It is called pilates, and I had been hearing about it for some time but dismissed it as a faddish 90's workout. It fit the mold perfectly: It had the requisite exotic name (pronounced puh-LAH-tees), you had to go to a gym to do it, and celebrities hailed it as a miracle workout that managed, with perfect 90's perversity, to give shapely women the bodies of 12-year-old boys.
Pilates, I had heard, involved archaic equipment with names like ''the reformer'' and ''the barrel,'' but that was about all I knew when I arrived at TriBeCa Bodyworks, a Pilates studio on Duane Street, determined to see if my bias was well-founded. A model-thin woman blew by me, a single line of sweat dripping down her radiant cheek. Great. I hated the place already.
Alycea Baylis-Ungaro, the owner of the studio, had instructed me to bring loose clothing and to wear socks. No sneakers were necessary.
Showing me to the changing room, she whispered, ''Even men do Pilates. We get a lot of them.'' It is true. During my workouts at least one-third were men. Besides, there is, as I soon learned, nothing feminine about Pilates.