Columns Small Talk

Small Talk: Time to up my fitness game

I have given my body an ultimatum. The time has come. The soft times are over. I went to my first Pilates class today. Yes, I am a little frightened.

Actually, it wasn’t so much a class as an assessment of my decades of neglect. It wasn’t pretty but I was very brave. And that poor instructor did really well too. She had to be ready to bolt. I could almost hear her thinking, “Oh my word. You want to do what? You want to get firm where? You have got to be kidding me. Does this woman think I’ve got a magic wand tucked in my bike shorts?” But she was the soul of tact and very supportive and, in fact, has big plans for me and my missing core muscles.

The first time I heard of Pilates, I was reading some tabloid about hard-body singer Madonna using it. Then, I only heard it referenced in regard to some other movie queen or pop star who needed a killer body in a hurry. They generally did nothing else for several weeks to accomplish that goal. When I finally experienced actual Pilates moves, they were the part of an exercise routine I couldn’t really manage.

This leaves me wondering what has possessed me. I think it is some version of a past-midlife crisis. Hell hath no fury like a woman who has been dieting and exercising for six months with minimal results.

When I read an article that claimed this method of exercise addressed older women with a penchant for osteoporosis, something just snapped. It may have been my knees, but in any case, I decided then and there that it was time to roll out the big exercise guns.

“Somewhere under all this neglect is a dancer’s body,” I told my instructor, “and I want to dig it out.” Of course, that makes it sound like I did pas de deux with Mikhael Baryshnikov.

The reality is that in my 20s, I took ballet classes and actually did get up en pointe. Mikhael was booked, however, so my dancing was limited to the upstairs studio at the city rec center. But for a few years, I had great legs and walked rather like a duck (the true sign of a ballerina’s turnout). It was terrific while it lasted, but then real life barged in, demanding that I work long hours and raise children. Ballet class went by the wayside along with any vestige of those once-firm muscles.

Now, you might be thinking, “Why doesn’t she just go back and take ballet classes again?”

If you are thinking that, you don’t realize that you wear leotards and tights to ballet class. And you have to do jumps. And the slim little girls in their pink tutus might well point and laugh at you.

So, first I will give the fierce and semi-private regimen of Joseph Pilates a try. If it does a tenth for me what it has done for Jennifer Aniston, Brooke Shields and, of course, Madonna, I’ll be quite content.

However, I’m not ordering that bustier just yet.

Jean Gillette is a

freelance writer stocking up on Ben-Gay. Contact

her at