ball,” and “pretend your a giraffe.” … What is this, exercise or an acting workshop?
It is LA…so it could be both.
Now, luckily my interest was peaked, so I decided to go back. Maybe because I am not a quitter and I felt like I missed something? Maybe because the JP Sears guy was quirky enough to keep my interest? Or possibly because they were offering this class for free with my gym membership, and after my initial trial period, I would have to pay for it, and it’s hard to say no to free? Yep, that’s why.
So I went back and I kept going. In fact, I got hooked. I even started paying extra for it because I was sold on this Pilates thing. You know what happened? My body started to change, I began to understand the weird vocabulary, and overall, I felt better. I was accomplishing something and learning something new - growing like a tree and rolling over a ball and all.
Forward to 2019. I am a Pilates Master instructor and I use more crazy images and vocabulary than Keith ever did. I quit my day job over 14 years ago to do this for a living. Albeit, it doesn’t pay as much as my former job, but I get to do something I love everyday and I get to help regular people instead of working for “the man” - take that corporate America!
But that is NOT why I love exercise trends. I love them because if you are willing enough to try something new, you never know where it can lead.
For me, it led to a new career, but for many people that walk into my studio for the first time, it can simply change the way they feel about themselves. I am not just talking about change on the outside, but also change on the inside.
I remember when Yoga was a new trend - it’s possible that it has had several versions since its beginnings thousands of years ago. HIIT, Crossfit, Zumba, Barre, Orange Theory, BeachBody - these are some of the latest, but I have been around long enough to remember some old ones. I remember doing Jane Fonda on a cassette tape in a boom box with my mom. Cassette tapes…remember those? I think those high-cut leotards actually might be making a comeback.
Exercise trends keep things fresh. They dazzle us with new approaches, science, buzzwords, music, hype….Instagram feeds… It’s all packaged together to keep us moving. They keep us from getting bored with our routines and they also challenge some of the older models - like Yoga and Pilates - to evolve, sometimes for better (hello Piyo) or worse (Goat Yoga). One of the most popular trends of late, Barre, came from a combination of Ballet, Yoga and Pilates. Even Pilates is a version of Zen, yoga, martial arts and gymnastics. Everything comes from something else and exercise trends often build off each other.
Before Pilates, I pretty much did a little of everything but not one thing exclusively. If I didn’t take a chance on that Pilates class, who knows where I would be now. I remember talking to a Zumba instructor years ago and she said she lost over 50 pounds swiveling her hips and dancing to loud latin music. She told me that she never exercised before - it changed her life. She loved it so much she became an instructor. Who knows maybe now she’s on her way to South America to learn Spanish and the beginnings of the Rumba.
Now, people can get a little zealous over their exercise programs. They found their thing, it’s changed their life, and they think everyone, and I mean everyone - neighbors, family, friends, frenemies - should be doing what they do. They want everyone to join in and feel what they feel. I have news for you: it doesn’t work like that. I know some people who hate yoga, but love Pilates. I know some people who don’t like Pilates and want to do Orange theory or Crossfit. I don’t take it personally. Even yogis talk about different styles and which one is better. No new ideas come from conformity.
What does it matter? Do what resonates with you. Not one exercise trend is the answer for all, but it is the answer for one person. I may be shooting myself in the foot here by saying that Pilates is not the end all in exercise or movement therapy, but I’m just not that dogmatic. I am happy when someone comes in and loves it, but for those who don’t, I hope they keep at it. Keep trying new things. Something is about to click.
So in this new year, I challenge all of you to try something new. Me too. Get out there and see what happens. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Have some fun. You never know where it may lead.