Is it cool to call someone a teacher’s pet? Or, is it cool to be the teacher’s pet? Is that outdated? Either way, that’s Logan. Why is she one of my favorites? Because she shows up. She shows up not just physically — I mean I own a yoga studio, I’m required to talk about essential oils, Mercury’s behavior, and your existential being — but metaphorically, too. I truly mean it. If I see Logan on my class roster, I know three things. One, she will be there. Two, she will focus on the complexity of the moves and try with 100 percent effort. Three, she will take my smart *ss remarks but give them right back!
Logan may be one of the youngest in class, but she is wise beyond her years in all areas, including humor and sarcasm. I often test her Gen-X pop culture knowledge (while totally aging myself) when I quiz her on movies and songs from the past (y’all…she has not seen E.T.!!!). One day in class we were talking about 70s lunch boxes. I told everyone I had a Bee Gees lunch box. I tauntingly turned to Logan during our millionth butt lift and asked “Logan, did you have a lunch box? Did they have lunchboxes when you were in school?” She didn’t skip a beat or a bunz-squeeze as she wittily replied: “No, we only had Uber Eats.”
Beyond her quick humor, Logan is an inspiration. If you come to my class you’ll find her in the front row, mid-left, clad in ankle weights and Nike knee pads, a sort of Pilates Boot Camp uniform these days. Here’s Logan’s story (when I first read it, I had to force myself to breathe).
If you asked my mother to describe her two children, she’d tell you that her son is the athlete and her daughter is a nerd. After all, in the Deep South, athletes work out and everybody else drives. True or false, those opposing categories defined my life. I was a voracious reader who excelled in school, and he shot hoops in the driveway until dark. He lettered in multiple varsity sports, and I famously got thrown off a recreational soccer team for stopping midfield to talk to a friend during a game.
Although I was never “athletic,” I was always aware of my body. Growing up southern, I had more than my fair share of relatives pinch my side and tell me how much more beautiful I’d be if I were thinner. I tried a low-carb diet for the first time at 13, which set into motion a cycle of weight loss and gain that took me more than a decade to break. A diabetes scare in graduate school finally made the truth apparent: I was obese, the yo-yo dieting was making it worse, and something had to change. I started calorie counting, and I got most of the weight off. Despite all that, a workout regimen was never part of the equation.
It’s ironic, looking back on it now, but when a friend called to convince me to move to Alexandria, Pilates was a key part of her pitch. I’m not sure if she sensed how confusing the transition from student to professional would be, or if she was just trying to get me excited. Regardless, I balked; although I was still overweight, by that time I had lost nearly 50 pounds from diet changes and sheer force of will. I’d convinced myself that exercise would just never be “my thing.” Of course, I had no idea of the toll that six months of unemployment would take on my mental health.
I was 23 when I moved to Old Town in November 2016. Since graduating college and leaving Baton Rouge, I had lived in Jordan, New York City, and London. I’d never experienced loneliness, homesickness, or depression. I had also never been so lost. It quickly became apparent that in the DMV, your job is your social currency. Every time someone asked me, “What do you do?” I felt my heart drop to my knees. With it went any sense of self-worth or confidence.
Three weeks later, my friend called me up to tell me that Mind The Mat was having a Black Friday sale. Although the subject had come up several times already, I’d always deflected. But I was home with my parents in Mississippi and deeply dreading my flight back to D.C. I figured that the unlimited membership was reasonable enough, and I knew I needed somewhere to go during the week. Plus, I’d always wanted to be the kind of person who exercised — I just wasn’t.
I went to my first class, Hot Power Flow Yoga, on a Monday night. I was sure I was going to suffocate if my heart didn’t give out first. I hated every second of it. I felt even more like a failure. The negative thoughts in my head drowned out the music: you’re weak, you’re dumb, you’re ugly, you’re fat. (You name it, I thought it.) An hour later, dripping with sweat, I stepped into the parking lot. I’d survived, and I didn’t want to go back. But I was on the hook for that three-month membership. And I knew that my friend wanted me to like it, so I lied to her and said that I’d had fun.
I lied again on Wednesday, and the next Monday. I expected to lie on Tuesday, which was the class I dreaded the most. The sales pitch for Pilates Bootcamp included a lot of synonyms for “butt-kicking,” and my body was not ready. Before I walked in the door, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to make it through the class. I thought about canceling a hundred times. Yet, for some reason, I went.
True to her reputation, Megan kicked my butt. She shouted, she preached, and she corrected my form. She explained why all of it mattered. She also asked my name. And never, not once, did she ask me what I did for a living.
I started using Mind The Mat as an excuse to get out of the house. When I needed a break from drafting cover letters or searching job boards, I took a barre class. Instead of staring at my email inbox, I made small talk with strangers on my way to Pilates. Finding a job involved a lot of variables I couldn’t control: mastering crow or Chaturanga were tangible goals that I could work toward. I could feel myself getting stronger and other people began to notice my body changing. (Although they were polite enough not to mention it, I’m sure that they noticed my mood improved, too.)
One Friday, I celebrated turning 24 in Megan’s HAWT Pilates class. When I got my first job offer, it was my Pilates Boot Camp family that gave me a round of applause. To this day, my friends know not to ask me to do anything on a Tuesday night. My weekly fitness regimen is a promise to myself that I honor every time I show up to a workout. It’s physical fitness, but it protects my mental health, too.
Losing that first 50 pounds was only half of the journey. Since joining Mind The Mat, I’ve stopped dieting and started eating well. For the first time, I’ve kept the weight off. Even though I’m thirty pounds heavier than I was when I last wore my current size, I’ve never looked better. (It’s all muscle!) I’ve never been stronger or more confident. I’ve never been better at managing stress. I’ve never been so comfortable with failure. I’ve never smiled more.
To date, I’ve clocked more than 300 hours of classes at Mind The Mat. Every single class has been hard, but by now, I’ve internalized an important lesson that I carry with me everywhere: it never gets easier, you just get stronger.
That mantra helped me to run my first distance race in October. I’ll be running another next month. It has compelled me to try things, like Ascend Cycle, that I spent years believing I wasn’t cut out for. The relationships I’ve built at Mind The Mat and Ascend have carried over into other parts of my life. Now, I’ve got deep roots in my community. I’m in love with my body, and I’m constantly awed by what it can accomplish.
At holidays and family gatherings, my mom jokes that she now has “two athletes.” I don’t know that it’s true, but I’m proud to have earned that label.
Mind the Mat Pilates & Yoga was founded in 2008 by Megan Brown, Doctor of Physical Therapy and Polestar Certified Practitioner of Pilates for Rehabilitation and Sara VanderGoot, Nationally Certified Massage Therapist and Registered Yoga Teacher (e-RYT 200, RYT 500). In their private practices as physical therapist and massage therapist respectively Megan and Sara observed that many of their clients were coming in with similar needs: relief for neck and shoulder tension and low back pain as well as a desire for more flexibility in hips and legs, stability in joints, and core strength.
Together Megan and Sara carefully crafted a curriculum of Pilates and yoga classes to address needs for clients who are pregnant, postpartum, have injuries or limitations, who are new to Pilates and yoga, and for those who are advanced students and are looking for an extra challenge.