My lower back was aching, and the backs of my hamstrings felt like guitar strings that had been strung on too tight. I waited patiently for one of these “strings” to snap.
Luckily they didn’t.
No, I wasn’t running. I was sitting with my legs crossed, one over the other, on my yoga mat during a Pilates-Barre Xtend class. I tried to focus on the stretch, but I was too distracted because one of my legs was now completely numb and my back was really starting to kill me due to the fact that I was being verbally forced to sit up straight on my sits bones.
Ridiculous, I know.
I felt a rush of relief as the instructor had us come out of the seated position and make our way over to the ballet barre. Five minutes later, after doing some squats in first position, I began to break out in a small sweat over having to stand in one spot, with one leg firmly grounded on the floor while I lifted the other leg and flexed my foot outward from the knee-all the while keeping rhythm with the instructor who happily chirped….
I never knew that the human leg could be so damned heavy…particularly my legs. And as the chant continued and I began to curse my parents for producing such a disproportionate child, I wondered how much longer we were going to have to work this one leg. Hadn’t it been worked enough by now? I glanced anxiously over at the instructor in the mirror who, as it turned out, wasn’t even using the ballet barre to hold on to as she effortlessly pointed and flexed her foot.
A bath of envy and extreme distaste washed over my already-flushed face. I was beginning to think that the instructor had some familial ties with Gumby or that perhaps her real name ended in “Armstrong“.
Eventually, we switched sides and performed a deluge of other lower body exercises that left me wondering whether or not I would be able to walk out of the class. This wasn’t the first time that I had taken the Barre-Xtend class…so then why wasn’t it getting any easier? Why was it that I could run a sub 7-minute-mile pace for 8 miles, putting one long, heavy leg in front of the other, but I couldn’t stand still and lift my leg(s)up?
At least with running, you could sort of track your success. You could see the progression of becoming faster and stronger with every run. However, after months of taking Pilates and Yoga classes, I am STILL having trouble trying to figure out whether I’ve gained any more flexibility or strength. Yet still, I return time and again because I love the challenge….I think.
Frustration is the first step towards improvement. I have no incentive to improve if I’m content with what I can do and if I’m completely satisfied with my pace, distance and form as a runner. It’s only when I face frustration and use it to fuel my dedication that I feel myself moving forwards. -John Bingham