Las Vegas Life Magazine - Strength In Numbers
BY VALERIE BEHR
On your backs. Heels on the bar, toes pointing outward. Long arms, broad shoulders. Good. Now extend your legs. Exhale, down. Inhale, up. That's it. Again."
Standing in the middle of her dimly lit studio, Nina Waldman gently directs us through a series of Pilates movements. Her manner is at once dance instructor, physical therapist and fitness coach, her toned physique a walking advertisement for her two Body in Mind beauty and fitness boutiques. "Controlled movement," she reminds us.
As I focus on my breath and the burn in my calves, I glance across the room at the four other women in class. Just eight weeks ago, we all—save one—had been the epitome of the term "sedentary." Not fat, mind you, but unfit. Most of us hadn't exercised in months, some even years. Yet here we were keeping pace with Nina's snapping fingers, anticipating the once-complicated moves and looking like Pilates pros.
The transformation began, as these things often do, over lunch. After ordering our salads, the conversation turned to our expanding waistlines, slowing metabolism and flabby thighs. We wanted to reap the benefits of consistent exercise, but none of us could find the time in our busy schedules.
Call it kismet (or just selective attention), but later that day I came across a brochure for a new fitness studio just a few blocks from the office. It offered a number of options, but the one that caught my eye was the group Pilates class. Taught on specialized equipment, not mats, it offered individualized instruction at a fraction of the private rates. And from what I had read in the health magazines, Pilates provided challenging strength and flexibility training workouts without the sweat-factor.
It seemed like the perfect solution. I rounded up my colleagues and pitched the challenge: give me your lunch hours, twice a week for eight weeks. If all goes according to plan, I'll provide you a foray back into the world of physical fitness. I quickly found four takers and we booked our sessions.
From the very first class we were hooked. Instead of the pounding music and frenetic movements of a typical gym regimen, Body in Mind's zen-like atmosphere and fluid routines allowed us to exercise while quieting our minds (and mouths). Yet sore muscles in places that hadn't been sore in years assured us we were getting a good workout.
We enjoyed the bi-weekly class so much that the physical benefits seemed almost a bonus. No one really noticed much weight loss, but our clothes felt looser and longtime joint and back pain had diminished. We all found we were much more aware of our posture, standing and sitting straighter. And we felt much more relaxed after the workouts. "The great thing about Pilates is that you can't think about anything except what you're doing," shared one colleague. Another agreed. "It feels like a mini-vacation, I can forget about work and family and just concentrate on me."
Before the end of the eight-week period, we were already talking about renewing our commitment, and discussing ways to add cardio to complement the strength training. We had made it over the sedentary hump, and were now back on the fitness track.
Nina calls out for the "Hundred," Pilates' famous core-strengthening exercise that is essentially 100 crunches. Eight weeks ago, her command was met with groans of disbelief—most of us hadn't done sit-ups in decades. Yet today, all is quiet in preparation. "Legs in the air, arms by your sides. Begin." We keep time to the snapping of her fingers, tackling the hundred like it was 10...