Pilates & Health Improvement:
Remember Your Journey, Document Your Progress
I had a discussion at the end of a session with a very loyal and long-standing Pilates client this week. After the many, many years of consistent Pilates this person was feeling frustrated that they weren’t super flexible yet! “After all this time, why aren’t I any better? Seems like by now I should be like Gumby!”
This got me to thinking how interesting our perspectives are about our own health. By my opinion, this client has made HUGE improvements in flexibility, strength, body awareness, and mechanics. And where I used to have to put ALL my body weight into spotting things and trying to help get things bend better, now I can lightly put a hand here or there and things start moving!
If we spend 2-4 hours a week doing Pilates, we then have 20-22 hours of time to forget (or time to reinforce other habits. (Some of which might be good, and others probably aren’t helping our body mechanics and movement.)
If you sit for work 8-10 hours a day, and you ride a bike for cardio, your legs are always in a flexed forward position at the hip, so the hip flexors and quadriceps are probably going to stay short and tight. Great to be doing Pilates Mat and the Side Leg Series especially… But other exercises and activities that get your legs swinging behind the body are necessary to undo some of the restricted mobility. Walking would be great, swimming and a flutter kick, Cross-country Skiing (or a ski machine) are just a few examples of other cardio exercises that might be a good choice to improve hip extension and mobiltiy.
OR – if you’re feet hurt, and you spend time wearing flip-flops and backless shoes… Yes, a couple of hours of Pilates a week will help stretch and strengthen your feet, but when you stick those crappy shoes back on your feet and walk around with a shortened stride and bad mechanics all day – which habit is being reinforced the most? The good one, or the bad one?
Now if you’ve been living in your body for 50 years, and doing Pilates 2-3 days a week for 10 years… You have 40 years of habits accumulated in your system to undo and reinforce with new behaviors. And you’ve had less than a ¼ of the time practicing good new “Pilates” habits!
Logic would stand that it might take as many hours practicing a new behavior and you spent with an old one to replace the habit. Yes, perhaps some things change a little faster than this – and that helps keep us motivated. But give me at least as many years with new habits as you had with the old ones and then tell me how you feel.
So as Pilates clients, we’ve got to be patient with the process, and continue reinforcing the right behaviors and muscle use until we don’t have to think about it anymore and the right things just happen when me move.
As Pilates Teachers, we have to help our clients remember where they came from.
- What exercises could a client not do at all when they started.
- What injuries, or limitations did they used to have that don’t bother them anymore?
- What things can they do now that they weren’t able to do when they started?
- What were their original fitness goals?
- What are their goals now?
All of this is relevant to remember your journey and track your progress.
We’re now living in a fast-paced, point & click society, but our body does not change with a point and a click! Pilates is not an instant gratification sport, (although I did have a new client last week who after 1 lesson had her back pain go away!) Nice when it works like that…and now I’ve got to help her learn how to keep it this way. Pilates is a process of getting in touch with your body and training the mind to control movement. Learning to trust the work and release that has to happen to develop optimal strength, flexibility and core support is vital for good health.
Maintaining good health, means a daily practice of the right habits
to reinforce your healthy behaviors.
Here are a few ways you can keep track of your journey and document your progress:
- Take photos and video to document your posture and movement abilities
- Keep a record of your Pilates program, equipment, exercises, springs, repetitions
- Keep a record of your weight training workouts, exercises, and the amounts of weight you are lifting.
- Track your heart-rate for cardio, to be aware of the fitness level of this very important muscle.
- Use a tape measure to track your inches – neck, arms, chest, waist, hips, thighs, calves
- Start a food diary – write down everything you eat, to see if your intake is in your highest good to stay healthy.
- Journal – Write down your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and what’s going on in your life to become more aware of your mind-body connection, and how what you’re thinking influences what you do.
Be patient, persistent, dedicated, driven, joyful, enthusiastic, and happy, happy, happy, that regardless of where you “think” you should be, you are taking active steps daily to do good things for your body, mind, and spirit. The results will catch up with your efforts when the time is right!
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