Ironically, the date was was Friday the 13th of October when I crashed my car on the way to work at 7am. The last clear memory I have is driving past PNC Arts Center and then my mind gets cloudy. I remember looking up to see the guardrail in front of me. Within seconds I was projected forward into the rail. The amount of time in took for my car to flip twice on its side and back upright was very fast. After a few seconds of jostling around and feeling the air bags deploy it was over.
I believe I was protected on that day, somehow. The witnesses that stopped happened to be two nurses and a doctor. The irony of such luck on the unlucky day of Friday the 13th is spooky in my opinion! The doctor was able to check my neck and spine, which thankfully were in working condition. I walked away (well rode away in an ambulance) with a broken upper arm. It hurt like crazy! Eleven screws and one rod later, here I am. No teaching for one month!
The reason why I wrote this post is because I wanted to prove that my consistent exercise regimen of Pilates was and is a huge component of my recovery time. You might be thinking that any active person has the likelihood of healing faster vs. someone who spends most of their time on the couch. And yes, I am not denying that being active in general helps but Pilates has given me the awareness and control that no other exercise has taught me. If you continue to read you’ll see exactly how.
Doctors based my recovery time on my good physical condition and age. Being 26 years old and having young bones helped, but more importantly, Pilates is keeping them this way.
“If, at the age of 30, you are stiff and out of shape, you are old. If at 60, you are supple and strong, then you are young.” -Joseph Pilates
I have learned from Pilates to control the muscles in my body. The awareness of these muscles for instance, has given me the ability to FIRST THINK! Here’s some examples:
Drawing my stomach muscles in before standing helps because pushing off something to stand is not an easy task with a broken arm!
Rolling my left shoulder down and engaging my upper back muscles helps me pick things up with my left hand. Any load placed on my hand causes pain in my arm, which is why this helps me.
Lying around has also triggered some lower back and neck pain. In order to relieve this, I have used Pilates mat exercises to help while completely relaxing my broken arm to avoid stress on that area. Talk about control!!
If you have ever been prescribed “nothing but rest”, you may relate to the frustration of not moving. Lets face it, life gets in the way and lying around all day sometimes is just not an option. Dishes need to be done… kids need attention… whatever it may be. Life forces us to move regardless of doctors orders. Avoiding further injury and being safely active requires exactly what Pilates teaches us – MINDFUL MOVEMENT!
It is because of the consistency in my practice of this method that my body is able to do these things sometimes without thinking. It has become a habit of mine to move mindfully. And I am so happy it has! It takes time and again, CONSISTENCY.
It is now November, meaning one month has past, and my range of motion has increased quite quickly. (making progress!)
How did you get started with Pilates?
Pilates was introduced to me by a personal trainer I knew while at school in Boston (2005). When her gym started introducing pilates classes to clients, (being the workout enthusiast that I am) I jumped right on the opportunity. I fell in love with pilates on that first session.
Overall, how was your pregnancy?
Conceiving was not easy for my husband and I. We waited a long time (ready for IVF) before we got pregnant. So, we took it as a miracle when it finally happened. I think this made my pregnancy easier for me, at least mentally. But don’t get me wrong, the first three months was an adjustment and the rest of the months was a journey. However, I kept active. I worked out 5 days a week. Eventually, exercise felt like comfort. Endorphins helped me a whole ton and staying active made me feel strong and made the 9 months fly by.
Do you think that committing to prenatal Pilates helped you throughout your pregnancy and labor/delivery?
Let’s just say I texted Sandi a few days after delivery, first to cancel my session (I gave birth 3 weeks earlier and had a session booked) and second to thank her for helping me throughout my pregnancy. I say this because I knew Pilates helped me stay strong during pregnancy and delivery. Going through pregnancy the first time can be filled anxiety for the unknown. Not to mention, your body changes dramatically for nine months straight and then you have to push a baby out at the end of it.
Pilates helped me stay present. It helped me focus on strengthening my body to minimize the strain of pregnancy and taught me how to work muscles that would eventually help me during delivery. Because I practiced all throughout the nine months, when it was time to give birth, I could say that it was easier than I thought it would be. I was more aware of my body and how to engage the right muscles to help me push a giant baby out!
Now that you are a new mom, what are the biggest challenges you’ve had to face?
Being a mom is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. However, adjusting to becoming one is a big challenge. My experience so far is overwhelming. All the new responsibilities that comes with it like breastfeeding every 2-3 hours, sleepless nights, anxiety from “Is my baby okay? Is he breathing?”, and all the other new mom problems…is a lot to handle.
How are you adjusting?
I think the biggest challenge of a new mom (besides just pushing a giant baby out of a tiny hole) is finding and trusting that your mommy instinct is the best out there. It’s overwhelming when a million people have their own opinion on what to do post partum, how to take care of your baby, and if you should breastfeed or not. It took me a while to separate myself from the noise and just learn to take it day by day and trust my own instincts. At the end of the day, you know what’s best for your baby and growing family.
How did your body feel returning to Pilates for the first time after giving birth? Was it difficult to motivate yourself to return?
I couldnt wait to get cleared for exercise after 6 weeks! I can’t speak for everyone, but I always need to move and sweat and feel strong. So after 6 weeks of adjusting to a new baby, I couldn’t wait to go back to the gym and the studio! However, I had to remind myself that just like pregnancy, it will be a journey back to my body pre pregnancy. Although staying active throughout my pregnancy helped me maintain the weight gain to 18lbs, my body still changed in ways I never imagined. But I used that as motivation to go back to being strong and feeling good about my body. One thing I learned throughout this experience is that a woman’s body is so beautiful and incredible. Our bodies are built to endure things we didn’t know we are capable of.
Is there any advice you would give to a first time mom?!
Motherhood is such a special experience! That by itself is something we should all always remind ourselves everyday. Just be present and enjoy every moment of it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t breastfeed, or if you co-sleep, or if you have to go back to work, at the end of the day we are all mommies to a beautiful baby who will love us unconditionally. Just trust your mommy instincts and take it one day at a time. It’s such a beautiful journey! Enjoy and have fun!
The Pilates Project is now offering Ab Rehab, a monthly postnatal workshop specifically designed for moms…
Ease back into your workout safely in this one hour Postnatal Pilates workshop! Having a baby is an incredible feat and challenges your body to the max. In this workshop we will explore common conditions associated with pregnancy/postpartum & what it takes to start your recovery process. The hour will focus on safe exercises for the abdominals and pelvic floor, regaining strength in your arms, legs and upper back and realigning your hips. You will also learn how to discover and help heal Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation) or “mummy tummy”, a common condition that effects many new moms. This workshop will help you bring your whole body back into alignment and balance and give you the strength you need to move throughout your day.
For my last blog post, I wanted to talk a little bit about intention. Intention is an important part of Pilates. There are six principles of Pilates – centering, concentration, control, precision, breath, and fluidity. None of these principles can be applied to exercises without intention. Many exercises have very simple movements that initially look simple, but simple and easy are two very different things. When combined with proper alignment and the use of the right muscles, every exercise can become extremely difficult. Since a lot of the same exercises are repeated in every Pilates class, it seems like it can get boring after a while. In my first few days, I would watch the instructors and think, “wow, it must get terribly boring to guide clients through the same exercises all the time.” I’ve come to learn that a) there are so many exercises and variations of exercises that no two classes ever have to be the same b) Pilates has no end goal. There is no nirvana or absolute perfection that can be reached in the Classical Method. You can always reach more, execute more control, move with more fluidity. This is what makes Pilates constantly exciting. Musicians and dancers devote their lives to practicing their crafts and improving, knowing that even if they are the best in the world, they can still get better. The same concept applies to Pilates. There is always more.
As for myself, I know that there is a lot more work for me to do. Nevertheless, I have improved immensely over the past few weeks. I feel much stronger, especially in my noodle arms. Of course, I feel much more connected to my core. At dance, I can do the warm-up core exercises with ease and control. I find it easier to stand with better posture, and I find myself thinking about my “neutral spine.” However, I know that my journey with Pilates has only begun. I hope to continue Pilates throughout this summer and into college. Maybe one day, I’ll even become a certified Pilates instructor…