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Benefitting From Pilates Move Modifications - Debbie's Story


I've been doing water aerobics for decades and I have always loved it. As I became older however, I gained physical challenges, so water aerobics became one of the only physical activities that I could do. I realized though, that water aerobics was not working for me for weight loss. No matter how often I went, I wasn't losing any weight or inches. It was at that point I realized I needed to find something else that I could do that could handle my physical challenges. I decided to try Pilates.

I had done Pilates at a studio long ago and had done mat Pilates in rec centers, but only sporadically, and maybe once a week. I didn't seriously practice it. I decided to try it again because I was inspired by an older colleague of mine, probably in her 70's or even 80's at this point, who religiously did Pilates. I thought if she could do it, then I could do it as well. She always seemed in great shape even though she had a similar lifestyle - lots of sitting, writing, and reading as well as attending day-long meetings and traveling long distances.

This was in the back of my mind when I happened to come across a Facebook ad for a Club Pilates studio that had recently opened up about 10 minutes from my home. I saw they had a free class, and I thought it would be a good chance to see if I could handle it physically. I found that I could! And a new passion was born.

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I was someone who was originally quite skinny and walked a great deal because I lived in Washington DC where you have to walk to get just about anywhere. The turning point for me came when I got a pinched nerve in my back (something hereditary) that made it painful for me to walk more than 10-15 minutes at a time (which is still true today).

The low-impact Pilates exercises help by strengthening the core so that, while the pain is still there, it is far less than it was. For example, when I first began I could not substantively do planks or bridges. With accommodations from the Club Pilates staff, over time I've progressively built strength (primarily using the box) so that I can do a full-length plank without difficulty and move around for the more challenging exercise. I've now moved from the floor to the Reformer (again with the help of the box) which I never thought I could do in a million years.

Interestingly, when I went to a physical therapist recently to strengthen my hip area (at the advice of my doctor), I found that many of the moves he had me do were very similar to those in Pilates. He also admired the quality of my form that I had picked up from Club Pilates classes! Between the two (Pilates and the physical therapist), I'm now able to use machines in regular gyms which are much easier to access when I travel. So that's another benefit - the ability to use both strength and aerobic machines (exercise bike) that I couldn't use before.

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It has really helped with my core. Water aerobics was good for my legs and arms but didn't really do much to strengthen my core. My waist size has reduced dramatically, over 10 inches, and the same is true for other parts of my body. For example, my watch band has gone up several notches to the smallest setting. So the inches have gone down all over the place and I've now dropped several sizes - enough that I've had to purchase a whole new wardrobe.

I am lighter, not only physically, but also mentally - that is, lighter in spirit. This is primarily because I can handle everyday tasks from carrying in groceries to taking out the trash to climbing up the hill to get to my mailbox. So I can see the "non-scale victories" (NSVs) every day.

When I first came to Club Pilates, I was not expecting the degree of accommodation Club Pilates staff was willing to make for my physical challenges. I didn't even know the meaning of the word accommodation in this setting or that it was an option at all. Now, whenever I come across a move I cannot do, I turn to Mari Jo, Tiffany or Michelle and they are always willing to figure out some alternative way for me to do the exercise. In the beginning, I didn't even know this was a question I could ask.

I appreciate the sense of community as I've gone through (and continue to go through) my weight loss journey. It was actually Mari Jo (the head of the Club Pilates I attend) who first noticed I was changing shape. I then started to get supportive comments from my regular instructors and some of the members. This recognition of my successes as well as encouraging me to challenge myself more is very important - particularly since the Club Pilates crew sees me far more regularly than anyone else (given my family lives in another state and my daughter is away at college).

-Debbie [Club Pilates South Hills]

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