In my previous blog I shared my frustration with muscle weakness. At last I have found the perfect way for me to exercise without hurting myself.
A year ago I discovered Pilates. It has changed my life for the better and I am so grateful to God for giving me two personal trainers, Gary and Ampie, who have worked tirelessly to help me. God opened this door in a miraculous way. One of my ex-Avon representatives sent me a sms saying I should watch a TV programme on the Zone Reality channel. But by the time I received the message I had already missed the programme. My husband looked in the programme guide for a repeat and the following day we sat down with a cup of coffee to watch the programme – but there was nothing but a black screen! The next day we repeated the same procedure and this time we saw a programme called ‘The Incurables’.
Monika Blake is a single mother with RA. She has undergone three knee replacements and to my utter amazement she looked like Miss Universe. I felt almost angry as it seemed an inaccurate portrayal of RA. I had never seen anyone with this disease look that good! Her secret: Pilates. She exercised on a wooden bed with a carriage and springs. I had never seen such a contraption before and in unbelief I said, “That’s fine for people overseas but you will never find such equipment in South Africa.” Despite my unbelief within a week I was exercising on exactly the same equipment! God miraculously connected me with Gary. Gary is London-trained and turned out to be the ‘Muscleologist’ I have been looking for all these years!!!
Pilates is a controlled, low impact form of exercise. The Reformer bed was created by German born Joseph Pilates (1880-1967). Joseph had been a sickly child suffering from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever and consequently dedicated his whole life to improving his physical strength. He believed that the ‘modern’ lifestyle, bad posture and inefficient breathing were at the roots of poor health. His method of training was originally called ‘Contrology’ encouraging the use of the mind to control muscles. His focus was on the central postural muscles that help keep the body balanced while giving support to the spine. The Reformer was used to rehabilitate those injured in the war. He later lived in England and ultimately settled in the States where he and his wife, Clara, helped many well-known dancers. He died at the good age of 87 in New York but his legacy still lives on in the form of Pilates. It is well worth reading up on his interesting and productive life helping others.
The Pilates Reformer is the ideal piece of equipment for RA sufferers. It has a bed-like moving carriage, springs of variable strength for resistance, a foot/hand bar and straps. Despite my severe limitations I have been able to make remarkable progress during the past year. Most importantly, Pilates does not put any stress on joints and aims to make you more mobile and flexible over time. What I love about Pilates is the connection between mind and body. I have well and truly been delivered from mindless exercise. I used to equate movement with exercise, but no longer! When I used to exercise in the pool my body was moving but my mind was on other things. Pilates has taught me how to exercise smarter. 3 controlled movements involving mind and body is better than 10 mindless movements. Gary has taught me about the importance of good posture and breathing when exercising. With each movement Gary “talks” me through the exercise to ensure perfect control and awareness. At first you feel as though you are being subjected to a barrage of instructions but over time what he tells you eventually sinks in and you start positioning yourself automatically. It requires a lot of repetition before you ‘get it’. When the penny drops it is a very good feeling and very satisfying. I will be doing Pilates for the rest of my life! More about Pilates next time…