You Control The Springs

spring-toy-horseExactly one year ago, I went to a party where I stood around a cocktail table and listed my ailments.  My foot hurts.  (you know, especially in the mornings)  My knee hurts.  (sharp-ish pains)  My shoulder’s starting to bug me.  (which I demonstrated by twirling it around, see!, ouch!)  I can’t play tennis, can’t jog, can hardly walk the dogs because dammit, my foot really does hurt, and on and on.  I sounded like my grandmother who, when you would ring her up, wouldn’t even bother with hello.  “Is that you, Teri Lynn?  My inner ear is making me so dizzy, and I haven’t moved my bowels since Tuesday!”

A woman at the table suggested I try Pilates.  Was she not listening?  Didn’t she just see my twirling, aching arm?  Was she crazy?!  Her sister had recently opened a studio; she could get me a discount; her sister made it fun, etc…  She went on, but all I could see in my head were my injuries and the torture-chamber-like Pilates equipment pictured in a book I once bought.

In a book I once bought.  I’m all about the book cure.  I’m the kind of person who will read a book of writing exercises and never actually do any of the writing.  I’m the kind of person who will watch a program about diet and exercise while sitting on the couch with a bag of potato chips in my lap.  I’ve got instruction manuals on everything from 100 Key Yoga Poses to Running for Life to The Inner Game of Tennis, and to what end?  I used to do the same thing with self-help books, certain that if I learned more about personalities and tendencies I could morph myself into a more balanced person.

I still buy books on how to write a book (really, how ironic is that?).  I buy them, I tote them around, I kinda-sorta read them or totally buy in, then I put them on the shelf and move on to the next book, the next thing, the next instruction manual that’s going to fix me.

That’s going to fix in me whatever must be broken.

Pilates-Reformer-009Exactly one year ago, still afraid of the images in the book, I took my sore foot and my sore knee and my aching shoulder to my first Pilates class.  The instructor put me on the reformer and I moved that carriage in and I moved that carriage out.  Voila!  So easy.  So easy, until she said, “No no no.  You have to fight the springs.  If you let it, the machine will do all the work.  Don’t let those springs pull you in!  You control the springs.”

Which is exactly what I tend to forget when I’m reading all those manuals.  On the page, it all looks simple, straightforward, within my grasp:  the lifestyle transformation, the expertly crafted story, the shiny new mirage of the fixed me.

But at some point I have to figure out how to do what I am capable of doing.  I can’t count on the next instruction manual or the machine to do it for me.

A year later, I’m still going to Pilates.  That’s not me in the photo — ahem, it will never be — but I go 3 times a week whether I want to or not.  Some days I dread the very idea of going.  Some days every body part aches.  Some days I feel like I’m not going to make it through the first 10 minutes, much less the hour.  And some days, I absolutely can’t wait to get there, to getting stronger.

By committing to a full year, by committing to the routine, there came a point where I stopped sitting on the sidelines, wishing a new me into existence.  I haven’t looked at the number on the scale in a year.  The number is a number, and I’m never going to be the number I was at 25.  I’m not 25.  Shocking, right?  But you know how sometimes (always??) obsessing over the number just makes you feel worse?

Here’s the real deal ….. Complaining about my lack of fitness doesn’t make me any stronger; complaining about my aches and pains doesn’t cure them.  Reading about weight loss strategies doesn’t change the number on my scale; reading about how to write a book won’t transform my sentences into a story; reading about a healthier diet never has kept the potato chip bag out of my hands.

I control the springs.

17 thoughts on “You Control The Springs

  1. lisahgolden

    You control the springs. Now that’s the kind of phrase that speaks to me because I am all about control except when it comes to, um, me.

    I love this post. And congratulations on committing to the year and making it!

    1. Teri Post author

      I’m all about control except when it comes to me. Amen, sister.

      And for the record, I’m not super fit, I struggle through the Pilates, my book’s not finished, and I’m still eating potato chips. Baby steps.

  2. Pamela

    Yes, you control the springs and you seem infinitely sane & balanced to me.

    I took up tennis last summer the same way you took up Pilates. Quickly, I was so consumed with it that I was playing twice a day until it got cold. Now I’m 10 pounds lighter and that came from actually doing something, not from any weight loss book.

    I agree with you. I’ve read a thousand self-help books, sifting and sifting so that I could find the best ones to give to clients, and many of them don’t help that much in the end.

    1. Teri Post author

      The interesting things that have happened since the Pilates started? It took the entire year, but every one of my aches and pains have basically disappeared. I was working on them without working on them. Strange, but true.

      Sure, I still have little niggling things here and there, but that’s just age. And though I doubt I’m much lighter, I haven’t weighed myself at home in a year. I’ve lost the obsession with that “number,” at least temporarily, because I feel pretty good.

      And P.S. Pamela — tennis is so much fun, like exercising without even knowing it. Maybe there’s an indoor court where could play in the the winter??

      1. Pamela

        Yes, I found an indoor court called the Seay Center in October, paid $300 and then discovered it is perpetually booked up. I need to be quicker on the draw! I’ve probably forgotten everything my tennis coach taught me.

  3. Averil Dean

    I so admire your commitment to fitness. I don’t have a single athletic bone in my body, so all I ever do is walk. (Every day! she says defensively. And sometimes there are hills involved!)

    Pfft. I’m a marshmallow.

    1. Teri Post author

      Never never diss a walk. It’s a staple, like having flour and sugar in the pantry. I walk my dogs everyday, usually twice a day. It’s my sanity check. And theirs!

      I’m so glad you have Izzy, your little fluff ball of love that follows you around all day, adoring you.

      See how fast I can go from exercise to dogs ….

  4. Paul

    I guess I’m the same way with running. How many years (decades) did I sit around telling myself I had to get more fit? Now, astonishingly, I’ve marked my first anniversary as a runner. Granted, a year ago I could barely huff and puff a quarter mine (I just got back from a 6.3 mile run this evening), but I consider it my first anniversary of a very different man.

    I have long suspected that people turn to diet books and diet programs as a way to have someone else “do the work” for them. They can feel that they are trying because they bought the book or joined Weight Watchers or whatever, believing some outside force is going to make the difference. In the end, the motivation and will must be internal, whether it be dieting, running, or writing.

    1. Teri Post author

      You are so right, Paul. Running is the same. Writing is the same. At some point, you have to do what you are capable of doing —– and so often we don’t even realize what we’re capable of.

      I’m so proud of you with your running! And in winter. In southern Missouri. You are a hearty and dedicated soul. Love it.

  5. girl in the hat

    Yes. My thing is a spin bicycle. It belongs to my man but I’m the only one who uses it, almost every day, for so long now that it feels good and I actually look forward to it (and I have never looked forward to any kind of regimented exercise since I took dance in high school and college). Does Pilates feel good yet? Do you yearn for it yet?

    1. Teri Post author

      I mostly look forward to the routine of it. I’m one of those people who are calmed by routine: Monday Pilates, Tuesday Jog, Wednesday Tennis, etc… And by this point, after a year, I know I feel so much better when I do it. When I’ve had to take a week or two off for travel, I dread how hard it’s going to be to start again.

  6. LauraMaylene

    I have probably mentioned this before, but I was once in a writing group with a man who was a good writer but seemed either unwilling or afraid to write. Instead, he read every how-to-write book out there. He could quote these books at length and would bring them in to workshop in huge stacks that he arranged before him on the desk. He wrote one chapter of his novel but spent years writing nothing else, because he was convinced if the first chapter wasn’t perfect right from the start, the rest of the book wouldn’t be, either. (When I suggested that he simply get a first draft on the page, he seemed genuinely surprised that anyone would write to the end of a book without knowing it was going to be perfect.)

    That story always makes me sad — I picture writers bricked in by all their how-to books, like in “The Cask of Amontillado,” all without writing a word themselves.

  7. Lyra

    Yes! I watched The Biggest Loser (man, I hate how much I love that show) while drinking a glass of wine with a plate of cheese and crackers thinking how much I want to be Jillian Michaels. I mean, are you kidding me? What will it take to get back into the swing of things?
    In other news, a woman I know told me how she wanted to talk about writing, then proceeded to mention a friend who has a writing coach. The friend was out of town, but she was going to get in touch with her when she got back to find out about the coach. When i asked about her book, she said she had it all, just didn’t know how to get it on paper. I told her that was the hard part, but didn’t mention that a coach can’t help you if you don’t write. No one can make you write. She asked about me and I told her I’ve been working on something, but I demurred when she offered to get the writing coach to help me. I also demurred when she demanded I give her a bit of mine to read. Uh, no. I need someone from the trenches for this war, thanks.

    1. Teri Post author

      Well, you can’t be Jillian Michaels because I want to be Jillian Michaels !!! You know, in my Neverland fantasy mind…..

      Writing coach, life coach, ugh. And don’t you love the “the story is all in my head, I just have to figure out how to get it all on paper”? Yeah, you and everybody else on the planet, including real writers!!

      It’s like saying my Skinny/Healthy Me image is in my head, if only I could get her OUT of there!

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