How I beat Back Pain with Pilates: Week 1

Tips when looking for a Pilates teacher

  1. Explain your injury/situation in detail at least 1 week before your first class
  2. Leave out the hard exercises from a series
  3. Your teacher should be able to customise a programme/session to suit you

My first Pilates class was not actually as daunting as it might have been. I knew roughly what to expect as I had been to a couple of Amy’s classes before. This helped induce the comfort factor a little more than if I had been a complete first-timer. I can see how the novice could walk into a studio and immediately freak at the array of ‘torture equipment’ on display. But I really felt quite excited. This was the first week of the rest of my life. Just by turning up to class I was on my way to healing my back injury..

‘If you can’t be disciplined, be clever.’ – Shinzen Young. It’s one of my favourite quotes and I applied it in this situation – paying up front for a block of 5 private classes. Much easier because the dates go into your diary and you work around committing to them first, avoiding the pit falls of procrastination and non-commitment that sneak up, if you’re not careful.

This initial session is essentially about working with my body to see what range of motion and strength I currently have. In some areas I am still strong, for example in the plank position in the long-stretch series. This is OK. But other areas are very weak, like the long-box series: Pull Straps 1 and 2 and then with one hand. Super hard! Here is a video that demonstrates the long-box series. Not easy!

Pull Straps 1 and 2 at 0.24 seconds in –

After only 25 minutes of hard work, my hamstrings were burning out, along with my abs and core muscles. This surprises me because I can slackline for hours at a time and never feel as fatigued as this! My body feels very good afterwards, though.

“The basic Pilates Reformer Machine is just a sliding platform with some cables attached, but a handful of accessories make hundreds of moves possible, and a variety of springs provide resistance.” – Joel Snape, Men’s Fitness.co.uk

I really love working on the Reformer. Maybe it’s a guy thing, but working with equipment, especially apparatus that makes you work hard with correct form, is a real buzz. I had only used the Reformer once before 10 months previously and loved it immediately for its specificity and accuracy.

Amy’s a great teacher. She did not baffle me with the anatomical requirements for performing a movement soundly. Of primary importance for her was seeing how I moved, what habits I had and where my weaknesses and strengths were. Thinking back, she was probably actually very kind to me, as I’m sure my form was pretty horrific.

Check out the next post, Week 2, to see how I get on with another piece of torture equipment, ‘The Chair’!

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