Am I man enough for Pilates?

My first introduction to the form of exercises best marketed as Pilates was coming across commercials about how this or that actress got her tight tummy or buns of steel — oh, that was another commercial. Bottom line is I tended to associate these exercises with women. I mean every time you saw one of those slightly deflated balls there seemed to be a svelte woman sitting on it. Didn’t seem very manly to me!

Me? Give me some barbells or some machine that allowed me to build muscle by lifting something — not just pushing against the air or imagining I was lifting my chest to the ceiling while draped over a rubber ball. So when my coach, Jim Cunningham of the Greenville Cycling Center, gave me a list of exercises to do that sounded suspiciously like what I thought of as a girly workout, I was a little skeptical.

Then I started to do them.

I will be honest and blunt. I hate them. However, it isn’t for the reason you might think. It isn’t because they are some type of girly exercises that a real man can do with ease. I hate them because they are stinkin’ hard! To make matters worse, there is that girl holding a Pillar Bridge for an indefinite amount of time! I’m really trying to keep my hatred from transferring to her!

I almost gave up last night. It hurt so bad. There I was doing a “Y” on the physio ball and my body was rebelling. I was so stiff and inflexible that when I stretched out it was like trying to stretch a latex glove over your head to make one of those blow up rooster gags. Was I doing it wrong? I went to the web to check out the video. There was Jacqueline calmly doing multiple repetitions. Man she made that look easy! (Now Jonathan, hate the exercise, not the exerciser.)

It put me in a really foul mood this morning. Maybe my visit with Dr. Mruz at Eastside Chiropractic would give me something to use as an excuse to get out of them. Something had to come up before Friday night when I’m scheduled to do them again.

I had a great visit. I’ve never been to a chiropractor before. There was a time when I thought they were “alternative” in an “avoid them” kind of way. My mind changed on that some time ago, but I just never thought one could make me any better.

That all changed with my wreck in the SC Championship Road Race. I knew something was goofed up with my body. I started having odd aches and pains showing up and my flexibility was really wacked out. Ironically, it was the Pilates that showed me just how inflexible I was.

Now I was having a chiropractor work on me. He knows his stuff — especially when it comes to cyclists. He has signed pictures of Davis Phinney and George Hincapie in his office. He has been working with cyclists since the old Coors Light cycling team days.

He found my weaknesses alright. I have some major issues with my neck and right hip. Now, you knew this from reading my blog.  However, Dr. Mruz did some resistance tests that actually scared me! They showed me that it wasn’t just pain I was dealing with. I’m suffering from a lack of motion and power in my left arm and right leg.

He explained to me what was happening and how that he was sure he could get back the strength and motion. He also congratulated me on my participation in the Pilates (he is a regular reader of this blog). Oh, boy. Did he really say that? He pointed out that while weight bearing exercises are good for cyclists and their propensity for a lack of bone density, it is very important that they have a strong core to help them with some of repetitive stress issues and to keep their muscles supple.

There went my temptation to cheat on these exercises. Turns out they are going to be key to getting me back to where I was – not only help me get ahead for next season. Quitting now would be the worse thing I could do.

I also had a realization that gives me a much better outlook on the future. One of the reasons that the exercises are so hard for me is because structurally I’ve got more issues that I thought. Those issues of a lack of flexibility and strength are some of the main reasons why the exercises are so hard for me. No wonder the Physio Ball Y feels the way it does. My neck is so tight and limited in flexibility that the exercise is pushing me beyond my limit.

One thing is for sure, I have a whole different view of Pilates now days! I stand amazed by the athlete who holds a Glute Bridge for over a minute. I’ll carry my physio ball with pride!

I know that the work Dr. Mruz will do will free me up to better do the routines. In turn, the routines will strengthen me and improve my flexibility so that I’ll only need to see the good Doc when we’re riding our bikes together or I’m in for a check up.

Am I man enough for Pilates? I better be!