I went to a geriatric pilates class

I signed up for a pilates class this fall. I want to get in shape, but I find yoga incredibly boring yet don’t really like to challenge myself with any aerobic activity. Plus, a racing heart always reminds me of a panic attack. Stretching, without becoming one with my inner child and the universe, is perfect for me. Besides, three’s a crowd.

I was pleased that the class had all the hallmarks of a low intensity workout: it was small, taught by a non-lululemon wearing older woman, in a small room of a low-rise office building. I immediately felt at ease, seeing that there were no protein shakes or other high performance energy drinks for sale at the front door. Just a couple of mats in a row.

Gathering the requisite weights, oversized ball, and theraband, I sat down on the mat closest to the back wall. As the rest of the participants filed in, I started to notice a distinct trend. Every woman coming in had clearly lived through the First World War, The Great Depression and perhaps couldn’t recall where she was when she heard President Kennedy was shot due to age-associated memory impairment. I was the youngest one in the room by at least fifty years. At first glance, a class of this demographic might seem ‘unhip,’ especially for a thirty-whatever year old, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This class was actually incredibly hip-they all had at least one, if not two, replaced. I know this because it’s all they talked about.

I was thankfully not yet able to participate in this conversation, but of course started worrying about the time when I could. But then I started to get excited thinking about how athletic I was going to seem in this class! I was going to be a star! I’d practically look like an Olympian! This excitement was diluted, however, by a woman who shuffled to the front of the mat I was sitting on.

“Are you taking this spot?” she asked, pointing.

“Er, I was going to,” I said, wondering if she was having difficulty seeing me sitting cross-legged on the mat right in front of her, “but I can move if you would like.”

“It’s fine,” she said with a huff that suggested that things were clearly not fine, “we’ve all been doing this together for years and I have always been beside Dorothy.”

I looked at the woman to my left wearing an oversized “What Happens at Grandma’s House, Stays at Grandma’s House” tee- shirt. Presumably Dorothy. She backed her friend’s displeasure with an agitated nod of the head.

Who are these women? I wondered, stiffling a giggle. Have I stumbled into the middle of an elderly version of the Mean Girls? Instead of Regina George’s Plastics, are these women the 2.0 version, the Elastics?

I lay back on the mat I had apparently taxed as the instructor told us to take deep breathes to ballon our bellies, providing detailed instructions about how to breathe, for how long and where to put our hands.  Breathing along as she spoke, I found myself wondering if there is a noun for someone who does pilates? Like, if someone who does yoga is a yogi, am I now a pilati? Pillater? Pilatte? Mmmmmm, latte. Dreaming about the Vanilla Bean I was going to pick up on my way home I didn’t notice that everyone else was standing and waiting for me to join them. I jumped up, ready to pay attention.       

Standing in the middle of our therabands, we were then told to hold the ends in each hand like ski poles and pull them upwards like a bicep curl. Easy enough, I thought. Everyone around me pulled their bands straight over their heads. But as I attempted to pull mine upwards, I found myself tipping forward in the other direction with my arms staying firmly in place. I looked at my band, the only pink one in the class, and remembered something about the colours being associated with difficulty.   

“Excuse me, I think I need an easier band!” I called, now unable to get up to a standing position.

“You’re on the easiest one,” said the instructor. 


I thought I could hear the Elastics snicker as they pulled their high level of difficult grey bands even higher. I could feel my olympic dream slip away. With each new exercise, the instructor provided a modified version of it.  At first her suggestions were preceded by  for “those with tension in their back,” but by the end this was replaced with just said “Wendy.” Eventually, she taught the class standing beside me so she could personally show me how to do things.

By the time the class was over, I was exhausted and immovable. I had come to the conclusion that the word you use to call a person who does pilates is ‘sore.’ The Elastics clapped their thanks with an astounding amount of enthusiasm, while I had significant difficulty outstretching my clenched palms and bringing them together. I saw them all shuffle past me, putting away their equipment and saying their goodbyes. I lay there comatose, pretending to meditate while really trying to summon the inner strength to get up. 

With her rolled mat under her arm, Dorothy stood over me looking down.

“The first time is the hardest,” she said, “See you next time.”

I lay still for another minute, contemplating.

I smiled to myself. Yes! I’m totally in!

Maybe she’ll tell me now what happens at Grandma’s house.

Note: if any of you should see me wearing a shirt like that when I’m older, just strangle me with a theraband. Please.

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