Pilates X and Becky Tyo, Friday, December 29, 2017


I have been involved in a long-term project to restore lost functionality in my body, and I have not been doing that alone. All along the way I have used the services of a variety of specialists. As far as I am concerned, those specialists all belong to an entity I refer to as “John’s Team”. What distinguishes those individuals is that all of them have given me the immense benefit of their personal attention to my betterment.

Last June I was in a crisis mode with respect to my core conditioning. I was having a severe case of Pilates withdrawal, and I needed a fix, bad!

Mat Pilates

Mat Pilates, courtesy of Rhythm Pilates (http://www.rhythmpilates.com)

I had been building a pretty good base of core conditioning via Mat Pilates. I always looked forward to the Tuesday-Friday part of the week. On Tuesday evening there was a Mat class at Elevation Studios. Thursday afternoon I would get my fix with Evelyn Grauten’s Mat class at the now defunct Yoga World.

Stephanie and Baby

Stephanie and Child (not real fur)

The real treat, however, was my Friday appointment for a private class with Stephanie Levitus Winkler, who would put me through a rigorous hour of a Mat Pilates/Barre workout. The great thing about having a personal Mat Pilates coach is that a good one will take you past the point where your mind starts to fail you and gets you to that point where your body actually does start to fail.

That worked out well until Brooke at Elevation had her baby, Evelyn quit Yoga World, and Stephanie had her baby. All of that transpired between January and May. There were a few weeks where Mat Pilates at Elevation limped along with substitute teachers, but that too died out at the end of their Spring term in June. I was a sad boy!


I went a couple of weeks with no Pilates at all, and then I happened across a little place in Los Altos near the Trader Joe’s named Pilates X. They have a Mat Pilates program that is greatly enhanced by their spring wall. The spring wall consists of vertical rails with attachment points for two pairs of springs. One set of springs has a lighter springs with handles attached, and the other has heavier springs with foot straps. A creative teacher can get a lot of mileage out of the potential inherent in such a system, and Pilates X (PX) has nothing but creative teachers!

New Student

They also have a great introductory offer for new students: one month of unlimited Mat classes for $75, and I took full advantage of that offer. I began a monthlong binge of Power Pilates classes, taking 30 classes in 31 days (they were closed on the 4th or July). They also had a special price available for 3 months of unlimited classes which I took advantage of once my initial month expired. I took a LOT of Mat Pilates classes over that four month span to the great benefit of my core!

I have since cut back to three classes a week so I can fit in more dance classes and ultra-marathon training. There is a fine group of teachers at PX, but my personal favorite is Becky Tyo, aka (in my mind) Mistress Becky!

Becky has a very varied background. Becky was a serious gymnast until she retired at the age of 16. She graduated from college with a double major in Business Marketing and Economics, and then worked in Finance for several years. When she had the first of her three children Becky did one of those 180 degree turns that make life stories so interesting. She spent the next thirteen years working in a dojo where she learned, taught, and competed in Muay Thai kickboxing.


Not Becky delivering a kick!

Her next turn was more like a ninety degree swing. Fifteen years ago she fell in love with Pilates, earned her certification in both Mat and Reformer Pilates, and embarked on her third and current career, teaching at Pilates X.

Becky is an amazing teacher in many ways. She is an awesomely conditioned human being. A good Pilates teacher needs to be really strong. They need to be able to simultaneously model proper technique, do the exercises, and provide a constant patter of instruction and encouragement. Becky is the best at this, bar none, and if there were a competition for “Best Conditioned” among Pilates professionals my money would be on Becky.

Becky is truly exceptional in her class management. Becky’s classes are typically full –17 wall spots and 3 mat spots are available. A Mat Pilates class consists of a series of exercises done (hopefully) to the point of exhaustion, and there are a lot of changes in the configuration of bodies and equipment required. Mistress Becky navigates through all of those changes seamlessly. She always knows exactly what is next and how to get there. When you take one of Becky’s classes you know exactly what you are going to get: 50 minutes of hell, but a kind that is good for you. My favorite joke for newbies is Q: What is the best thing about a Mat Pilates class? A: It’s only 50 minutes long. Take ANY of the Mat classes at PX and you will get it.

Angie and Becky

Deskmate Angie and Core Coach Becky!

Did I also mention how entertaining Becky is? While she is torturing us she also keeps us smiling with her constant chatter and quite distinctive laugh. Sometimes the music will take her over and she will break into a dance. All of her energy starts spilling out and permeating the room and infecting all of us.

I haven’t yet had a private class with Becky as I have had to cut back on those extravagances (and maybe I am more than a little afraid), but I am hereby adding her to “John’s Team” anyway as my main Core Coach. I have several justifications for that designation.

First, the big advantage of private instruction is that on every exercise the teacher can take you to that failure point where the most benefit is gained. That has been a problem in other Mat classes in the past as the instructors tended to adjust difficulty levels to the level of the students in the class. If all of the students were strong, then I would be challenged. If not, not so much. That is not a problem in Becky’s class because a) it is POWER Pilates so no quarter is given and b) this is Pilates X where EVERYONE is really strong. The latter consideration means that the difficulty level is high enough that I am being taken PAST that point a lot–it is a rather humbling experience.

The second advantage of a personal coach is the individual attention one gets. I do have to grudgingly share Becky with the rest of the class, but she is good enough at spreading that attention around that I don’t feel shorted in that regard.


The Before Picture, but the Current Picture looks pretty much the same.

Becky has been very good for me. When I started at Pilates X I was less than ten months removed from a difficult reattachment of two of the three triceps in my right arm, and rehabilitation of that injury is a main objective. I am happy to report that within the last couple of weeks I have experienced a quantum leap in tricep strength. I attribute that to Mistress Becky’s Plank-O-Rama. Becky has been adding on a 30 second version of a plank each month for the entire year, and December’s addition was the chaturanga. Each version has helped in the conditioning of my triceps, and the final version, just at the perfect time for me, has really done the trick! Well played, Mistress Becky!

Status Update, Friday, December 22, 2017

Me At Moab

Since the past seems to fade rather rapidly these days, I guess that my best strategy to actually get something written down is to start with the present and work my way backwards.

After a pretty hectic travel and adventure season in September and October I have finally managed to settle back into a routine. I have cut way back on my yoga and am currently taking just two classes a week, both at LA Fitness, with JR (don’t call me William) on Tuesday and Janelle on Thursday. I am also taking two or three Power Pilates classes with Becky Tyo at Pilates X in Los Altos.

Mistress Becky is now my prime core coach/torturer as Stephanie, my former core coach, is now enjoying being a new mother too much. Becky’s ministrations are greatly appreciated. Welcome to Team John, Becky! Then there is the weekly Gyrotonic session at Orange County Gyrotonic, and my bi-weekly visit to my body mechanic, Donna Place, at Long Beach Gyrotonic in Naples.


I am doing a lot of dance classes–3-5 classes each week. Lyrical Jazz with Miss Sari, Beginning Jazz and Beginning Ballet with Miss Carrie, and Intermediate Ballet with Miss Vannia at Elevation Studios, and Adult Ballet with Vannia at EnPointe studio. I also made my ballet performing debut with both the Beginning and Intermediate Teen/Adult classes in the Elevation end-of-term recital. The nine dancers in our Beginning piece ranged in age from 72 down to 11!


Oh yeah, the triceps!!

On the physical side, the two major fronts are my triceps and my right foot. I think I may have made a bit of a quantum leap on the triceps in the past week or so. Yesterday I was very conscious of a new level of activation and engagement in parts of my triceps that been missing for quite a while. I think that a major factor in that development has been Mistress Becky’s Plank-O-Rama, specifically December’s 30-second chaturanga. Not ready yet for handstands, but getting better all the time.


My right foot has improved enough that I can envision the day when instead of having a bad foot and a good foot I just have right and left feet. I am now at a stage where the entire right leg is now CAPABLE of making the appropriate alignments to support proper walking/running. That has required a lot of adjustments to bones, ligaments, tendons and God knows what other anatomical features, and it has been an often painful process. The body doesn’t particularly care to do things differently, but it will come along if you are both firm and compassionate with it.

I said CAPABLE above because it still takes work and mindfulness to achieve proper walking. The muscles that are necessary to accomplish that have been located and activated, but are in serious need of strengthening. “Last to fire, first to tire” seems to be the rule for many of them, so starting out on a walk, for example, is often uncomfortable until everything comes on board. Then later in the excursion discomfort returns as those muscles tire. The task now is to extend that comfort zone on both ends.


Looking down on the Toll Road from the Toll Road

My tool for accomplishing those tasks is the trudge. Traveling uphill at a good pace for many miles. The benchmark I have set for myself for the future is the Mount Wilson Toll Road, a dirt track that ascends 4200 feet over 10 miles to the top, for a 20 mile round trip. When I can make it from bottom to top and back down in 8 hours I will consider myself ready for the next phase, the ultra-marathon.


The clock is ticking as I have already registered for the 50K run at the Zion Ultra Marathon in April. So on April 21 I need to be able to cover approximately 31 miles in 10 hours. In order to do so successfully I will be required to do some running to make up for rest time and difficult terrain. Once I build enough strength I will then need to train myself to run in a gait that is efficient and capable of sustaining for long distances over flat or moderately sloped terrain.

Off now to do some trudging! Destination, Mount Wilson Toll Road, goal, five miles up, five miles down…


The view from my terminus on 12/24–That’s Santa Anita Racetrack out there

Okay, I actually started this on Friday, wrote up to the lines above Saturday, and this is now Christmas morning. The trudge yesterday was a good one. I maintained a 2.5 mph pace for the entire 10 miles (5 up, 5 down), and still felt like a functioning human being afterwards. I also was able to push the pace up for the initial 2.5 miles and 1300 ft of elevation to a 2.8 mph. Knees are a little cranky today but got through this mornings 4 mile walk without complaint. I think there’s hope!!


Bixby Rd Construction, Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Metropolitan Water District (MWD) is in the process of relining a major water feeder, and that process is currently focused on Bixby Rd in Bixby Knolls. There is a 78″ water main running under Bixby Rd that connects the Palos Verde Reservoir and the Diemer Water Plant in the Chino Hills. This pipe, referred to as the Second Water Feeder, was constructed in 1967, and 28 miles of it were constructed from pre-stressed concrete pipe (PCCP) and need to be relined with steel pipe for increased water security. You can find more information here.


It’s delivery time! There are two sections of pipe on this trailer.

Yesterday I saw a truck carrying two segments of the new pipe to the excavation on Bixby at Pine. The pipes are fabricated from tubes that have a diameter smaller than the interior of the existing PCCP. Spacers are welded to the outside so that the diameter of the pipe plus the spacer is the same as the PCCP interior diameter.


Here you can see the spacers welded to the outside of the pipe.

They are cut lengthwise and then compressed like a rolled up piece of paper. In the picture below you can see the overlap of the pipe on itself down in the bottom corner.


Closeup, showing the overlap.

The pipe is secured in this highly compressed configuration by rectangular cleats that are welded on the inside of the pipe as you can see below.

Screenshot 2017-12-06 09.49.27

Interior of pipe showing compression and cleats.

Down in the current excavation they have a nifty machine that can pick up a section of pipe, carry it down the pipe to butt up against the last section set, and then automatically cut the interior cleats. The steel pipe expands with a terrific clang to its uncompressed diameter inside the PCCP. Welders then secure the connection to the previous section and the lengthwise split.

Eventually, concrete is forced into the gap between the pipes to further secure it, and the interior is lined with some kind of substance to protect the steel from the water.

Screenshot 2017-12-06 09.49.05

Some excavation locations

It is a pretty neat process! A few years ago I observed while they were lining the section that ran below the LA River. I think at that point they were working on a 3000 ft segment, so they laid a lot of pipe originating at Carson and Via Oro Ave. You can find updated photos and information at this Metropolitan Water District site.


It’s Always Ladies’ Choice in my Universe

Me at Moab240

I’m hard to get, but I am easy.

Sounds like a paradox, but it’s really not.

A few months ago I overheard a conversation between two women. One of them, a very attractive young lady, was complaining that she had gone on several dates with a man who she liked, and wanted, very much. She was frustrated because he just would not make a move. Frustrated, and confused.

I could relate very much to that story because I am the guy in the story. Not THAT guy of course, but I have likely put women in that situation many times in the past. Probably more times than I am conscious of.

The first time I was conscious of this was the summer after I graduated from high school. I went camping over the Fourth of July at the Wisconsin Dells with a group of kids from a circle that I was part of. An eclectic mix of super smart kids and kids from across the tracks. One of them was a cute young cheerleader (CYC) who I had a tremendous crush on. I knew, or at least I THOUGHT I knew (an all too common affliction of mine) that she had a boyfriend in college.

The scenario starts with cars parked in a field watching the fireworks. I was sitting on the hood of a car, leaning back against the windshield and dressed in the common attire of young gymnasts. Cutoff shorts, and nothing else. At some point CYC, who was wrapped in a blanket, offered to share her blanket with me. It was still pretty warm out, so I politely declined with a “No thanks, I’m okay.”

There were other intermediate activities that don’t clutter my mind, but what stands out is the part where it is late, much of the group is sitting around a fire, and CYC is apparently asleep with her head in my lap. She wakes and says “we should go in the tent.” I followed her to the tent, and she cozied up in her sleeping bag. I didn’t have a sleeping bag, just a blanket, and as I was laying it out she offered to share her sleeping bag with me. Once again, it was a warm night, and I said “no thank you, I am fine” and went to sleep.

The next day I was informed by one of my male friends that a certain CYC was very angry with me, and it was only at that point that I realized that I had quite likely missed out on an opportunity.


This speaks to certain cluelessness, and a deficit in deciphering social dynamics. Who is attached to who, who is unattached and looking, who is not looking, and who is looking, are all very much mysteries to me. I attribute that to the fact that I was legally blind through my middle school years, a period that I believe is very instrumental in learning to decipher the way social interactions in the world work.

In the second semester of my freshman year my vision was assessed, apparently for the first time, and found to be on the order of 20-400.  No one had ever noticed before, and I had no frame of reference. I always had my face buried in a book and excelled through middle school.

The face of the optometrist’s assistant who slipped on that first pair of glasses was indelibly burned into my mind. Before that time people did not really have faces if they were more than a foot away from me. Any kind of subtlety of expression, or any expression period, over any distance was completely invisible to me.

I can now “see” those subtleties without really seeing them as I have no meaning attached to them. If they are sending a message, that message sails completely by me, or worse is misinterpreted. In my ballet class, for example, when the teacher is providing direction for me from the front of the room I have a very difficult time interpreting it, and it is only when she is right in front of me that I can really understand what she is conveying.

That problem is compounded greatly in social situations involving multiple people, and my tendency is to become overloaded and freeze up. For example, much of what is said in conversations when multiple people gather for dinner at a restaurant just flies right by me. I am at my best up close and personal.


What is an advance?

The other morning I started up a conversation with a young woman who was standing next to me at the condiments bar at my local coffeehouse while I drew myself a glass of water. I asked if she was inclined to spend a lot of time seasoning her coffee. As she added a single packet of sugar to her coffee she responded that she already knew what she liked, and punctuated that with a smile and a very definite and pronounced wink. My response was to wish her a great day and I then proceeded to my next order of business, which was my morning yoga flow in the parking lot. She was exiting when I re-entered the coffee shop a few minutes later and was noticeably cold toward me.

The question in my mind was whether or not I had once again missed an opportunity, or even scorned an advance on her part. I am very good at starting up conversations with people I meet. I like to know where they are from, what they do, what they would like to do. I do have a preference for young (a relative term to my 67 years) women. There is, however, a dividing line between actions, like most conversations, that are purely social, and those that are sexual in nature, like steering a conversation towards a sexual topic. Let’s define those actions that are sexual in nature as advances.

Given the smile, but not the wink, my normal course of action would have been to engage her in further conversation. That was probably the best choice in either event, but the wink seriously threw me off my game!

Was that wink a green light for some kind of an advance, or was she herself making an advance? If so what would be an appropriate response? That is where I freeze up. One of my guiding principles is “Do no harm”, and here I find myself at a choice point where I either do nothing, or try to make an advance into an area where I have no skill, have no confidence in my interpretation of the situation, and could potentially do harm through my clumsiness/cluelessness. In such a situation I will take no action every time.  If I err, I want to err on the side of caution.

While some actions—i.e., asking for date (sometimes) through exposing oneself (always)—are clearly advances, the question of what constitutes an advance is really up to the target of that message, and that complicates matters greatly. I recently inadvertently put the brakes on a developing friendship just by using a heart emoji in a text message. The recipient of that message had a history that included sexual abuse by a coach when she was younger. While my intention was just to express happiness at our impending meeting, to her it was a glaring red flag and constituted an unwanted advance, one that probably caused her a great deal of pain, and that in turn caused me pain.

Noah Levine wrote “Against the Stream” about his Buddhist beliefs, and he devoted a chapter to sex. He said that sexual energy is one of the most potent forces that humans have to deal with. By itself there is nothing wrong with sexual energy when used skillfully—it is the unskilled and unconscious use of that energy that is damaging. While there is a technology (flirting) for safely moving through the intermediate steps that would ultimately result in positive sexual relations, that is a technology that I have no skill in. I have the initial connecting part down quite well, and to the observer I might appear to be a total flirt, but have no skill in moving past that point.

Columnist Charles Blow in a recent column entitled “This is a Man Problem (New York Times, 11-19-2017) wrote “We have to focus on recognizing an imbalance of power during sexual dynamics so that men better understand the implicit “no” even when women don’t feel empowered to articulate a “no.” We have to focus on that space after attraction is sparked but before we are sure that it is mutual and reciprocal: the unrequited advance, the unwanted touch, the stolen kiss.”


I think that I have developed some facility in recognizing those implicit “no”‘s. For example, if a woman is wearing a wedding or engagement ring, or if she talks about her husband/boyfriend/girlfriend I take those as an implicit “no”. If I attempt to initiate conversation with a woman and she does not engage with me, that is an implicit “no”.

If I attempt to initiate a conversation with a woman and she does not even acknowledge me, that goes way beyond implicit. It is a definite no, and I have overstepped her bounds. She is probably sick of fending off advances by guys who don’t even know the meaning of the word ‘No”, let alone any kind of implicit ‘No’.  Please note that does not happen often, not because I am so irresistible, but because I go by the rule, “When in doubt, don’t”. For me, the default state is ‘No’, unless proven otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt.

I’ve got morals, but I can be had!

I have zero facility, however, at recognizing an implicit “yes”, and that has cost me at times. In one particularly poignant episode some years ago I met a very beautiful woman at the beach. She gave me her phone number and I called. We had a lunch date where I picked her up at work, and then a few days later a dinner date.

After dinner she invited me in to her apartment. We had some drinks, conversation, and then when it started to get late I told her that I had best be going as I had a very early morning. She saw me to the door, but before closing it she stepped out onto the porch and proceeded to give me probably the deepest and most intense kiss I have ever experienced. Then she said “goodbye” and closed the door. She also stopped returning my calls, and I interpreted that kiss as the revenge of a woman who felt herself scorned.

There may have been an implicit “yes” in the fact that she invited me in after dinner, but I would like to live in a world where a woman can be that friendly to a man without triggering some kind of unwanted advance. I was trying to be respectful and looking forward to future dates, but if she had delivered that kiss before I left, then I would have seized the moment. Or a simple “kiss me, you fool” would also have sufficed.

My own “prime directive”, so to speak, is to never put a women in the position where I am making her uncomfortable by making an unrequited advance. I have a very high standard for what constitutes a green light to move ahead, and that is what makes me hard to get. That used to bother me, but my perspective has changed since the #MeToo movement surfaced and made explicit just how prevalent the problem of unwanted advances is among men stalking women. Now I consider it a virtue.

There have been women who have penetrated my defenses. Those who have tried to work within the system, so to speak, have had to work very hard. The first was my ex-wife, K. When I was a senior in college she was a freshman, and one of her objectives was to find a husband. I was the captain of the gymnastics team. She came to a meet, saw me, and set her sights on me. She came to every meet, would hang out afterward and talk to me, yet I never asked her out.

In the spring my friend Ramon decided that we would offer a Communiversity gymnastics class (open to individuals both from the college and local community) with the express purpose of meeting girls. K signed up for the class, and most of my time was spent spotting her on the uneven bars or helping her with her back handsprings. It took a couple of months before I finally asked her out. Once I did things moved right along, and we were married in just over a year. She was the first and only girl that I had dated to that point.

My diffidence in the area of making advances does not stem from any lack of attraction. I love women! “Chat with a pretty girl” is one of the top items on my daily bucket list. The male beast in me would love to have them all.

I confess that when my attention is captured by a woman, the beast in me gives her a yes or a no. That initial evaluation, based solely on physical attractiveness, is a) not actionable–there is no hooting, comments or cat-calls–and b) continually modified if and when I establish contact and actually get to know the person inhabiting that body. An initial “yes”, which essentially says “I’d like me some of that” morphs into “This is someone I would like to get to know better”.

Then there’s the short list. I am not out trying to hookup, although such rare and wonderful experiences are certainly welcome. If I were I’d be hanging out in bars instead of coffee houses. What I really want is a life partner, someone who I can go all in on. Someone who will join me on the journey through life. Someone who I can forge a mutually supportive relationship with. The short list has women who I feel I know well enough that if they were interested I would be willing to go all in on.

I have gone down that path three times in the past, and have met with disappointment each time. The first was my wife, K. I thought that I was set for life, but when my Ph.D. studies in Mathematics stretched beyond her timeline for doing things like buying a house she found someone who already had one and bailed on me. My last sojourn was eleven years ago with E, but she was more interested in having a servant than in having a partner. That lasted four years and was a very costly experience financially, emotionally, and physically and has taken years to recover from.

That short list is very short. I know a lot of amazing women. Unfortunately for me most of the women I know who are potential candidates are already attached. The kind of woman that I am looking for tend to stay in relationships that are working, and I am very happy for them. That does, however, shrink the pool for me.

As for those on the list, all of them are women whose friendship I value, and I am averse to making any kind of advances that would compromise those friendships. I try to make sure they know that they are valued as I continue to build relationships with them. I have tossed some chum into the water, and I am waiting for a bite.

It’s Always Ladys’ Choice

In the meantime, my motto for when and if to cross that dividing line from the purely social to the potentially sexual is “It’s always ladys’ choice in my universe.” I need a DEFINITE yes to move ahead with anything that could be interpreted as a sexual advance (her interpretation, my intention be damned), and that means that the woman has to make the first move.

If you are a woman who is in the kind of situation as the young lady in the introduction please be aware that the hesitation that is driving you wild may actually be an indication of just how much respect he has for you and how much he values your friendship. He may be dying to kiss you, so why not help him out?

So how am I easy? Once I know what the boundaries are I am fine. Strategies that women have used in the past range from “Just grab ’em by the p****” (no, not pussy, and a ploy that was only attempted after she had already gotten me nude in her hot tub with her. On one other occasion a woman got me nude in a hot tub with her but nothing happened. Just being naked together does not reach my standard for a green light), through “Just start kissing him” (which has has had a one hundred percent success rate to date), to just asking.

My particular favorite came when I was living in a house with three women, A, V, and J, and the teen daughters of A and V. V had already been successful with me on a couple of occasions with the “Just start kissing him” strategy, so it was already household knowledge that I was easy. J and I were both on the rebound from aborted relationships and feeling low when J suggested that we go and see a movie. At the theater she taught me the Junior Mint Game, where she made a trail of Junior Mints on my leg from my knee leading up to the prize that she was interested in and proceeded to gobble them up. That worked!

I have also been set up, at least once that was successful, although I think that I may have botched an attempted set up just last year. If that is the case, then I apologize to all concerned. Again, there was no lack of attraction or desire, just my rather high threshold for a green light.

Of course none of those strategies would have been necessary if the women involved had just asked. So ladies, when faced with a situation where you have been getting close to a man and you are wondering, hoping, waiting for that first kiss, you might just say “Would you like to kiss me?” You can get a lot of mileage out of the question format “Would you like to…?”, and it allows someone like me to see clearly what the lady’s choice is. If I know you, I am very happy to please.