Being riddled with back issues, knee issues, and a hip flexor injury that would leave me limping if I did anything strenuous, I found myself nearing the last half of the last year of my thirties with the worst back pain I’d ever had since my injury in 2002. Anytime I did an activity with my 6 year old I would find myself feeling wobbly and weak. I couldn’t sleep on my back without so much pain. I thought, “I have got to do something about this before I turn forty”.
Everyone always gave me the same advice – strengthen your core and you’ll have less back problems. Strengthen your core and you’ll have more balance. Everything always comes back to the core. I realized I need to go somewhere, outside my home, to mix it up because I didn’t trust myself to stick with it if I did it at home. I decided I would take a small step forward and try doing yoga; something I had loved in the past.
I searched for weekend Yoga classes and asked a local mom’s group for suggestions on Yoga studios that had classes on the weekend. One of the first comments was a recommendation for Rivercity Pilates who had “beginner classes that were fantastic”. I had not done Yoga in at least 15 years, so I figured a beginner class would be a great idea. I was out of shape and out of the loop, so I got on the website and was tunnel-visioned on yoga. Then a box popped up about Pilates and a complimentary session?? I like free stuff! I did some quick reading on the website to see what Pilates was all about and decided to give it a shot. I booked my complimentary session!
I was immediately nervous for two reasons:
- I didn’t think I would be physically able to do any of the exercises.
- When I looked at the class schedule and recognized a few words based off the descriptions, I was a little worried. I couldn’t even sleep on my back…how was I supposed to do these exercises while I was on my back?
- A one on one session with a person I don’t know.
- I tend to get weird about stuff like that. I don’t like to be the main focus and I certainly didn’t want my shortcomings or my body shape to be the center of attention.
I promised myself I was going to do something, so I decided I need to just see what would happen. Plus, it was free! I repeated this to myself for the full day before my complimentary session.
I walked into the studio on July 29, 2018 to the friendliest greeting. I got a tour of the studio and then we had a conversation about my body, my past injuries, my concerns, and my thoughts. I received the history of the Pilates method and what it does to the body. I was immediately told that anyone could do it and that the studio was focused on Pilates being for every body. Every body is a different shape and size. Every body moves differently. Every body can do it, the body just may need a prop or modification. It doesn’t matter what the person next to you can or cannot do, you listen to your body and figure out what your body can do now and then you can try and push yourself to see what it might be capable of when you are ready. Pilates was meant for the long term, start small and build on it. The conversation I had with Kimberly was something I desperately needed to hear. I needed to hear that someone was confident that I could do Pilates and that I didn’t need to worry about how strong or weak I was or what kind of shape I was in (or what my body shape was).
After we had our chat, I got to trial a few of the basic Pilates exercises on the Cadillac and I was given details on what each exercise was doing for my body. I was able to do each exercise I tried (yes!!) and I felt so exhilarated by that, that I wanted to do more! I was surprised by my own excitement. I purchased one of the beginner packages that had private sessions to start my journey, even though I had just spent over 24 hours fretting about one on one focus. It was completely out of my comfort zone, but it was the best decision I could have made looking back.
I started with one Saturday class and one Sunday class a week. The Sunday classes were specifically for beginners and the Saturday class was an ‘all level’ class where the instructor would show different modifications for the exercises. There was a lot of great positive reinforcement with each instructor I had and that made me want to go more, learn more, and push myself more.
After the first month, I started to pick up a few props from the studio so I could practice at home. I tried to focus on the exercises that were the hardest for me in class. I got on the Rivercity website and started watching videos and breaking them down to see if I could use that information to help myself get better at certain exercises. There were times I found myself getting a little frustrated that my body couldn’t do certain things and any time I brought that up with an instructor, the instructor would give me a tip or an exercise I could start practicing “to get me there”. After a couple of these interactions I started to give myself more leniency when practicing something new. I purchased and read Return to Life and found a lot of wonderful passages that made me realize that this is something you need to practice and work on for a lifetime, but that even in a short amount of time you’ll see progress. And you will feel better – physically and mentally.
After three full months of doing classes at least twice a week and doing short 15-20 minutes sessions at home at least once a week (and doing the Core Challenge in October) – my back pain when sleeping diminished by about 95%. I still can’t believe it! I also realized I was able to pop up and down off the mat, I had lots of extra energy, and I was just happier!
Four and a half months later:
- I am pretty positive that I have more flexibility now than I had in my teens, though I’d never been super flexible. I do have the confidence in my body to try more advanced exercises and to try and push myself a little more each time. I have more patience with my body now and I appreciate what it can do and how far it has come.
- I scheduled myself to do the Return to Life advanced class. It was a goal I set for myself around the 6 week mark of my journey. I really wanted to do Return to Life before I turned 40!
- I am also signed up for the Teacher Training Program for Mat Levels I – III. I am so excited to get involved with this program!
- My favorite exercise is the roll up because it feels so great after doing the hundred to roll up and down one vertebrae at a time while coordinating breathe with it. I also love working on all the pieces to the Boomerang. I hope to be a total pro at the Boomerang one day because it is a beautiful exercise to watch.
- My favorite props are pretty much all of the props. The band, the ball, the foam roller, the oov, the magic circle, the big balls – all add a little something to class and I like the fact that the instructors mix it up.
- My favorite equipment would probably be the Chair even though I have only used it twice. It was the piece of equipment used in one of my first private sessions. Multiple times throughout the session I thought (and possibly said aloud), “I don’t think I can do that, but I guess I’ll give it a try”. I was able to do all the exercises and felt really accomplished.
What would I tell someone who is thinking of starting?
- I would say, if you have any fears or concerns, the Rivercity team will help you get past those. They believe that if you have a body, you can do Pilates.
- I would say, if you are feeling off balanced, if you are sore a lot, or if you have trouble getting up and down – you can still do Pilates.
- I would say, it doesn’t matter how old you are.
- I would say, mix it up. Try some mat classes and try some equipment classes. Go to the free Life Inspired events, even. I know I went in thinking that I would only like the equipment classes because I thought I would need the equipment to do the exercises. I found out quickly that my body was capable of more than I gave it credit for, but that I also needed to give my body “a break” when it wasn’t in the “advanced” position.
- I would say, get a beginner package with some private sessions or spend the money to do some private sessions. You will get to try so many different things in the private sessions with that one on one attention and you will always leave realizing that you are stronger than you think you are.
- I would say, watch some of the videos that Carey has posted on her site. Not just the exercise videos. My favorite video is one where Carey talks about someone telling her that she hadn’t tried a Barre class because someone told her she wasn’t strong enough. Carey called out “BS” on that because she truly believes that you are strong enough to try anything you want in her studio. I loved that raw video and her comments are something we all need to hear.