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Halfway through an intense Spinning class at a gym in Hollywood, I'd had enough. Instead of perching on the bike for the uphill surge, I got off and walked out. No more "Push! Push!" as an eager classmate ordered our row, no more throbbing in my wrists. I was free!
But that night I couldn't sleep. At 2 a.m., I was still counting my fitness heartbreaks. I had bailed out of Bikram yoga before it got too hot and heavy; I had run away from my jogging club. I could trace my failed attempts at working out all the way back to an aerobics class in 1988 when I'd fallen off the purple step.
I turned toward my sleeping fiance and had a thought: I'd succeeded in making our relationship work. This was no small feat. When Josh and I first met, in Los Angeles, we lived 3,000 miles apart, but there we were, two years later, sleeping beside each other. We'd gotten this far because we'd become good partners, making compromises like my relocation nine months earlier to L.A., where Josh's career demanded we be.
This was when an idea came to me. Instead of finding reasons to walk away from workouts, what if I treated exercise as a relationship I was in? I would apply all the same magic needed to make love last. Maybe then I would find The One -- a workout that I could stick with happily ever after.
I knew this was a tall order, so I recruited friends to help. (When you're serious about finding The One, you aren't above setups.) They introduced me to everything out there, including a Hula Hoop class and a workout called Plates, in which you stand on a vibrating platform that shakes your muscle fibers as you sculpt.
I said yes to every blind date. I met a friend's trainer, who expected a four-times-a-week commitment. But who wants that type of race to the altar? Then I tried boxing. It was obvious from the way I ducked when I should have jabbed that a combative relationship wasn't the right fit either. As for the Plates -- maybe it was shaking something out of me, but to me it felt like my lunch.
I was getting burnt out from so many Mr. Wrongs until fate intervened: A pal asked me to come with him to a Pilates studio two blocks from my home. And, not unlike my father, who agreed to meet my mother because they lived within walking distance, I said I would go.
I was somewhat familiar with Pilates, but when I entered the sunlit studio, I was wary of the Reformer, an exercise machine that looked like Frankenstein's operating table. The instructor eased my jitters, demonstrating how the Reformer used a set of springs to provide extra resistance to each move. As the class got going, my body responded and I even felt my hamstrings loosening up. I left that day looking forward to my next endorphin rush.
I couldn't help but wonder, Was this the beginning of something special?
While I was excited by my crush, past breakups had taught me I should build this foundation slowly. I went to Pilates once a week and kept dabbling with other routines, like running up the popular beachside Santa Monica stairs with a group of weekend regulars. (Pilates and I were only dating, after all.) But fighting my way up those winding flights, I was reminded of four guys, all named Bill, whom I had dated back in Manhattan. My friends joked that I was giving new meaning to dating the same guy again and again. Like the Bills, these other "dates" merged to the point where they felt uninspiring. Meanwhile, my affection for Pilates only continued to grow as I mastered more and more moves.
"You're getting stronger," my instructor told me one day. I actually blushed.
But the honeymoon ends. A few months in, I started having commitment issues. First, there was a new, grueling commute to work that cut into my workout time. Then, one Saturday in class when we were doing Short Spine -- a Pilates staple that involves using your lower back to peel up from a Reformer -- I pushed too hard and ended up sidelined for a week with a twang in my neck.
As I questioned whether this relationship was meant to be, it took me back to my early days in L.A., watching a TV commercial set in one of my favorite Manhattan bars. I wanted to jump through the screen and resume my previous life back on the East Coast. Instead I grabbed Josh to head out in search of a new haunt in L.A. I likewise decided that the hurdles I was experiencing with Pilates could only strengthen my devotion to it.
I started going to the studio before my commute and, to my surprise, found that the routine helped my neck heal rather than aggravating it. I also reminded myself that no single day in a long-term romance defines it. So when I need a little "me" time, I don't feel guilty about taking a walk instead of going to a class.
I'm also learning to ride out the growing pains that would once have had me throwing in the towel. Just yesterday I took another shot at Short Spine. I fumbled a bit, but I found my way by sticking with it.
"Don't look now," my instructor said. "But I think someone's getting serious."
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, February 2013.