I am one of the most fidgety people I know. This tendency, minus the use of one foot, has led to a great deal of pent-up aggression that I have struggled to find healthy ways to release since my usual methods of exercise are unavailable to me. During this time, Pilates has become the safety valve of activity I needed to stay sane.
As we get older, we learn the things we need to do to keep ourselves healthy and balanced. I find that after a maximum of about two and half days without working out, I start to come unhinged. Understanding this about myself, I made sure that the first question I asked my doctor when I found out I wouldn’t be able to walk for three weeks was, “How am I going to stay active?” I am far too antsy for the sedentary life and knew that if I couldn’t exercise I would probably lose my mind by the end of week three.
Pilates turned out to be the answer to my ants-in-the-pants syndrome. I love working my core and have been incorporating Pilates moves into my workout routines for years. Now that I’m pretty much exclusively limited to floor exercises, I’ve started expanding my repertoire and pursuing entirely Pilates-based routines to get my sweat on. An added bonus is that when I’m on the floor, I can momentarily forget that I’m injured.
I have always struggled with yoga because I get bored and antsy when forced to focus on my breathing in static motion for too long. Pilates incorporates a similar emphasis on breath and technique while requiring more fluid motion, which gives me something to think about instead of how much homework I have. This total attention to the body leaves me feeling centered in my body and much more balanced overall.
This week, I was supposed to attend a Pilates class at my gym, but at the last minute my doctor advised against it because many moves require participants to position themselves on their hands and knees, and my wrists are overly fatigued from all my crutching.
In order to allow myself to pick and choose more specifically, I instead followed several videos from Blogilates.com, which invites users to “train like a beast, look like a beauty.” Blogilates was founded by California-based Pilates instructor Cassie Ho and features workout plans, videos, eating plans, fashionable exercise gear and blog posts all produced by the creator herself. Videos range from five-minute exercises targeted at specific muscle groups to 45-minute full-body routines.
Rather than taking the Jillian Michaels approach of yelling at her students until they hate themselves so much they finish the workout, Ho inspires them using a combination of upbeat music, the example of her own disgustingly fit body and relentlessly positive encouragement. Unlike other instructors I’ve encountered, I get the sense that Ho sincerely wants to help people transform their bodies.
“Let me tell you, it’s hard work, but it’s the most satisfying work in the world to me,” Ho said in her self-description on the website. “I don’t care that I don’t sleep until 3 a.m. in the morning every day. My job is my passion and my passion is my job. I feel so lucky to be able to encourage you to eat healthier, train harder, and live happier lives by doing what I enjoy.”
Finding a great teacher is crucial when taking on a new exercise practice, because they set the tone for the entire experience. For example, I hate spinning, but loved it the one time I took a class with an aggressively fit 8-months-pregnant woman who made me feel like I had no excuse to slow down. Half the battle of group classes is finding a teacher that ignites your desire to improve. This is one of the major strengths of Blogilates.
Sometimes, though, doing programs alone can be challenging. Your phone will buzz, your dog will walk over you and suddenly you’re completely distracted and have abandoned your discipline in favor of Twitter. These are the times when taking a real, live class is helpful. In much the same way that surrounding yourself with studying bodies at the library can help you get your paper done, a group exercise class ensures that you’ll buckle down and give your workout the attention it deserves. The IBC Student Recreation Center offers free Pilates classes, plus yoga, Zumba, spinning and others. New schedules are posted online at the start of each semester, but make sure to arrive early to get a “ticket” because rooms fill up early.
I can’t wait to get off crutches and back to the gym, but this brief Pilates-intensive period has definitely encouraged me to give the practice a more central role in my regular routine. Even more importantly, it has reminded me to try new things and to embrace creativity when it comes to staying in shape.