Almost exactly a year ago, I achieved my Pilates Mat qualification.
It was an intense course, both physically and mentally.
It was early morning study sessions and or practicing the exercises to perfection.
It was spending all my morning gym time dedicated to finding a little quite corner, or an empty studio (yay) to practice, practice practice. Those that go to the Hillcrest Virgin Active know that trying to find a quite little corner is an accomplishment all on its own!
It was late night revisions sessions googling how to pronounce Tensor fasciae latae among 64 other main muscles I needed to know.
It was spending extra money on 3 one-on-one Pilates lessons a week.
And I loved it!
I love learning new things, gaining a deeper understanding of the how’s and why’s of Pilates
I loved how the exercises were changing my body, almost before my eyes.
I loved watching my body get stronger and feeling my mind becoming sharper and more focussed.
I loved how the effort, focus and concentration was spilling into other areas of my life. Better mood, more productive at work, calmer, more energy and an overall sense of balance.
I loved Pilates. I still love Pilates. I mean it was originally referred to as Contrology by its creator, Joseph Pilates. It was meant to be for me. Control freak, meet Contrology……. I think the two of you will hit it off pretty well.
I refer to it as the secret of life. And it literally changed my life.
“Physical fitness is the first requisite of Happiness”
“Correctly executed and mastered to the point of subconscious reaction, these exercises will reflect grace and balance your routine activities”
– Joseph Pilates
However, when it came to taking a class for the exam, my nerves and anxiety went into overdrive. Actually, overdrive was an understatement. My regular anxiety buddies, UTI (Bladder infection) and sore throat dropped by for a visit, and wouldn’t leave. When I say this was one of the hardest things I have had to do, I mean it. I just couldn’t get control of my nerves.
Forget getting your driver’s licence.
Forget having to drive then length and breadth of JHB for job interviews – back in the day before Sat Nav and google – maps… actual paper maps people!!)
Forget job interviews
Forget that I was the Northern Province’s (Limpopo) Y2K expert and was sent off to fly to Nelspruit, and then drive in a bright blue sedan polo from there to Pietersburg on my own (19 years old), again, with only an actual hard copy AA road map.
Forget me taking a wrong turn and landing up smack bang in the centre of a township, where thankfully some very kind police officers escorted me out back onto the main road.
Forget me having to spend 4 days in Pietersburg – where is was 42 degrees… in the shade!, and where the only dramatic thing to happen when the clock struck year 2000 was a flicker of a computer screen that needed to be replaced.
Forget all that…..
THIS mat class exam for some reason gave me way more anxiety.
To cut a long story short (Yes, I know, you don’t have to point out the irony of this statement… I could write for days) I did somehow pass and I was elated! I think my sheer passion and enthusiasm for Pilates carried me through. I had achieved what I set out to do. I achieved a dream I had since I was in school where one of my favourite teachers pitched up the gym to teach a Step class I was in and I thought to myself, oh my word I want to do that one day. Have a career, but also take my love of exercising further and teach an occasional class on the side. How awesome. I can do that.
And now I was one step closer. I achieved my dream and qualified to become a Pilates Mat instructor.
Exactly… now what?
Well I turned my garage into a studio, started putting word out and I got a couple of clients for a Friday morning class. And one die-hard regular client in particular whom I dedicated my deepest gratitude for supporting me and pushing me further, and who has become such a dear friend in the process. Thank you Lisa, from the bottom of my heart. I could only commit to one class a week as between work and kids it was a struggle to find more than one time that I could commit to on a regular basis. It has been like for almost a year, give or take a few times when either myself or Lisa couldn’t make it due to work commitments or school holidays. We tried once with kids around and I don’t think we managed to get through a single exercise without me having to yell, or moan or get up and down several times to avoid a fire or similar hazard. “Aiden put that Pilates ball down. No that dumbbell is not a bazooka!, The foam rollers are not Jedi knight swords, enough!!!”
But here’s the thing. Those same nerves and anxiety buddies of mine still hung around. WTF? I needed to figure out why. This was starting to bug me.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, where, charged with a bit of confidence, and the fact that I had put all this effort into achieving a qualification that was just sitting, parking off somewhere shooting the breeze, I needed to DO SOMETHING. So I casually mentioned to the gym manager, who was waiting for the Pilates instructor to arrive – she had been delayed, if they needed any backup/ sub instructors. She said yes let’s chat. I would need to do a First Aid course and a few other admin bits and pieces and she would email me. Well the email never arrived and I think I was quite relieved. The following week I arrive at my usual Saturday 7.15am class and the instructor, who is not dissimilar to an army sergeant major (Knows her stuff and is a little scary), says to me.. “Are you the one who wants to be my back up? I nod. (again, thinking, what was I thinking). “Next week come teach my 8.15 beginners class and I will see if you are good enough” she says in a no-nonsense matter of fact tone.
So many more things went through my mind, most of which I tried to type here but Word kept correcting my spelling so Duck, duck duck duck ducking duck!
Hello sore throat, hey there UTI. You guys are back… ducking great. She took my number, I didn’t have hers. If I did I would have cancelled. Again, why? I stressed all week, practising.
Now it is the morning of. My anxiety has now gone all terrorist on me and has held me hostage. No amount of deep breathing, rescue tablets, lavender oil, Urbanol, meditating (And of course my Headspace app free trial has run out – duck!) is helping at this point. Duck all. The nerves have banded together and clearly are holding me for ransom but I don’t know what that is. Why? I go the gym, I do the class. I make it through. I sit down with the sergeant major and get feedback. I am always grateful for feedback, it shows someone cares to take the time to give you constructive thoughts on how you can improve so I really do appreciate it. It dawns on me that this is the almost the same feedback that I got from my exam a year earlier. Now, what I am exceptionally good at is being hard on myself. I am phenomenal at it, ducking brilliant. I do try to bear in mind this was my fist proper class of 8 people, yet still this sits with me for most of the day, and night.
This is a hard, truthful realisation that I think I have known for some time but didn’t want to admit to myself. Especially when I consider all the money, time and effort I have put into chasing this dream. I am not quitter and I hate making mistakes or doing the wrong thing.
Sometimes in life I put way too much effort into something that gives me little in return, for the pure reason that I don’t want to be a failure.
When I look back on my reasons for wanting to do it; because I love it, that I could do it AND be paid to do something I love, I think I missed the point. Simon Sinek and his “Start with Why” strategy is bang on the money.
I love doing Pilates, way more than I love teaching it.
The stress and anxiety of trying to master this teaching aspect of Pilates is actually affecting my love for it. (Sorry buddies, time for you oaks to pack your bags and bugger off now). To teach it, especially at this early stage where I am still new, takes hours and hours of prep time for one 45min class. I have a full-time job, I have two small kids, for the most part on my own, what the duck was I thinking? Any free time I have I want to be able to do Pilates, not hang around with my stress buddies worrying about teaching it.
There are countless number of motivational quotes that encourage you to chase after your dream, never give up at all costs, no quitting, put the effort it etc etc. But there are very little that say, sometimes the outcome may not be what you expected it to be. You got your dream job, house, life etc and then suddenly realisation smacks you in the face, or it may be slow poke in the ribs over a period of time, that you got what you want, but not what you need? Credit here to ColdPlay’s Fix You Lyrics.
I think it takes just as much courage to say when it’s not working, as it does to pursue your dream at all costs. Both have costs associated with it. Perhaps the objectives were not clear from the start, they could have changed along the way. Don’t mistake this for quitting on a dream. I wanted to learn all about Pilates and do it and I love it. But teaching it is a different game. Sometimes you can get it wrong. And that’ okay. I need to learn that it is okay. It is okay to fail/admit I got it wrong.
For me, right now, I am going to sniper shoot my anxiety and stress buddies right between the ducking eyes and lay them to rest.
I am going to let go of my dream to teach Pilates, for now at least.
Then I am going to go and do some Pilates with a lovely smile of relief on my face.