Fitness Face-Off: Splits (sessions 15 and 16)

So I unintentionally took a brief, five-day hiatus from Pilates—not because of Brian's implication that I'm not spending enough time chained to my desk (because I am), but because schedules, like stars, just sometimes don't align.

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Yesterday I reacquainted myself with the reformer care of Kate, a Hungarian-born former dancer who is yet another Re:AB apprentice. We've worked together before—back in the beginning of this epic journey—at which point we did our stretches while giggling. (I don't know why, but we spend most of our time looking at each other and laughing. I think she's laughing at me. I'm laughing because she's laughing. Oh, the joy of Pilates.) Yesterday, though, wasn't so hilarious. It was hot so the Pilates was Bikram-like: excellent for loosening muscles but scary when your feet start to slip. Poor Kate had to anchor my feet down to keep them on the machines with one hand while holding my hips square with the other (so that we could work on opening up the flexor).

She also taught me another good stretch for home—if you have one of those stretchy bands, use that, but I think a towel or the like would work too. While on your back, extend one leg straight out and, keeping your elbows pinned to your sides, extend one leg straight up. Pull it over your body to the side—keeping your hips flat on the ground—before bringing it straight up and to the other side. Per Kate, it's "an extreme stretch."

Unlike Laura and Debbie, Kate is in New York to stay—and while she's not yet on the schedule (she has to pass her 400s first), she'll be at Re:AB for a while.

Today, I was reunited with Brooke—and I have to admit it was bittersweet. Just kidding! But seriously, I had to wobble my way to Falai for my morning coffee after. It was tough—we moved fast and so I was actually panting at parts (per Brooke, Joseph Pilates intended that you would move through 40 or 50 different exercises in the course of a 45-minute session. It's not meant to be slow and plodding).

We visited some old favorites (using the Cadillac as a mat) before trying some new exercises. She introduced me to to "The Guillotine," a contraption that Joseph Pilates designed so that it could be installed in a doorway of a client's house (much of Pilates is intended to be practiced alone, at home). Essentially, while keeping my hips square, I had to lift a spring-ed bar (by transferring my weight to the standing leg and then leaning into the hip of the lifted leg. If that makes sense). As I pivoted around, I needed the assistance of not one, but two apprentices, to keep me from tipping over (it was near the end of the session, and I was tired). There's nothing like being stretched by three people at once to make you feel like you're splayed out on some torture device. Next, we moved to the floor, where I put my hands on the floor, and put one leg up on the wall behind me, in a split position. Another excellent candidate for at-home practice. Fun!

Today was inarguably tough: The more it hurt, the more my mind railed against the stretches and the tighter I became. Brooke had to remind me to breathe and keep the muscles distracted by moving around (bending and straightening my legs while in the stretches).

We took some measurements at the end—despite the fact that I felt tighter than I've felt in weeks, I lopped three inches off my floor to hip crease measurement and added a few inches to my back arch to front foot measurement. Not as significant as the results a few weeks ago, but I'm not deterred. Besides, Brian is on vacay, so all progress is good progress....