I feel most comfortable in workout environments where people take training seriously without taking themselves too seriously. Where people can be competitive with themselves without being competitive with others. I prefer workout environments that foster body/mind/movement awareness and progressive training. But, with a sense of exploration and play. Like, gimme space to figure out how my body works, what feels good, and why so I can translate that into my everyday life. Oh, and the emotional space to laugh at myself versus berate myself if I don’t get it right away. Because I will, eventually! I find it pointless and boring to grunt mindlessly through exercises just to “feel the burn”, feel “tortured” or watch an instructor live out their performance fantasies – even if they have a banging playlist. I don’t need to be distracted from my workout. It’s not something I just check off of my to-do list. I want to fully experience it and progressively transform through it.
I remember, in the early days of my training at The New York Pilates studio at 2121 Broadway, we worked out hard! Many of us were performers who had just rehabbed injuries across the hall at Performing Arts Physical Therapy. We weren’t doing Pilates because it was trendy or because we wanted six-pack abs. We were professional performers trying to prolong our passions, extend our careers, and keep the paychecks rolling in. Our mobility was our greatest priority. We showed up in basic workout wear – for me, a black unitard – with hair pulled back in a ponytail and without makeup or pretense. Like many other students there, my goal was optimal, pain-free movement so I could rock out eight shows/week. Teachers like Michael and Ton made it so much fun, but not in a way that distracted from the intention of The Method. We were disciplined. We knew what it meant to train hard in order to get results. We understood the value of consistency and repetition without complaint. We thrived on it. And we got strong.
I also remember moving to LA in the early 2000s and being in a Pilates studio full of women wearing colorful Juicy Couture tracksuits, big diamond rings and full makeup. They also chatted throughout their sessions while moving with minimal effort – despite their teacher’s attempt at keeping them focused. Culture shock! Mind blown. Like, what was the point? Of course, not everyone was like that. But it was enough for me to notice the difference between environments and mindsets. Plus, where I feel comfortable and where I don’t. I did not. And not just because I was accustomed to training like an athlete; but because our racial and socio-economic differences felt uncomfortably palpable, which is a lingering reminder that representation and inclusivity matter.
S.I.T. With Yourself in April
This month’s #soakedinthought journaling prompts are dedicated to body confidence and fitness as a lifestyle. As we move into Spring and the fitness industry ramps up its messaging about getting “in shape” for Summer, I hope you’ll sit with yourself to figure out what your body, mind, and spirit need to feel healthy, fit, and happy – without all the external voices.