There didn’t seem to be any question. I had the faintest suspicion of what could only be abs
up; you lie on one side and ‘clam-shell’ your legs apart. Contracting your pelvic floor is a crucial aspect to the practice, and it’s tough to know if you’re doing that right. Your teacher can hardly check; only encourage you with awkward references to ‘ the muscles you use when you’re bursting for a pee’.
Despite this, I left that first class knowing I had just done something necessary for my back – it felt looser, more comfortable – and also, filled with the indefinable feeling
I might actually be able to get good at this.
So I kept going. Just that one, weekly class up a backstreet. Not a huge commitment, or a huge intrusion into my life, and £9 a pop. A couple of months after I started – months during which I hadn’t felt so much as a twinge in my back, hooray! – I found myself stripped down to my underwear in a Zara changing room, about to try on a dress, when the light caught my stomach.
‘Bloody hell,’ I thought. ‘ What’s that groove down the left side of my stomach?’ I twisted the other way. ‘And that corresponding one, down the right?’
I twisted again, and again. Could it actually be…? No! Surely not! But, then, what else was I looking at? Not really knowing what else to do, and this being the 21st century, I resorted to the narcissist’s favourite enabling tool; I reached for my phone and snapped a pic of my reflection. I looked and I looked at the photograph. There didn’t seem to be any question. I had the faintest suspicion of what could really only be described as abs.
Ridiculously encouraged, I upped my Pilates schedule to two classes a week. I switched the raggy track pants for some fancy-schmanzy Sweaty Betty Lycra as an expression of my commitment. I got put up a level, from beginners Pilates to intermediates; then on to advanced. I went on a Pilates retreat. I was hooked.
Then I started seeing Pilates instructor Alex Coleman – aka London’s abs queen – for one-on-one sessions on the reformer machine, a terrifying-looking contraption that adds springs, weights, and additional tests to your Pilates session. It’s expensive, at £70 a go it’s my greatest weekly luxury; but it is worth it. I call it a pension for my spine. And my abs really appreciate it.
As they have got stronger and more defined, I wondered to what extent I can show them off. My boyfriend is the only