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    Been There, Done That: Nine Decades And Counting By Alice Herb: Pilates and Me

    By Alice Herb


    Back when I was a youngster of 79, I decided that if I didn’t do something about my antipathy toward exercise, I would end up using a walker or worse yet, in a wheelchair unable to lead the life I enjoyed. I had always imagined myself most comfortable at a cocktail lounge or a social gathering with a very dry Martini in one hand and a cigarette in the other- and of course, dressed in the latest fashion with beautiful high-heeled shoes. I accomplished that vision many times but then reality set in. At my advancing age, I would kill myself falling or die of lung cancer or G.I issues. My desire to stay alive won out and I now see myself in tights and a tee shirt poised on a Pilates “Cadillac” or a reformer, responding as best as I can to my Pilates trainer, Kristin, (at the Pilates Local,) who is less than half my age but has all the qualities of the best military drill sergeant. (My love of high-heeled shoes became a collection of miniature shoes I can look at whenever I please. I had already stopped smoking when my grandson was born but gained an unacceptable amount of weight – now back to a more decent size.)


    Kristin is aware of my sciatica and arthritis pain but takes no pity on any strain or stress that comes with doing Pilates. She simply says that I am not there to be comfortable and pretend to be exercising, and then goes on uninterrupted. I have been with her for more than 11 years now and she is amazing. She has me doing exercises I never thought I could do. I have been clumsy and anything but athletic all my life – a total embarrassment to my very coordinated mother, who taught dancing to untalented young men at a place in Vienna where she tried to teach dancing to my two –left-footed father. Unfortunately, both of my mother’s children inherited two left feet. But back to Kristin and Pilates.


    I truly credit her for imbuing me with a passionate belief that Pilates has changed my life and kept me mobile into my 90s. I am so committed that I will not change my twice-weekly appointments for anything but the most urgent reasons. Kristin acknowledges my commitment, reminding me that I don’t cancel even in the worst weather. Indeed this past winter, she contacted me to cancel my session saying that I would lose no momentum if I stayed home on such a day. And I listened.  


    But this is not just a connection solely devoted to exercise. True, her asking how I feel is focused on my physical condition on that day. But I will also tell her what makes me uptight and what is truly upsetting. Telling her that my granddaughter, Madelyn, was interested in a Master’s degree in Library Science, Kristin (who was earning such a degree) urged me to tell her about the University of Buffalo. Madelyn contacted her to talk about the program and it was exactly what Madelyn was looking for. And Madelyn is now poised to graduate, much to our great delight. But it’s not just education on which Kristin advises. As a performing arts major at my alma mater, Syracuse University, and a bartender supporting herself while settling on a career, she is a master at recommending restaurants, theater, and films. She also entertains me with pictures of her two nephews who are just adorable. It is a win-win situation for me. And I am a loyal and committed client who knows Kristin is a very important person in my life.  


    But I should tell you that I found her in the most amusing way. I checked the Internet to find a Pilates studio to investigate. I found one nearby that said they had trained senior instructors, which I assumed meant that they were experienced in teaching seniors. It wasn’t until some years later when I asked her why they didn’t advertise that they were experienced training seniors, she burst out laughing. I misinterpreted, she said. They were just in senior positions as instructors. We both had a big laugh, but now she is experienced with SENIORS. Can you think of a more valuable experience?  


    Alice Herb is a retired attorney, journalist, and bioethics consultant. Having reached the age of 90+, she’s more than ready to share her experiences and opinions with agebuzz readers. Want to comment on something she’s said? She welcomes your feedback at [email protected].

    And do you have something you’d like to say? Let us know by contacting us at [email protected].