Fortnight to fitness

Shaping up for the summer — in two exhausting weeks
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  May 19, 2010

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If you’re reading this now, it may be too late. It’s the middle of May, and beach season is right around the corner. It was almost too late for me, when my editors told me I had two weeks to complete a story about getting in shape — a piece I’d pitched as a one-month journey. But, as my astute superiors pointed out, no one wants to read about firming up when they’re already wearing a bikini.

So here, you won’t read about my mind-blowing transformation from average build to super-fit (unfortunately). Rather, you’ll read about my crash course in various means to that end: trying to look and feel amazing with a little help from oversize rubber bands, bars, balls, bells, gizmos, and iPad-like gadgets.

A little about me (without getting all Bridget Jones-y): I’m moderately active but don’t work out regularly; I could stand to lose some pounds and increase my strength and flexibility; I eat relatively well but don’t watch my calorie intake as much as I should.

And now a little about my regime: toward the end of 2009, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and the American Council of Sports Medicine both released lists of their predictions for the top exercise trends of 2010. These included personal training, “functional fitness” (time-saving workouts that improve daily activities), increased use of fitness apps on smartphones and the Internet, specialty exercise classes, and Pilates. I tried them all.

How could I not? I’m one of those people who joins a gym, goes regularly for about a month, and then life gets in the way. Perhaps I needed to try something new, and figured one of these trends would break me out of my rut. So I crammed as much exercise as I could into two weeks, to see what strategy (or combination thereof) seemed most effective.

I should note that, in doing the research for this story, I ate a bit more healthfully, but didn’t exactly start eating from Michelle Obama’s vegetable garden. In short, I tried to make sure that the food I was consuming wasn’t directly countering the physical work I was doing.

Sticking it to Pilates
I started off nice and easy, with a Pilates class — specifically, a PilatesStick class. The PilatesStick is just what it sounds like: a portable bar, about two feet in length, that’s attached to elastic bands, which are in turn attached to the wall. Using the Sticks and the straps to increase our range of motion and provide resistance, we did traditional Pilates exercises that focused on balance, muscle control, alignment, and core strength.

As I lay on the mat trying to lower the Stick to the mat using my ab and leg muscles, I had to focus to ensure that my movements stayed even — that my slightly stronger right leg didn’t push harder or faster than my left. We did “the Hundred,” a classic Pilates exercise that requires you to scoop your abs, raise your head, shoulders, and legs off the mat, and pump your arms. I got a little shaky toward the end, but other than that, I left the Pilates class feeling good, lean, and limber. This is going to be easy! (I thought.)

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