I often get asked how I got into Pilates. The question always brings me a bit of discomfort, because the answer reminds me of my ex-husband.
“Go get a hobby” is what he told me, “get a gym membership.”
I had just moved to Texas with my new husband--young and ready for a new adventure. I was excited, even though Texas was never on my ‘need to visit’ list. My husband and I found great jobs and we were getting along just fine. I started to gain some great friends through work, but still felt a bit on the lonely side. This was especially true when my husband came home and told me he got another job. I asked him what I was supposed to do. I had moved to Texas because of his situation, and didn’t have much in terms of friends and family in the area. That was when he told me to “go get a hobby” or “get a gym membership.”
Of course, my own worst critic came out and said, ‘see I told you you weren’t good enough for him…you’re not pretty or fit enough…’ and on and on she went.
So, I took his advice and became a member at a local gym and started taking spinning classes. The instructor of the class was amazing. She really focused on the right alignment of your body on the bikes and continued to cue this throughout the hour. She was a competitive racer and had a lot of quality information for the members of the class. Then she said the one thing that has truly changed my career and life.
She said if you have never taken a Pilates class, you should try one. So, I did. She was the instructor and she said that in order to reap the benefits of Pilates, you should try to practice three times each week. I had the time, so I followed her suggestion and attended all three of her classes. After the third lesson that week, I could tell there was a subtle difference in my body. I couldn’t pinpoint what it was, but there were definitely some changes happening. I soon became a Pilates enthusiast.
Her class was amazing. It was a mat class with no equipment except for the Pilates Magic Circle. She had all levels of strength, age and body type in a class of 30+ people. The class ran smoothly and everyone got a challenging, yet safe class no matter their level or experience.
I continued to go to classes and do high-intensity exercises, trying to gain my husband’s approval. I ran hills, did burpees, ran two mud runs; it was a good challenge, but I didn’t care for that type of demand on my body. It just didn’t seem sustainable. During the second mud run, I injured my sacroiliac joint. It was pretty much a life-long injury that will linger and linger. That moment was the end of my hard workouts, but not the last of my Pilates practice. Pilates fit well with my physical therapy exercises and helped me strengthen and stabilize my S.I. joint. The ability to continue practicing despite my injury made me even more of a Pilates enthusiast.
I soon left Texas and took a long road trip with my dog, Jack. It was a nice breather for myself. Once I got back home to Wisconsin, I searched for Pilates in Madison. I found a studio that did full Pilates classes on crazy apparatuses, and taught a Pilates instructor training program. After over 500 hours of studies through the Midwest Pilates Institute, I became a Pilates instructor. I love my career. It’s not only sustainable and healthy for myself, but I truly get to help people everyday. I get to work with people who are hurt like I was, and do my best to figure out why and how to make them feel better.
From a huge disappointing statement to a new career that fulfills my desire to help people, Pilates has been a constant source of joy and motivation for me.
Watch this video, featuring Haley, to learn simple ways to stay active and bring more movement to your day.
I am now a Lead Instructor at a Club Pilates studio and I am still in constant awe of the practice. Absolutely everyone can do Pilates, because practice looks different for everyone.
Most people incorrectly assume that they need to be more flexible and stronger to participate. But, one thing that gets overlooked in all of the beautiful Pilates videos and photos out there on the web, is the beginning of the practice. Where do you start? In Pilates, we start building your core with breath work. If you know how to properly breathe, you’ll be able to ‘work’ your core simply by exhaling. So, if you can breathe, you can do Pilates.
With proper training and the scrutiny of a trained Pilates instructor, you will build your strength safely in the proper postural alignment. Pilates focuses on the inner core group of muscles more so than the superficial ones. We want to help stabilize, build strength and mobility throughout your skeletal system. The targeted inner core muscles attach bone to bone and help hold your joints and spine in a more open, free and natural position. We tend to focus on muscles that are smaller and take lighter resistance, fewer repetitions and often times a smaller range of motion. It’s possible to have a really strong looking core, like a ‘6- or 8- pack,’ and also be weak in the inner core and still deal with back pain or slipped disks. Pilates helps you target very important parts of your body that other workouts often miss.
Aside from the typical parts of the body that one focuses on, we will also get very detailed and work on your toes, feet, and ankle alignment as well as make sure your wrists, elbows, neck, jaw, and eyebrows are all doing what they should be doing.
It’s so critical to take care of your body—all of it. Pilates is a sustainable type of movement that can be continued well into your elder years. It’s not ‘go big or go home, or no pain no gain.’ It’s about smart, purposeful movements.
Haley New is currently a lead instructor at Club Pilates in Sun Prairie. She has been practicing Pilates for about ten years and enjoys helping people feel their best through smart movement. To learn more about how movement and staying active can help you build strength every day, watch this video.
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