Taking out the trash.

All my life I’ve had trouble with confrontation.  Even as a little 1st grader I let myself be bullied into losing a game of hide and seek by an oversized 3rd grader, just so she might befriend me. As an adult, I still find myself nodding and smiling untruthfully to keep the peace. I didn’t learn then and I still haven’t learned now.  My excuse is- “I’m being a nice person.” Everyone likes a nice person right? After all, as women aren’t we made of sugar and spice and everything NICE? Sounds good on paper doesn’t it? Of course it does. The real truth is, I just want everyone to like me. I want everyone to think I’m the nicest sweetest person in the world. I want to be someone who doesn’t make waves and makes the whole world full of rainbows and unicorns. Fat chance. My sleepless nights and anxiety are fueled by other peoples’ stressors and garbage dumped on my lap. It would be easy for me to blame them, and believe me I did at first. In the end the only person to blame is myself. I was the one who let other people dump on me. I gave them permission to use me as the city dump.

This month I’ve started spring cleaning my life. Besides cleaning the winter crap off the windows in my apartment, throwing out old clothes that have cluttered my closet floor, I’ve started removing the crap from my emotional life as well.  Toxic people were first on my list. There’s the so-called best friend from back home that never calls or makes an effort to maintain our friendship across the continent. There are the Pilates clients that make my job difficult and want to control their session.  With much coaching from family, friends, and a good therapist, I finally got the balls to stand up for myself and create some much needed conflict. Acid wash jeans from the 80’s, check. The ugly Christmas sweater from my crazy aunt Ellen, check. Toxic waste people out on the curb with the recycling, check. Then I got to thinking. Why is it that I’ve held out so long, took so much abuse, and what made it so difficult to say goodbye?

My first theory is that it’s comfortable. Change is difficult, uncomfortable, and messy. It’s much easier to keep the dysfunction going then stir up some junk. It’s much nicer to be clean and proper, well dressed with every hair in place.. Making a change requires me to admit that I’m not perfect. That was just too much for me to face. The fact that I can’t make everyone happy was hard for me to admit. What was harder? Living with all this sludge in my lap or facing my imperfections?

Finally it hit me, I was so busy trying to make everyone else happy that I had no time to make myself happy. Did I even know how? Yes, I do know how….Pilates. I don’t do Pilates so I can be a Pilates superstar or be better than anyone else. I do it for my soul, for myself, and so that I can eat cheese or chocolate (or someday if we’re lucky maybe even cheese chocolate!). I gain strength, power, confidence, and grace. That time I spend in the studio doing my hundred, my roll-ups, my teasers, is solely for me, about me, and no one else. So, I took the lessons I learned from practicing Pilates and applied them to the rest of my life.  Like Pilates, removing the toxins is a process and has to be learned and practiced every day of my life, but in the end I decided to make myself happy. After all, that’s the one thing I really have control over. Myself.

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This month I’ve been trying to shake things up. I gained, ahem, a little weight over these winter months and I was having trouble taking it off. My normal routine (of eating whatever I wanted and only working out when I felt like it) was just not cutting it so it was time to make a change. I don’t know about you, but the older I get the more I abhor change. When I was younger it wasn’t such a bad thing, new place to live, new school, new boyfriend. I could roll with it. After my last big change of moving to NYC, I was done with big changes, at least for now. Unfortunately, I hardly get to pick my changes and somehow they seem to find me wherever I go. I had changed into this pudgy Pilates instructor and it was time to change! But how?

First off I asked a good friend of mine, Erin, a fantastic personal trainer to whip me into shape. I have to admit this was a humbling step for me. I am not a very sports oriented person. I spent my youth in ballet class- a separate world from all the kids playing softball or soccer. The first session with Erin was tough. The sobering intake of all of my measurements, weight, and fat percentage was enough to drive me to drink, or eat, or both! Then came the push-ups, the squats, the heart pumping out of my head, and the reps, the TONS of reps! Pilates had prepared me for some of this, so I was attentive to form. I had strength, especially in my abs, (she said I do the best ab exercises she’s ever seen!) and although I recognize so many Pilates like exercises working out with Erin, the endurance was what I was lacking. Erin is the best though, and she encouraged me every step of the way I started to get stronger (I’m happy to say I can do 3 sets of 15 pushups on my knees, but still, 3 whole sets!)

In my work as a Pilates instructor I am constantly helping clients cross train for activities from skiing to triathlons. I can see clearly how Pilates can help increase core connection and flexibility, increase time in a race, or prevent injury, but I had never thought of working out in the gym as a supplement to my Pilates. Not only is Pilates feeling easier, my confidence is increasing (I’m athletic now!) but my endurance has gone through the roof. It also really helps me with my clients. I know what exercises they need to get ready for ski season or to reduce the lactic acid in their muscles from their training. Mr. Pilates himself was a gymnast and a boxer. He studied martial arts and was active daily. “Civilization Impairs Physical Fitness. (It is) Physical Fitness that is the first requisite of happiness.” It’s movement that heals, any movement. So get moving!

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