The Three-Ring Rule

August 22, 2009

By Tom Gesimondo

As mentioned last time, I’m in the final stages of my Romana’s Pilates apprenticeship. Yes, I’ve been in the slow lane, but I get to see a lot more scenery this way. Unfortunately, as the owner of a studio, I find that my training is too often interrupted by what my wife, Carol, and I have come to call the three-ring rule. Coming from the business world (not that Pilates isn’t a business—as well as a calling and an art), we were keenly aware of the need for the personal touch with clients. Our rule at the radio station where I had worked was to never let a phone ring more than three times without being answered—and not by an answering machine, but by a person. The president of the company would often pick up any ringing phone without issue and answer any question and help in any way he could. “We are all salespeople,” he repeatedly told us. “We are all owners. We all have a part to play in success.” I try to instill this feeling in every one of the wonderful apprentices who come through our studio. I think it’s part of their education, whether studio ownership is in their future or not.

But when we’re shorthanded, my workout goes like this: I’m lying on the Reformer when the first ring arrives… Suddenly there is a stiffening in my body not restricted to my powerhouse. I keep my tension in my shoulders, and that ring has called them to action. My instructor steps into my gaze to try and recenter my body and get me to focus. Now it’s the second ring…and it’s like the alarm clock has gone off. The body tilts toward the ring, ready to spring out of bed/off the Reformer. I’ve been saved though…someone has hit the snooze button and answered the phone. I go back to my workout. My instructor has a bemused look on her face: a happy ending to the three-ring rule? Not really. My instructor has seen this before, many, many times. And we both know that this will happen again. Only next time there will be a third ring. And it never fails to happen: not during footwork, when I might actually be able to extricate myself, but most likely during Short Spine, with my hips lifted, legs akimbo and panic in my eyes as I try to get out of the straps. Not a pretty picture.