I have been suggesting to both patients and friends alike that they should try the Pilates classes at Live Well. Mind you, I had never until recently taken one myself. However, I knew about the general concept behind Pilates. I’ve also seen first hand the enthusiasm that our patients have for the classes and their instructors.
Pilates is a form of exercise that I knew, focused on core strengthening in addition to providing an overall workout for major muscle groups of the body. I knew that much of it is performed on a machine called a Reformer that creates hundreds of different of exercises, often removing much of the effect of gravity and allowing for smooth controlled movement. Having lost a substantial amount of weight myself over the past year through the work of diet modification and exercise alone, I thought I was more than up for the challenge of a beginner to intermediate level class. I was in for a bit of an education.
First, Pilates may look easy, but it can be hard, very hard. The first few minutes of the class I thought, piece of cake. Then Jo-Anne the instructor started increasing repetitions and changing the resistance springs on the machine. There goes “easy”. When she instructed the class to make circles with our legs while holding an exercise ball between them I thought, how hard can this be. Three circles around with my legs shaking and the instructor coaching Dr. Foster to make my circles
even bigger, I thought “OK, this is going to be a long hour. Someone put me back on my old eliptical machine.”
The second thing that became very clear is that even though there were no weights involved other than my body, my legs and arms were getting a serious workout. It became apparent that you don’t need free weights to feel the burn in your triceps or your quads at the end of a particular exercise. Apparently
they really train these instructors to find ways to make muscles you may have ever noticed feel like they’ve caught fire. Perhaps there’s an entire class devoted to this training.
Third, I have never found a form of exercise that so specifically forced me to use spinal stabilizers in the same way. My abdominal core was enganged and challenged the entire time. This is critical for anyone who wants to proactively care for their spine. It is especially important for anyone who’s had issues
with their back. We often use large muscle groups such as the paravertebral muscles (the large group of
muscles that run just on either side of your spine) for both movement and stabilization. Unfortunately, they can become overworked eventually, leading to spasm, feelings of being locked up, and even other types of damage to our back. Nearly every single exercise we did challenged me to use the small
delicate spinal stabilizers, forced me to engage my diaphram, tranverse abdominals, and pelvic floor. These are the critical and central muscles of the abdominal core. They provide true protection to the lumbar spine.
Finally, it really was fun. It was fun to spend time with our patients. It was fun to laugh at myself a little when everyone else was doing it “right” and I was accidentally doing my own thing. It gave me a little confidence boost at the end. It reminded me that no matter where you are physically,
your body is quietly craving a little challenge, a little attention, a little activity.
I intend to take classes from each instructor at our center. I pretty sure I will have to do some work before they let me into the Bootcamp class, but I’m for the challenge.