If You're Gonna Do It, Do It Right

“I hate Pilates. Pilates makes me angry.” I actually heard this quote at a recent wellness event. When I curiously inquired, the lady replied, “I guess because it’s hard.”

This interaction has stuck with me for multiple reasons.

1. I’ve actually never heard of a form of exercise creating a feeling of anger. Challenged? Yes. Fatigued, as a result of having a good workout? Absolutely. But, angry?

2. Pilates, when approached properly, is like ANY sport. There’s a foundation of skills that are built first, and later the layers of dynamic movements that challenge total body strength, control, and coordination are added. These foundational skills are challenging, but mastering them greatly reduces any chance you’ll add exercises that lead to “anger.” Is this what happened to her?

3. At the end of a Pilates session, you should feel rejuvenated and refreshed. Pretty much the opposite of “angry.” Where had things gone wrong?

My conversation at the wellness event reminded me of my own experience with mat Pilates years ago. At this time, my fitness regimen was almost exclusively running. I had completed a marathon a few months prior, and I believed I was in really good shape. I showed up to a group class where clients had obviously been attending for awhile. When it came to the roll up and hundred exercises, I felt ALL NECK and totally inadequate. I was nowhere near ready for this level of challenge, and my body let me know it! In fact, I was so turned off by Pilates, that I did not try it again for several years. What a shame!

Thank goodness I found my way back and found a program that helped me build my strong base, learn how to engage my core properly for stability and controlled mobility, and taught me the value of focus.

Thank goodness I learned to go slow through the “tough spots,” coordinate movements with my breath, and make mindful connections.  I discovered that with a relatively weak deep core (not my superficial abs, because those were popping!), I was setting myself up for risk of having an injury. And let me tell you, building a stronger deep core reduced the “neck work,” as well as the headaches I had been experiencing.

I finally realized: I trained up to a marathon. I did not start running that distance; I had to WORK at it. This is the approach I should take with Pilates. A complete overhaul of faulty movement patterns cannot be finalized in just one session. Like any sport, it takes work, consistency, and a qualified, astute instructor to help you tune in and create safe movement patterns.  Otherwise, you may find yourself leaving the session, well, a little bit angry.

 I invite you, especially if you already consider yourself to be an athlete, to try Pilates. But please find an instructor who understands the need to build that base. And-heads up!- this is not the base you’ve built in your current sport of choice. The foundational Pilates base is built on the deep core you can’t see, the one that gives feedback to the brain about how your joints are positioned and coordinates healthy muscle firing to keep you safe and set your bigger, mover muscles up for success. (For more on this, please read my blog entry Your Core: True Strength Runs Deep.)  

To experience one of the greatest rewards of Pilates, make sure you integrate the breath with your movements. Breathing practice carries amazing benefits that last long after your workout.

Finally, remember: you have many options for cardio workouts. Give yourself the gift of listening more deeply to your body, try not to “cheat” with momentum, and allow your body and brain to coordinate movements in a new and potentially healthier way. All of this can lead you to greater longevity and safer performance in your other fitness/sports routines. Your body will thank you for it! No anger needed.