Wednesday, December 06, 2006


That's what the sign said at the gym over the past week, and it started last night. I decided to try it. I started doing pilates probably 6+ years ago, after searching the Internet for something to help my aching low back. I was coming off that nasty piriformis problem I had had for almost 3 years, and that, among other things, was leading to a lot of nagging other problems, constant low back pain being one of them.

I didn't even know how to pronounce pilates back then. But from my personal research and reading, I thought it was the way to go, at least for me. Little did I know what a new wave it would be in the years to come.

My first experience with pilates then came from seeing a video as I was walking through Wal-Mart: a Denise Austin pilates/yoga tape pretty much jumped out at me and threw itself into my cart. That had to be a sign. So I bought the $9.97 tape and went home and attempted to perform the 20 minute routine that first night. All I could say was Wow! I am really out of shape here. Not only could I not do some of the moves for lack of familiarity with what they were, I didn't have the core strength to do even the simplest exercises. And my back was so tight, I could barely do some of the forward stretches. I was shaking and sweating when done.

But, as with everything else, I persisted day after day until after a week I was able to do a V-sit without losing my balance or without any major quivering of the limbs; I could do the "hundred" and then some if I had to; and I almost had the breathing down. Little by little, after about 2 months, not only had I developed some core strength that I never had before, but I could actually see a toning of the stomach muscles without doing all those boring crunches and situps!

Since my accident, one thing I have not had much success with was getting back to has been even modified pilates or core strength work. Only recently have I been able to do even the simplest floor exercises, and its not comfortable even then. I really didn't know what this instructor would do, or whether I would even be able to do much of the class, but I figured it was time, and a little more pain and discomfort could only serve to make me stronger, right? (At least that's what they want you to believe!)

I knew I would need some sort of warmup before getting started so did 30 minutes on the spin bike with a fairly hard resistance level, so that by the time the pilates class was ready to start, I was sweating but felt looser. Usually, after sitting all day at work, I am stiff and tired, and today was no exception, so I needed something to get a jump-start on the class.

The instructor was this tanned, toned, sculpted woman, who looked like she spent most of every day working out. She teaches a lot of the classes at this gym (yoga, spinning, kick boxing, etc.), but she confessed this was her first experience with pilates and would need to use her "cheat sheet." There were only five of us, with one observer. Three of the participants were work colleagues in varying stages of fitness, so I figured even if I couldn't do much, I wouldn't be alone.

Having been interested in or involved in some sort of fitness program for most of my life (without really having accomplished much with it, it seems!), I am always a little surprised at how little others really know about taking care of themselves or gym-related things. One of the women asked how I was doing and what I was able to do now. She mentioned she had been doing the strength training classes and suggested I join them. She mentioned she can only do 10 pound weights as her max, and only on some exercises. That made me feel a little better, being only up to 5 myself right now. But it was a thought I might consider.

On with the class. First thing, just laying flat on the floor mats. Ouch. I forget how uncomfortable it is still laying flat out, especially on something hard like the floor. It took a few minutes for my ribs to settle but then I was okay until we had to roll up. Not happening. I still have no strength in my back from the cervical to upper thoracic area (neck to about middle of my back), so that had to be modified some. But the actual stomach or core exercises I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was still pretty strong there. That was a relief for me to realize, and probably is one reason I haven't been plagued with much low back problems over the past few months while I sit around most of the time.

After a full hour of this, though, I was getting worn out. Not just a fatigue, but actual "I've had enough" feeling. My ribs were hurting, and my shoulder was really complaining about some of the overhead stretches. An hour of mostly core is good though, and I went away feeling tired but refreshed, if that makes any sense. Just the right way to feel after a workout.

Upon leaving, the instructor said "after 30 days of this, you'll have a new body." One can only hope!

1 comment:

Flo said...

I love pilates. I know exactly what you man about tired but refreshed. I always say, swimming, yoga and pilates make me feel energized and relaxed.