Read an Excerpt
MY PILATES JOURNEY
When I first started hearing about Pilates, I was skeptical. I figured it was just another trendy exercise program that promised results but didn't deliver. I also had no idea how to pronounce Pilates until I saw a phonetic spelling (puh-la-tees) in a magazine article.
The fact that dancers and movie stars swore by Pilates just madememore suspicious. I'd seen too manyinfomercials in which Hollywood celebrities hawked every type of "miracle" gadget meant to tone abs, butts, and thighs... "in just three minutes a day!" Andwhocan trust dancers, anyway? They can do things with their bodies that we normal people could never imagine. Pilates was just a passing fad. It wasn't for me. Or so I thought.
THE EXERCISE FOR ME
No, Pilates wasn't for me...until my health club opened a Pilates studio, and my curiosity got the best of me. Every time I walked past the studio, I tried to see what was going on in there, but room dividers blocked the windows so that peepers like me didn't disturb the people inside.
Then I heard women talking about Pilates in the locker room. I got jealous. Were they using the new studio? Was it fun in there? What did they have that I didn't have? Why did they get to use the new equipment and I didn't? Were they in better shape than me? Suddenly, my exercise routine seemed stale and ineffective; I wanted in that room. I needed to be in that room. And yet, a part of me still doubted that this was the exercise for me. I'm not a stretchy person or a strong person, and I don't like to exercise in groups.
I decided to start with a group mat class. When I arrived, I had no idea what to expect. I gave the other people in the class- four women and one man-a good looking over, and decided that I was younger and fitter than most of them. It couldn't be that hard.
In the next hour, a small, incredibly strong and flexible woman led us through a series of challenging exercises. Of course, I was humbled when everyone in the class looked better doing the exercises than I did. I had a little trouble keeping up and knowing whether or not I was doing the exercises correctly. Thankfully, my yoga background came in handy. Many of the exercises seemed very similar to yoga poses.
I liked that all of the exercises we practiced were done while lying on our backs, stomachs, or sides on a thick mat. Not having to stand up was great for me. I had a variety of health problems, including sinus problems and low blood pressure, which often made exercising while standing up very difficult.
My favorite thing about Pilates was that all of the exercises focused on my abs, my middle. I'd been complaining for a few years about my bulging gut and love handles, yet I hadn't found exercises that I could do to address those problems. My usual exercise, running, was temporarily on the back burner due to a foot injury. And crunches had never worked for me; I always felt uncomfortable doing them.
By the time the class ended, I was pretty tired, but I had made it through the workout without humiliating or harming myself! I felt like the space between my pelvis and rib cage had lengthened, and I could see how, with practice, I could strengthen my torso and improve my posture. The next day it was obvious that my body had received a big wake-up call; muscles I didn't even know I had were sore.
ONE ON ONE
I decided to take some private lessons in addition to attending group mat classes so that I could gain a better understanding of the routine, as well as improve my form.
Working one-on-one with an instructor made all the difference. She explained how to correctly perform the exercises, making modifications where I needed them. Despite my flabby abs, I was a quick study.
Pilates made me keenly aware of my body's imbalances. I was overusing some muscles and underusing others. Like most people, I'd always neglected working my core muscles. My instructor helped me understand the link between having a strong core and good posture.
With time and practice, the post-exercise soreness I experienced after my first few classes went away. I still felt a bit sore the day after a Pilates workout. My muscles weren't painful, but they were making their presence known. The exercises continued to challenge me, but I always left every session walking a bit taller.
I decided that Pilates was for me.
Copyright (c) 2001 by Erika Dillman