By my mid-forties arthritis in both of my knees had set in after a skiing injury (exacerbated by a few years of running). That’s about when I began taking Pilates classes (I had read about Pilates in a airline magazine some years earlier and recognized immediately that it was something my body would like). The classes really helped – keeping the muscles, tendons, and ligaments surrounding my joints strong and allowing me to keep moving through knee arthroscopy and a torn meniscus. While I was on the Reformer, I could forget that it hurt to walk to the car.
However, by the time I was 55, it was clear both knees would have to be replaced. I was very fortunate in having a surgeon who didn’t insist I wait until I was 60 before undergoing total knee replacement; and then, in making an excellent recovery after both surgeries. I was happy just to be able to walk again, but I thought my Pilates days were probably over because I felt that some positions would be uncomfortable to someone with artificial joints. I was also afraid I wouldn't be able to move along with a class without constant disruption as I “adjusted.”
I concentrated on physical therapy and water aerobics for a few months and reached what I thought were my limits in knee flexion and extension. And then a friend with a Reformer suggested I come over, hop on and just see how it felt. A few tentative stretches and leg circles and short spines later, I felt better than I had in more than two years. I came home, went online to do some research, and ordered an IQ® Reformer, that afternoon. There’s no question that without having had nine years in Pilates classes, I wouldn't have had the confidence to work on my own. But working at home allows me to tailor my routine specifically to what I need: always core strength, with extra emphasis on leg work, footwork, and overall stretching as well.
My surgeon was amazed at how well I was doing just a couple of months after I started working out at home – about a year after my second surgery. I told him all the credit was due to my IQ and Pilates, and that I felt more post-op patients should be encouraged to try it.
Through Pilates I have learned that core strength protects us from injuries that can be caused by most everyday movements – leaning into the trunk of a car to pick up a sack of groceries, pulling oars in a raft, even just getting into bed. Strap work makes it clear when one side of your body is weaker than the other and encourages balancing work both sides. As I age, I find flexibility is something I have to work harder to maintain – but Pilates makes for pleasant work.
I think everyone should try Pilates, but your experience will be both safer and more enjoyable if you start with a good instructor. Typically studios require new students to take three or more private sessions before joining group classes; that will be time and money well spent. You’ll learn good form, become familiar with how the apparatus of the Reformer works, and be in a much better position to get the most out of your practice.
Has Pilates changed your life? Are you an instructor with a great client success story? We’d love to hear from you.